The Female Pharaoh


Once upon a time, Egypt had a female pharaoh.  No, I’m not referring to Cleopatra. I’m referring to Hatshepsut who lived at the height of the ancient Egyptian empire, in the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom, the same dynasty that produced Akhenaten and King Tut.

Hatshepsut was the daughter of a pharaoh and chief royal wife to Pharaoh Thutmose II.  When her husband died, Hatshepsut appointed herself regent to her stepson, who, being a boy, would naturally take the throne.  Not satisfied with the role of regent, she proclaimed herself pharaoh.  Since “pharaoh” is a male gender word in ancient Egyptian, she became the female (gender male) pharaoh.  If your brain cramps at this concept, consider how the poor Egyptians felt at this twisting of the “natural order.”

Hatshepsut refused to abdicate in favor of her stepson, Thutmose III, when he reached adulthood. Instead, she sent him off on military campaigns to expand the borders of the Egyptian empire.  He became the greatest warrior-pharaoh in ancient Egypt, expanding the Egyptian empire from modern Sudan to modern Turkey.

Hatshepsut and Thutmose III made a great team with her administrative skills and his military skills.  But when Hatshepsut died, Thutmose III immediately began eradicating any trace of her as the female pharaoh, chiseling her name off her monuments and deleting her from the “king” list of pharaohs.

Early archaeologists (all European men) theorized that Thutmose III was taking revenge against his stepmother for blocking his rightful place to the throne.  But pharaohs had a habit of replacing a predecessor’s name with their own, since that was faster than building a new monument.  A different theory widely accepted today is that Thutmose was trying to restore the “natural order” by deleting references to a female pharaoh.

What can we learn from Hatshepsut today?  Challenge yourself to achieve great things even if that means going against the so-called natural order of the universe.  Hatshepsut’s achievements include one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt at Deir el Bahri.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

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