Essay on What Limitations Did Society Place on Egyptian Women?

Published: 2021/12/28
Number of words: 756

In most areas of the ancient Egyptian civilization, women were equals to men, except in occupations. The women in this society had special rights which women of other comparable cultures did not have (McDowell). They were allowed to own property, and the courts viewed them as equals to men. However, Egyptian society limited women in that it was patriarchal in nature and was male-dominated. Although there were female pharaohs and rulers, women did not occupy critical administrative positions (McDowell). Those who were present at the royal court occupied the posts because they were related to male kings.

The societal restrictions on women in ancient Egypt were evident in occupations and work. Most of the women worked alongside their husbands and belonged to the peasantry. In the absence of their husbands and sons, the Egyptian women managed businesses and farms (McDowell). Women of the upper class were allowed to work within their homes, supervising household servants and children’s education. In ancient Egyptian literature, women were depicted as frivolous, barely trustworthy, and capricious (McDowell). While sculptors and painters portrayed females in serene images, the writers were not as soft. They presented women as guilty of many sins and the origin of misfortunes.

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How do the lives of women in ancient Egypt compare with the lives of women today? 

The Deir-el-Medina texts show symmetrical balance in Egyptian art, religious practices, and architecture, with men and women being equals, unlike in modern civilization. Gender roles were also balanced, with women in the patriarchal society exercising significant independence and power (McDowell). Modern women are discriminated against in most aspects of life, and the man is considered superior to women in most societies. In contrast, ancient Egyptian women were accorded respect evident in the religious practices and social customs (McDowell). Most modern patriarchal societies have gendered roles, and women have roles and responsibilities cut out for them, with most being supportive of the men’s roles and responsibilities.

Additionally, most modern societies are hostile to female power. The contemporary society holds the stereotype that women use their emotionality or of others to deceive, manipulate or shame people into achieving a goal. In ancient Egypt, women held powerful positions and even ruled over kingdoms (McDowell). Women in today’s societies occupy powerful posts to further the feminist agenda, fight patriarchy, maintain the status quo or achieve equality. However, elevating women to power in Egypt was to keep the structure and ensure the regime flourishes (McDowell). They were used as tools to ensure the continuity of systems.

What role did Egyptian queens play in Egyptian politics? How did Hatshepsut as queen and pharaoh set the standard not just for female leadership but all leadership in ancient Egypt? Have women leaders today been able to shape a larger role for themselves or are they limited in their impact?

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Ancient Egyptian women were viewed as living ahead of their time as they held the same fundamental rights as men and could also rule the country. Throughout Egyptian history, queens were not only the mother of the kings but were also symbols of rebirth and creation ability (“Hatshepsut: Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen”). The role gave royal women significant influence, power, and status. Occasionally, queens would also briefly assume kingship roles for dynastic and political reasons, except for Hatshepsut, whose reign lasted longer (“Hatshepsut: Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen”). In addition, the ancient Egyptians were aware of the females’ wisdom, and these women, mostly queens, were chosen to fill the power vacuum or lead during political crises.

Hatshepsut ruled the Egyptian dynasty for two decades in place of her young nephew. She reigned in an era of prosperity and growth, leaving the kingdom better than it was. During her reign as pharaoh, she reestablished disrupted trade routes, and as a prolific builder, he commissioned many construction projects in Egypt (“Hatshepsut: Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen”). The ancient Egyptian female leaders are challenging the modern civilization to put women in power positions not to represent patriarchal dynasties but to serve their people (“Hatshepsut: Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen”). Modern women have been influenced by the ancient female rulers who were salvation to their people, and some were lauded as the most accomplished rulers of their times.

Works Cited

“Hatshepsut: Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen.” YouTube, uploaded by Ancient World, 6 Apr. 2017,

McDowell, Andrea G. “Daily life in ancient Egypt.” Scientific American 275.6 (1996): 100-105.

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