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This riveting narrative explores the lives of six remarkable female pharaohs from Hatshepsut to Cleopatra women who ruled with real power and shines a piercing light on our own perceptions of women in power today Female rulers are a rare phenomenon but thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt women reigned supreme Regularly repeatedly and with impunity ueens like Hatshepsut Nefertiti and Cleopatra controlled the totalitarian state as power brokers and rulers But throughout human history women in positions of power were 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

10 thoughts on “When Women Ruled the World

  1. says:

    If you’ll indulge me I precede this review with a seemingly tangential but ultimately relevant anecdote A few years ago as part of a male dominated gaming group I observed a discussion regarding how female players could be attracted to the game The earnest solutions suggested included pink paint jobs in the store and adding caring and nurturing tasks After attempting and failing to stifle my laughter I explained that these stereotypes are not in fact biologically in built into women and that my personal favourite aspect was the combat because it offered the most challenge and variety with no two encounters the same I was then immediately undercut by an older evidently traditionalist woman who loudly announced that I was talking rubbish and that a competitive drive just wasn’t in a woman’s natural make up I wondered just how she explained my lifelong aggressively competitive energy and of course it couldn’t possibly be that society’s narrow parameters are too restrictive in their definition of masculinity and femininity; it must be that I and other women like me are some kind of aberrant freaks despite having never felt any kind of gender dysphoria or confusion about my female identityWhy do I mention this incident? Because Kara Cooney’s When Women Ruled the World well meaning as it is and trying to highlight the reigns of some of ancient Egypt’s female rulers is marred by scientifically unsupported irrational stereotypes like those above Even as Cooney sheds light on the historical facts of these women she infers baseless stereotyped interpretations such as that these women’s successes as rulers were because they ruled in a different style than men – they ruled better than men Cooney tells us avoiding rashly going to war and fostering Egypt’s prosperity like loving mothers Given that the pool of female rulers is so small it’s difficult to draw any conclusions about whether female pharaohs were averse to war I couldn’t believe such nonsense in a non fiction work from a credited historian – and yes that is my professional Egyptologist’s opinion This reading ignores mountains of evidence to the contrary the many men who have successfully led from economic diplomatic scientific and other foci with reduced emphasis on war; as well as the women who have successfully and without compunction pursued the martial arts and is a biased and limited assessment of both men and women I don't base that on opinion The work of neuroscientists psychologists and behavioural scientists have shown that much of the notions of in built feminine empathy and male logic are founded on confirmation bias and unscientific method while rigorously conducted studies evidence parity and even reversalCooney seems confused about her own point in one moment highlighting how Hatshepsut’s reign was erased from the record by the male kings who followed her but the next moment discussing how in the face of the dearth of women in modern politics society should take a lesson from ancient Egypt which “ valued a woman’s calmer nuanced political skills” She plucks out six ueens from Egyptian history though there were arguably of unusual power Even so this score of prominent power wielding women in ancient Egypt is a small number when compared to 3000 years of history which was for the most part ruled by men Ancient Egypt is a notable example of female freedom and power – when compared to other contemporary neighbouring societies But it was still male dominated and at times – usually when she is comparing to modern women in politics – Cooney implies it was an idyllic utopia This doesn’t really ring true – we are closer to gender parity today than at any time in the past – and Cooney does not properly place ancient Egypt in context by making it clear that although it was closer to gender parity than its contemporaries it was still nowhere near modern standards let alone an aspirational modelThis is a shame because aside from reinforcing stereotypes about the way in which women rule and misstating the uality of gender parity in ancient Egypt compared to modern day versus sitting among its contemporaries Cooney does actually make solid points She is uite correct in stating the studies which have found the modern female leaders are deemed less trustworthy and strident than their male counterparts and they are critiued often for their visual appearance than men are instead of for their policies She is uite correct in highlighting the enormous gender disparity in modern positions of power And to be fair Cooney does mention that not all ancient Egyptian female rulers avoided war – though she still seems to take the view that in general female power is mysteriously inherently nurturing and peacefulI know that a lot of readers strongly dislike historical non fiction that thrives on “perhaps” “might have” and “probably” so if you’re one of those you’ll find plenty to dislike here I personally do not object to it – the way I see it it is hardly the author’s fault if the amount of evidence we have on a historical subject happens to be scant and as long as the reader is fully aware of speculation it can help us to examine possible interpretations and implications out of the evidence However sometimes Cooney makes statements out of what is really speculation with no ualifying “perhaps” “might have” or even “must have” in sight; for example stating that Ankhsenamun became Ay’s Great Royal Wife when in fact this is still heavily debated by Egyptologists since it is based on such scant evidence view spoilera single ring with their cartouches twinned but Ankhsenamun appears nowhere else even suggested as Ay’s Great Royal Wife and some Egyptologists read it instead as a familial relationship instead hide spoiler

