Women took ruling role in ancient Egypt, adjunct says at Women’s History Month luncheon

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By V.L. Roberson


Men and women of the XVII and XVIII dynasties in ancient Egypt were treated equally in a way that was unheard of in societies during that period in history, a humanities adjunct said March 4 in a presentation in Loftin Student Center during Women’s History Month.

Humanities Adjunct Tara Sewell spoke about the role of women in ancient Egypt during a luncheon to about 30 students from her classes and other faculty members.

“The Egyptians believed in balance of the family unit and being good to one another,” she said.

This belief was governed by the goddess Maat, who represents the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality and justice, she said.

“The women were the husband’s helper and nurturer. He believed by respect you get more out of marriage,” she said.

Marriages were not a matter of public record. Evidence exists that parents, especially mothers, would be approached by a suitor for the hand of their daughter, she said.

“Marriage was a personal matter between a man and a woman. It did not require the sanction of a public authority,” Sewell said.

War provided the first opportunity for women during the XVII dynasty, second intermediate period 1600 to 1500 B.C.

“Tetisheri is the first of the powerful royal women wife of Senakhtenre Ahmose, the pharaoh at this time,” Sewell said.

Inbreeding and polygamy were the accepted norms in this society.

“She was not actually his sister, which is the only non-sister marriage you see during this time, which speaks to her charisma.” Sewell said of Tetisheri.

Grandson Ahmose wrote after her death, “I it is who have remembered the mother of my mother, Tetisheri, great king’s wife, great mother.”

Her female descendants, Ahotep I and II, Ahmose Nefitari and Hetshepsut and others, ascended to power during these dynastic periods, ruling alongside or in their husbands’ and brothers’ stead because of age or absence or death because of war.

“Ahotep I took on the role as military commander and regent for her son, age 10, after the death of his father and brother,” Sewell said.

According to inscriptions, “she is one who governed Egypt and West Asia.”

These women raised and guided kings and nations at the same time.

Being priestesses, builders or rulers, each of these women built on their ancestors’ knowledge and experiences at a time when such female leadership was unheard of in other civilizations, she said.



  1. So nice to see attention being paid to ancient Egypt’s more egalitarian society. The first documented female king was a woman named Meryt-Neith, in the First Dynasty. The second novel in my First Dynasty Trilogy is about her life (The Dagger of Isis). She was highly respected, judging from her large tomb (called a mastaba) and its placement.

    – Lester Picker

  2. I am so happy the Ranger was able to attend my presentation. Thank you for the lovely write up, V.L. Roberson.

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