Cover image for When women ruled the world : six queens of Egypt
Title:
When women ruled the world : six queens of Egypt
ISBN:
9781426219771
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
©2018

Washington, D.C. : National Geographic, [2018]
Physical Description:
399 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), map ; 24 cm
Contents:
Ancient Egypt chronology -- Introduction: Why women don't rule the world -- Merneith : queen of blood -- Neferusobek : the last woman standing -- Hatshepsut : queen of public relations -- Nefertiti : more than just a pretty face -- Tawosret : the survivor -- Cleopatra : drama queen -- Epilogue: Why women should rule the world.
Summary:
"Explores the lives of six remarkable female pharaohs, from Hatshepsut to Cleopatra--women who ruled with real power. What was so special about ancient Egypt that provided women this kind of access to the highest political office? What was it about these women that allowed them to transcend patriarchal obstacles? What did Egypt gain from its liberal reliance on female leadership, and could today's world learn from its example?"--Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

Female rulers are a rare phenomenon--but thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, women reigned supreme. Regularly, repeatedly, and with impunity, queens like Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra controlled the totalitarian state as power-brokers and rulers. But throughout human history, women in positions of power were more often used as political pawns in a male-dominated society. What was so special about ancient Egypt that provided women this kind of access to the highest political office? What was it about these women that allowed them to transcend patriarchal obstacles? What did Egypt gain from its liberal reliance on female leadership, and could today's world learn from its example?

Celebrated Egyptologist Kara Cooney delivers a fascinating tale of female power, exploring the reasons why it has seldom been allowed through the ages, and why we should care.


Author Notes

KARA COONEY is a professor of Egyptology at UCLA. Her academic work focuses on death preparations, afterlife beliefs, and gender studies. She has participated in digs with the Metropolitan Museum of New York at the Royal Pyramid complex of Senwosret III and the Theban Necropolis with Johns Hopkins University. She appeared as a lead expert in the popular Discovery Channel special The Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen , and is a recurring team member of the History Channel's Digging for the Truth . Her book The Woman Who Would Be King was published in 2014.


Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

In ancient Egypt, where authoritarian god kings dominated, a few women rose to positions of political power. Cooney traces the history of six women who ruled one of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world, from Merneith, a mysterious and little-known first dynasty queen, to more familiar figures like Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra VII. The author paints an evocative picture of female power in ancient Egypt. Her descriptions of archaeological evidence and her conclusions about these women's lives are fascinating and will appeal to a broad audience, while still remaining grounded in her extensive research. The book condenses a wealth of specific information into a readable, engrossing format. Cooney creates an effective narrative of political machinations, incest, murder, and deception that will intrigue adults and teenagers, especially given the young age of the queens represented. However, the work's attempt to compare female power in ancient Egypt to contemporary politics is less successful. Cooney engages in regressive gender essentialism, arguing about the so-called "biological predisposition[s]" that inform male and female leadership, and the connections she makes between ancient leaders and modern figures such as Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel lack nuance and context. VERDICT Overall, Cooney's compelling writing about the ancient world outweighs her overly simplistic use of contemporary politics. Recommended for large high school and public library collections that feature ancient history and women's studies titles.-Molly Saunders, Homewood Public Library, AL © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly Review

Cooney, an Egyptologist at UCLA, profiles six women who rose to power in ancient Egypt. The women most closely connected to the king played a central role and could, when circumstances demanded, become kings themselves. Some of the names (Nefertiti, Cleopatra) are familiar, but this book breaks from trends in studies of ancient Egypt by not focusing exclusively on death rites and funerary architecture. Cooney discusses the women's leadership ("Merneith and Neferusobek selflessly took up authority only to mitigate disaster," but the power-hungry Hatshepsut was the only one who "managed to transcend the crisis [she] had inherited and leave Egypt in better shape") and speculates about what they must have experienced, including the habits and perspectives of the elite (Nefertiti was early in life "exposed to ancient Egyptian submission to authoritarian rule. She knew when to keep her mouth shut"). Attempting to draw parallels between the pharaohs and contemporary rock stars and politicians, Cooney occasionally asks too much of her narrative. But her stories of these remarkable women, who in flashes displayed "true, successful female power that tapped into the emotions of [their] people, that embraced multiple perspectives, that reached out in a spirit of reconciliation to those who had been expelled or cast out," will enchant those wishing to imagine what ancient Egyptian court life was like. Illus. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

Nefertiti, Hatshepsut, and Cleopatra all rank among the most famous rulers of ancient Egypt, but in their own times and places, they were oddities, since Egypt rarely turned to female leadership. In this group biography, Egyptologist Cooney, the author of a previous biography of Hatshepsut (The Woman Who Would Be King, 2014), explores both why female pharaohs were rare and why they occurred at all. She illuminates women's role in Egyptian governance by presenting the big three alongside the lesser-known Merneith, Neferusobek, and Tawosret. All six women left relatively clear (by Egyptological standards) records of their lives and reigns, allowing Cooney to position them within the 3,000-year sweep of ancient Egyptian history. Emphasizing the shared strands in their stories, she argues that they embodied a distinctively female approach to rulership that was valued for its emphasis on stability and consensus in troubled times and uniquely suited to wealthy, conservative Egyptian society. Although Cooney occasionally flirts with gender essentialism, this book shines as an introduction to ancient Egyptian society and beliefs centered around elite women's experiences.--Sara Jorgensen Copyright 2018 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Cooney (Egyptology, Univ. of California Los Angeles; The Woman Who Would Be King) explores the premise that "the ancient Egyptians brilliantly used female power.to keep a culture going for more than 3,000 years" through the prism of six queens who assumed kingship to varying degrees at times of dynastic crisis. Included are profiles of Merneith of Dynasty I (3000-2890 BCE), Neferusobek of Dynasty XII (1985-1773 BCE), Hatshepsut and Nefertiti of Dynasty XVIII (1550-1295 BCE), Tawosret of Dynsty XIX (1295-1186 BCE), and Cleopatra VII of the Ptolemaic Period (305-30 BCE). Despite ancient Egyptian society promoting greater gender equality than its contemporaries, each of these queens was compelled to manifest certain masculine trappings in order to succeed. Most intriguing is the author's persuasive explanation of the recent theory that Nefertiti morphed from queen to co-king, and ultimately sole king, evinced through changes in her titles and iconography. VERDICT Not since Leonard Cottrell's Lady of the Two Lands (1966) has such an engrossing, well-researched collective study of Egyptian power queens been available. Definitively recommended for anyone with an interest in ancient Egyptian civilization or women's studies.-Edward K. Werner, formerly with St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Syst., FL © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Ancient Egypt Chronologyp. 6
Introduction: Why Women Don't Rule the Worldp. 9
Chapter 1 Merneith | Queen of Bloodp. 23
Chapter 2 Neferusobek | The Last Woman Standingp. 59
Chapter 3 Hatshepsut | Queen of Public Relationsp. 99
Chapter 4 Nefertiti | More Than Just a Pretty Facep. 161
Chapter 5 Tawosret | The Survivorp. 209
Chapter 6 Cleopatra | Drama Queenp. 253
Epilogue Why Women Should Rule the Worldp. 311
Acknowledgmentsp. 321
Notesp. 327
Further Reading and Essential Resourcesp. 376
Indexp. 391