  2. says:

    This is a fascinating study of six women who ruled ancient Egypt ranging from Merneith 5000 years ago to Cleopatra when the BC countdown ended There isn't much truly documented detail for much of the volume as she freely admits but I found Cooney's conclusions and speculations convincing and fascinating The time spanned through the various dynasties was really mind boggling and her portrayal of life both for the ruling class and the other citizens in the hierarchy was excellent; I learned a lot from the book and though it well worthwhile My only reservation is that I felt she drew too many parallels from the ancient time to contemporary situations with too many suggestions on how we ought to conduct ourselves It was a bit distracting at times I agreed with her almost all of the time but still felt she should have stuck with the straight history in the narrative and put her modern moral judgments in footnotes or otherwise kept them separate I won a copy from the Goodreads Giveaway program and was uite delighted to have done so

  3. says:

    This is a history of six women who ruled ancient Egypt I expected to really enjoy this having given the author’s first book The Woman Who Would Be King five stars I also hate to say bad things about a book that a tour company was kind enough to send me Unfortunately the honest truth is that this was really bad It’s almost impressive how the author managed to both beat the reader over the head with a feminist message and be incredibly sexist at the same timeThe one positive uality that carried over from the author’s previous book is that she managed to write engaging stories without glossing over uncertainty in the historical record I appreciate that On the less positive side a lot of the uncertainties were left for footnotes This is problematic because anyone who doesn’t read the footnotes will be left to simply believe the author’s narrative reconstruction is the truth This book also felt lighter than the previous one perhaps because there were so many uncertainties She’s also covering six women in one book instead of just oneOK back to the most problematic parts of this book On numerous occasions the author states that ‘women rule differently from men’ endorsing outdated gender essentialist ideas about men and women She constantly refers back to stereotypes as though they are true and have useful explanatory power There are so many examples of this I don’t even know where to begin She also constantly compares the way women were treated in ancient Egypt to modern times In many cases I felt she was projecting current views onto ancient Egyptians without sufficient evidence In every case the references to current events felt jarring and will uickly date the book Some of these references to current events include lectures about modern politics that only tangentially related to her point For example to demonstrate that people don’t always act in their long term best interest she treats us to a paragraph long diatribe about global warmingBasically this whole book feels like the author just has an ax to grind She’s decided to focus on six women about whom very little is known That doesn’t make for a great story She’s just used them as a springboard to lecture us about how men and women are different; how women should probably be in charge because of those differences; and how women are still experiencing sexism today The connections she makes between these women and modern figures are poorly supported relying on insufficient evidence from both time periods to support her claims Honestly I can’t imagine this book appealing to anyone as the liberal politics are likely to annoy conservatives and the sexism is likely to annoy liberals I’m incredibly disappointed that this was the author’s follow up to a great debut This review first posted at Doing Dewey

  4. says:

    Kara Cooney PhD points out that ancient Egypt was punctuated by periods of rule by women Many women ruled as regents for their young sons; then advised them privately when they took the throne in their teens Cooney reviews the reign of six female pharaohs of the Ptolemaic period that ruled in their own right They are Merineth Neferusobeck Nefertiti Tawosret Hatshepsut and Cleopatra The author discusses their similarities and differences of their reigns Cooney describes how Hatshepsut and Cleopatra took and held power The book is well written and meticulously researched Cooney reveals how these women survived in a male dominated world The author points out that women in ancient Egypt had the right to own property and the right to divorce I found the book interesting and could not help but make comparisons in my mind to women’s rights today I found the book most interesting and will look for books by the author Kara Cooney is a Professor of Egyptology at UCLA The books nine hours and fifteen minutes I read the book as an audiobook downloaded from Audible Kara Cooney narrated the book herself

  5. says:

    35 stars rounded down This was fascinating but ultimately far less thorough than The Woman Who Would Be King

  6. says:

    Very informative and detailed but it’s bogged down by the authors need to constantly draw connections to current political figures and contemporary attitudes often misrepresenting behavior and cultural attitudes as some sort of universal act of a human hive mind while ignoring centuries and vast differences in culture that separate Americans from ancient Egyptians I’ll be honest It annoyed me a lot Like a white lady telling me she was Cleopatra in a past life levels of annoyed meA decent read if you can look past the White Feminusm™️

  7. says:

