Women of Ancient Egypt

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Tutankhamun

Women that lived in Ancient Egypt had many different roles to play.  They could rule the country, be pharaoh’s, and were as powerful as many of the men that lived there.

Pharaoh Hatshepsut

Pharaoh Hatshepsut was one of the first pharaohs that was a woman.  She ruled from 1500 B.C. and was a great leader.

Hatshepsut was loved by the people in Egypt and she took care of them and helped them.  She had the people build temples to the gods and instructed them to make other buildings.

Since Hatshepsut was a pharaoh, it meant that she was considered a god.  A pharaoh that was a god was not allowed to marry a normal person and so she had to marry someone that was in the family.  Her husband was Thutmose who was her half-brother.

Nefertiti

Amenhotep IV’s wife was Nefertiti.  She believed that there was only one god and she spend much of her life teaching the people to worship only one god instead of many gods.  The god that they worshipped was called Aten.

Cleopatra

The most famous leader in Egypt was Cleopatra.  She was smart, educated and she knew about writing, math and different languages.  She was only 18 years old when she became the queen.

Cleopatra was always in danger because people wanted to kill her and take over the throne.  She turned to Julius Caesar to help her.  Even her brother tried to have her killed but she was able to escape.  After Julius Caesar helped her, she married him and had a son named Caesarion.  Their relationship ended after he was killed.

Roles of Women

Women during Ancient Egypt were able to have jobs, sell property, own houses and other buildings, go to court and marry and divorce who they wanted to.  Women were considered to be the same as men.

What Women Could Not Do

Women were not allowed to have roles in administration or rule the country unless they were pharaoh or queen.  Most of the time these came from heirships or if they were daughters of a king or queen.

Jobs

Most of the women in Egypt worked with their husbands planting crops or working on farms.  Women that were high class women would not work outside of the home, but their jobs were to take care of their house, teach their children education and help to care for their husbands.

Old Kingdom

During the Old Kingdom, women would own their own homes and sometimes women and men worked in the same jobs.

Women were able to hire people to care for their children if they were rich, but many women worked jobs such as dancers, musicians, singers, acrobats or as mourners.  A mourner would go to funerals and show sadness for those that have died.

Many women during this time were able to head businesses and they also were members of the church and were sometimes associated with the gods.

Marriage

Women during the New Kingdom in Egypt would marry so that they could have children.  Many times, marriage was happy, and women chose who they wanted to marry.  Sometimes though, the spouses were chosen by the parents.

Queens

Some believe that the reason that women had so much power was because the influence of the Queen and the Queen mothers was very strong and important.  Even when pharaohs were very young, they would sometimes rule on the throne.  These young pharaohs would often times get help from their mothers until they were able to rule on their own.

Women in Culture

Women were known to be a big part of Ancient Egyptian literature.  They were seen as happy and stubborn.

When women were painted or drawn, they were always drawn as young women and they were never seen to have wrinkles or grey har.  They also were shown as skinny and beautiful.

Women from Ancient Egypt were often times considered goddesses and the people thought this meant that many of the women in Egypt were gods.  Some of them that were the most important were Isis, the goddess of magic, Hathor, the goddess of love, Bastet, the goddess of the home and Sekhmet, the goddess of wrath.

Facts About Women of Ancient Egypt:

  • Many women were not taught to read or write because they did not work in the government or work as scribes.
  • Some women were homemakers and were taught by other women how to care for their homes.
  • Most girls got married at a young age.
  • Women that were poor would work in the garden and would prepare food for the family.
  • Women that were rich had servants that would clean the house, take care of the children and make the food.
  • Women that were of high rank were the only ones that could be priestesses.
  • Women that worked in the temple were considered honored.
  • Ancient Egyptian women sold perfume and clothing.
  • Most husbands and wives were buried in the same tomb, unless they were pharaohs and then they were buried separately.
  • Even though women were considered equal to men, men were still considered higher in society than the women.

What Did You Learn?

  1. What kind of roles did women play in the home?  Women would do different things in the home such as take care of the children, cook, clean and take care of their husbands.
  2. Were some pharaohs women?   There were a few pharaohs that were women such as Hatshepsut and Cleopatra.
  3. Were women considered equal to men?   But even though they were considered equal, the men were slightly more powerful than the women.
  4. What were some jobs that women held in Ancient Egypt? Some women were dancers, singers, musicians, owned businesses and were priestess.  There were many other jobs that women did in Ancient Egypt.
  5. Were women allowed to marry who they wanted to?   Many times women were able to marry who they wanted to, but many times their husband was chosen by the parents.