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Women in World History
After reading the works of Hughes and Hughes, Ward, and Pomeroy, it seems as though all the information is congruent in the readings. The facts presented in Hughes and Hughes that also exist in the works by Pomeroy and Ward. The repetition solidifies the facts as stated by all three authors. The reoccurrence between the three pieces shows similarities. The similarities show the reader the strength of the information. Women of ancient Egypt had some of the same rights as men, they could rule as long as they showed some masculine traits to help the people understand why they were in power.
In Ward and Pomeroy’s texts, there is information that the Egyptian women had the same legal rights as the Egyptian men. “The women of the family could not only administer the family property, but could also dispute legal decisions and be major litigants defending what they conceived to be their rights of inheritance” (Ward 7). The women of ancient Egypt were able to accomplish a lot on their own. It was possible for fathers to leave property to their daughters in their wills so that the daughter could be self sufficient, should the need arise. A wife could even help run the estate with her husband. Women were also allowed to attend parties where men were present. This was an uncommon practice that women of ancient times were not allowed to do, the women would have to leave the room. Traditionally women were not allowed to be seen in the presence of a group of men, except in the case of the women of ancient Egypt.
Aside from social privileges, women were also granted economic privileges. Traditionally a wife would be dependent upon her husband for economic support, however the women of ancient Egypt were not completely dependent.
Should a divorce take place, the legal system moved in to assure a fair settlement….First, the husband and wife each took back whatever property they had contributed at the time of marriage. Second, any additional property that had accrued during the marriage was divided between them: two-thirds to the husband, one-third to the wife. In this way, the woman became financially independent, did not have to return to her own family, and might even be considered a good prospect for a second marriage (Ward 7).
The division of property was important because the women were allowed to have their own lives after marriage. Ancient Egyptian women were not a complete dependant on their husbands, she could own her own property, and she could make money on her own. Independent women could survive in ancient Egypt.
One of the most famous characters of ancient Egypt was a woman Pharaoh by the name of Cleopatra VII, commonly known today as Cleopatra. Cleopatra became queen when she was just eighteen years old, and all it took for her to be queen was to marry her ten year old brother, Ptolemy XIII. In order to rule in a male dominated society, there needed to be a male sitting on the throne. It was not necessary for a female to share the throne. She was allowed to rule until her brother matured enough to take over the throne, by the time that her brother was deemed ready to take the throne, Cleopatra VII had arranged a successful administration and she raised an army to fight her brother for the throne. At that time, Caesar was gaining power. During a trip to Egypt, he told Cleopatra and her brother to share the responsibilities of the throne. After the death of her brother Ptolemy XIII, who died in battle, Cleopatra had to marry her other brother Ptolemy XIV, who was eleven at the time. Thus, she could maintain her power. Cleopatra was considered a very shrewd ruler, she knew how to manipulate people to do what she wanted and she knew how to maintain her power until she was forced to commit suicide. “When her handmaiden Charmion described Cleopatra’s death perfectly as ‘fitting for the descendant of so many kings,’ she used the masculine form of the Greek word for ‘descendant’” (Pomeroy 28). The manner of her death was very important to the people of ancient Egypt due to the masculine image their female rulers presented. Another instance is Hatshepsut, who reigned from about 1473 BCE to 1458 BCE and when she ruled “she was publicly portrayed as male. Male pronouns were used and statues depicted her with a beard and dressed in a male kilt, although with breasts. Evidently she had to become a cross-dresser on official occasions. This engendering a female ruler as male is frequently found in societies when female political authority is an anomaly” (Hughes and Hughes 29). In both instances, the female rulers had to show some form of masculinity due to the nature in which they ruled. This masculine image is an explanation for how well they did in power as if the people of ancient Egypt saw their female rulers as males.