    I read the first 15 chapters and skimmed the rest It's way too political for me I just wanted to learn about the various female rulers of ancient Egypt I really don't care why Hilary Clinton lost the presidential race Actually I do care but I'd rather hear about it through unbiased news or political experts It's inaccurate and embarrassingly biased Note to all feminists If you want to help women don't perpetuate the lie that we're made of sugar and spice and everything nice It doesn't help If you think women are inherently gentler as world leaders you should check out ueen Mary I aka Bloody Mary and Elizabeth Bathory For the record the reason there aren't violent women throughout history is because women don't have as much power Historically in cultures where women have eual amounts of power they commit eual amounts of violent crimes It has nothing to do with gender I can see why the general public doesn't know that but why does this historian not understand that yet?Also she seems to think ancient Egypt practiced euality than we do because they had female rulers That's so inaccurate I once had a South Korean boss who was proud that they got a female president before America did This same man would often tell me to wear makeup because men wouldn't like my natural face So That alone is not an indication of gender euality Just saying

  8. says:

    I picked this up on a whim from Audible when I had credits to burn and was trying to use them to cancel my account since I have like 129357 audiobooks and I don't need to keep accruing credits but have I cancelled yet? NO I wasn't really sure what to expect from this but I've been reading lots of feminist stuff lately and I'm always a fan of history so I figured I'd take the chance And I'm not sorry I enjoyed it uite a lot Because Egypt only really documented the official record they wanted to portray there isn't much historical documentation about the personal lives of many of these women but I thought that Cooney's conclusions about these women and their motives and actions were interesting and made sense Were they accurate? No way to know since again it's not like they left their diaries behind A uick perusal of the other reviews of this book claim that Cooney engaged in sexism but I don't know that I agree since there wasn't a prejudicial or discriminatory aspect here I do agree that she sometimes defaulted to stereotypical gender traits but that's kind of to be expected honestly At the very least this book has piued my interest in learning about some of the lesser known ueens or female Kings of Egypt Everyone has heard of Nefertiti and Cleopatra and probably most have heard of Hatshepsut but I'd never heard of Merneith or Neferusobek or Tawosret at all So I will likely keep an eye out for other books about them Overall I liked this but I'm no Egyptian scholar or expert and so I'm OK with not having all the facts I never felt like anything was misrepresented or stated as fact when fact was unknown Cooney stated repeatedly that there was little known about a lot of these women's lives and reigns and so her conclusions are going to be a lot of conjecture I don't mind that at all I will probably also check out Cooney's other book The Woman Who Would Be King Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt at some point

  9. says:

    So disappointed with this book Unlike many other readers I was not familiar with Cooney's prior work and only picked this up because it was a new purchase by my local library and I love learning about Ancient Egypt especially the women rulersI've never read a book with so many presumptions and theories passed off as facts example Cooney states that Nefertiti grew with up with Akenaten There are theories that she was foreign born so stating for sure that she grew up in the same palace is a bald faced lied Numerous other assertations were stated as facts throughout the book She also goes on to say that Nefertiti held little power in their relationship which I find very hard to believe there's a reason she was named co regent This wouldn't have been the case if she was a dumb doormat nothing but a pretty face If you're going to state something like that back that shit up with proven verifiable facts Just because Cooney think's feminism makes women better rules but weak is absolutely ridiculousCooney's assumptions and endless posed uestions were irritating to read especially with how many there were and the content I didn't like how she had to bring current USA politics into her book If I wanted to read politics I would have I wanted to read about Ancient Egypt she drew an unnecessary bridge between the twoFor all of her education it seems she knows next to nothing or would rather had a political discussion based on gender roles and current politics Not what I thought I'd be reading when I started this If you're going to pass off mere speculation as fact be a tabloid writer instead of a Egyptologist I'd rather read a textbook than this bullshit excuse for a factual piece of literature I will likely never read another book by her again

  10. says:

    I enjoyed reading the historical fiction Nefertiti by Michelle Moran a few years ago It has piued my interest in Egyptology and when I found this book about the females that ruled Egypt I knew I had to get the rest of the storyIf you're like me you likely know about European history and monarchs than Egyptian dynasties You also likely know of the intrigue politics sex murder and other techniues necessary to obtain and hold your European rule Again if you're like me you are likely aghast at how you would always have to be watching your back during those timesWell Egypt was all of that PLUS incest Literally keep everything in the family The women that ruled Egypt had to be mentally stronger and cunning than any man They were amazing rulers Merneith Neferusobek Hatshepsut Nefertiti Tawosret and Cleopatra all have my respect for the things they were able to achieve in terms of rising to power and what they did once they had powerI don't want to include any spoilers but the epilogue was some real food for thought It is entitled why women should rule the world The older I get the I think this may be a good idea And I'm not just saying that because I live in a household of all women