“She’s the Man”: The Reign of Queen Hatshepsut

Statue of Queen Hatshepsut | Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Winner of the Fall 2016 StMU History Media Award for

Best Introductory Paragraph

Article with the Best Title

Queen B said it best when she sang the infamous line, “Who run the world? Girls.”1 When looking back to history, men are seen as better and treated better than women. A long time ago, in ancient Egypt, women of the royal family served as guides to young male rulers. But there was one unconventional case where a woman defied the odds and obtained the role of pharaoh.

Queen Hatshepsut limestone statue | Courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica

Queen Hatshepsut was the oldest daughter of Thutmose and his Great Royal Wife, Queen Ahmose. Thutmose, like most males who held power during those times, had another wife with whom he had a son. His name was Thutmose II; when he was at the age of eight and Hatshepsut was thirteen, they were wed, despite the fact of their shared blood line. When their father passed, Thutmose II assumed the position of pharaoh. While he was pharaoh, they birthed a daughter, but every male in power needs a male heir. Since she was unable to produce a son, he and a minor wife, Iris, conceived a son who became Thutmose III. Thutmose II and Hatshepsut reigned in Egypt until his death. The next male in line was Thutmose III,  but Hatshepsut’s step child was too young to fulfill the position of pharaoh, so she ruled in his stead. On that note, even when he did become old enough to rule, she refused to turn over the power to him, and she remained in power. That is when she began her transition from Queen Hatshepsut to Pharaoh Hatshepsut.2

The Temple of Karnakat Luxor built under Hatshpsut’s reign dedicated to the sun god, Amur | Courtesy of World History Encyclopedia

The Queen herself had a headdress made that included a beard and some male characteristics.3 She did not go out of her way to keep her gender a secret, for she did include feminine touches to her attire. Masculinity of course was respected more and was associated with power, which is why she sometimes took on such characteristics. Despite being a female ruler, at that time (and still today) people would not expect such a flourishing reign. Beginning  in 1473 B.C.E. and ending in 1458 B.C.E., under her control wealth was accumulated. When it came to the protection of Egypt, she engaged in successful warfare against her invaders.  She also had an extensive building program in which a temple of devotion to their sun god, Amun, was erected. Prosperity and wealth also came about because she sent ships on expeditions to foreign lands to obtain riches. These included ivory, ebony, gold, and trees. Now, why would they bring back trees? Whenever they had temple ceremonies, trees would be burned by the tons for fragrant incense.4

All good things must come to an end, and this particular ending is death. After she died, successors attempted to erase the fact that a female had become pharaoh.5 Even with this attempt to erase history, she is still known as a successful pharaoh to this day. She brought about protection, prosperity, and plenitude during her time as king. She did not serve as a guide to a young male pharaoh, but she showed how one must rule during her reign.

  1. Beyoncé, “Run the World (Girls),” in 4, Columbia Records, 2011.
  2.  Ann Macy Roth, “Models of Authority: Hatshepsut’s Predecessors in Power,” in Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh, ed. Catharine H. Roehrig, Renee Dreyfus, and Cathleen A. Keller (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005), 10.
  3. Roth, “Models of Authority: Hatshepsut’s Predecessors in Power,” 10.
  4. Rupert Matthews, DK Eyewitness Books: Explorer (DK Publishing, 2012), 8.
  5. Angela Murock Hussein, “Legacy of a Female Pharaoh,” Calliope 19, no. 1 (September 2008): 48.

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This Post Has 76 Comments

  1. This is so amazing especially during a time where men are seen as incredibly superior. It’s sad that they tried to cover up her legacy because she had such a great one that brought in wealth and lots of resources. I’m glad she didnt give up her position and remained in power until she became a pharaoh. She was truly making history.

  2. The article is thought provoking as well as something different. Of course it was common for brothers and sisters to marry and have children. Who else but the sister of Pharaoh was royal enough to marry him and bear his children?
    And it won’t be the first time an older girl will marry a younger boy. Catherine of Aragon was 16 when she married the 11 year old Henry [ prince of wales] who would become Henry VIII.

  3. Fist of all, love, love the Beyoncé reference! It made me much more excited to read this article. I’m glad to have read about a woman who felt like she could rule just as well–if not better–than a man could and proved it. It’s always fascinating to read about those rare cases in which traditions weren’t always upheld and went against status quo.

  4. This is a very interesting article. It is crazy that a thirteen year old girl would be married to her eight year old step brother. It seems like Hatshepsut had been waiting for the opportunity to become pharaoh for a long time. She had to with for her father and step brother/husband to pass before she could become pharaoh, so it makes sense why she wouldn’t want to give up the power to her stepson when he came of age.

  5. Hatshepsut surely made a huge step in the right direction for her country, but she also made a statement for women in Egypt during the time of her rule that lasted (and still lasting). I always knew of Hatshepsut as arguably the most dominant woman ruler of all time, but I think it’s even more significant because she preceded Thutmose III, who was arguably one of the most dominant male rulers of all time. It makes you think that a lot of his leadership skills were “inherited” since he was not directly related to her, but it still says a lot because she was the reigning ruler that he must have looked up to while he essentially waited for her to pass so he could take over.

  6. For thousands of years, the idea of a man being superior to women has been relevant. Queen Hatshepsut proved that this is not the case at all, she demonstrated that women can achieve anything a man can do and even in some cases can do more. What I found crazy is that she put on a beard to appear more dominant among the public. Overall, this is a very good topic selection.

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