H is for Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut is the first woman to become a pharaoh. For fourteen years of tandem rule with her half-brother, she lead and he followed. When her husband died, she appointed herself regent. After a few years with no bloodshed or argument, she proclaimed herself Female King of Egypt taking on the five titles of a pharaoh, even male clothes and the false ‘beard of wisdom’ each pharaoh wore.

She mapped an itinerary for a trade expedition through the Suez Canal and south along the coast of Africa. Trade between Egypt and the Land of Punt flourished, as did trade with other lands

Hatshepsut also initiated peace treaties, and great public works projects. She refused to reign in the traditional role of queen and maintained that she was pharaoh of Egypt and even going so far as to build her temple in what became known as the Valley of the Kings.

Queen Hatshepsut ruled Egypt for twenty-two years and her reign was marked by peace and prosperity. No Egyptian ruler besides Rameses II was responsible for more building projects. Even so, it was not until the early 20th century that her name was even known.

Her successor, after her death, Tuthmosis III defaced and mutilated all of her public statues and monuments, erasing her name from history. There has been much speculation over the years as to why he did this but perhaps the best explanation is simply that Tuthmosis III did not want it widely known that a woman had ruled for so long and so successfully. According to the ancient Egyptian concept of ma’at (universal harmony) only a male was supposed to rule the land. It has been suggested that Tuthmosis III eradicated Hatshepsut’s likeness from so many public works to discourage other women from seeing her as a role model and following her example. Her mummy was hidden away by her supporters to prevent desecration and was thought lost until positively identified only in 2010.


Uppity Women of Ancient Times by Vicki Leon


One response to “H is for Hatshepsut”

  1. I love Hatshepsut! Ever since I read the fictionalized account in Judith Tarr’s King and Goddess. Now my son is interested in Ancient Egypt, so I’ve taught him a little about her too.

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