The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Distaff \Dis"taff\, n.; pl. Distaffs, rarely Distaves. [OE.
distaf, dysestafe, AS. distaef; cf. LG. diesse the bunch of
flax on a distaff, and E. dizen. See Staff.]
1. The staff for holding a bunch of flax, tow, or wool, from
which the thread is drawn in spinning by hand.
I will the distaff hold; come thou and spin.
2. Used as a symbol of the holder of a distaff; hence, a
woman; women, collectively.
His crown usurped, a distaff on the throne.
Some say the crozier, some say the distaff was too
Note: The plural is regular, but Distaves occurs in Beaumont
Descent by distaff, descent on the mother's side.
Distaff Day, or Distaff's Day, the morrow of the
Epiphany, that is, January 7, because working at the
distaff was then resumed, after the Christmas festival; --
called also Rock Day, a distaff being called a rock.