Ancient Egypt and Us

Women in Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egyptian women had a great range of personal choice and opportunities for achievement.

Women such as Meryetneith c 2900BC, Khentawes c2385BC, Hatshepsut (1479-1458BC) and Cleopatra (51-30BC) even became great female kings, while others wielded great power as Great Royal Wives or Divine Wives of Amen. Despite these freedoms, ancient Egyptian women did not take part in official roles in the administration and served only in secondary roles in the temples. An exception to most other ancient societies, Egyptian women achieved legal parity with Egyptian men. In theory they enjoyed the same legal and financial rights, this can be seen in art and contemporary manuscripts.

The disparities between people's legal rights were based on differences in social class and not on gender. During the Ptolemaic era Egyptian women were allowed more rights and privileges than the Greek women. Women could manage, own, and sell private property, which included slaves, land, portable goods, servants, livestock, and money. Women could resolve legal settlements and had claims to up to one-third of all the community property which came after they were married.

When a woman brought her own private dowry to a marriage, it remained hers, On the death of a husband, the woman inherited two-thirds of their community property, the other one-third was divided among their children From the Middle Kingdom onwards an imyt-pr ‘house document’, could be used as a living will. However, husbands could marry more than one wife and even married mothers, sisters and daughters.

Women in Ancient Egypt

A girl did not normally get married until around fourteen although as young as eleven in royal families has been recorded. Royal family records show that children were born to girls as early as thirteen. Marriage required no particular religious or legal ceremony. There were no special bridal clothes, no exchange of rings, no change of names to indicate a marriage. Almost any reason could be used to end a marriage; legal divorces were very unusual and most marriages ended with the wife returning to her family. Although royal succession often passed through the male line the new king usually married the previous king’s daughter, sister or wife to consolidate his legitimacy to the throne.