“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
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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69 Comments

  • I love this story. I really think that it is sad that in death she was erased from the history books as a woman and that only now we can appreciate her. I also find the fact that she crossdressed was interesting. Congrats on the win and keep up the good work.

  • Great article and I love the descriptive the author uses. I think its funny how she refused to turn over the power to her stepson and turned out to be a great and successful Pharaoh. I also liked how you started the article with an empowering quote from a very well known artist who also shows her fans that women can run the world. Overall Hatshepsut’s legacy shows how women can be successful and that men hold no more power than women.

  • To see a women ruling over a great city is remarkable and shows how far women have come, they were stepping up and partaking in big roles to show that they are equivalent to men. They are just as capable of doing the task of men, and she showed the city her capability to rule. Even if she was falsy portraying herself as a man, she was a biological women

  • It is great how she stood against some of the traditions and what many thought. Her rise to power was a very interesting case, she took the place of her husband and she maintained the power according to her own judgment. It was a good thing that her successors couldn’t erase her feats. She contributed in temples, trade, exploration and managed warfare properly. Hatshepsut did what she needed to do, she did it well and she maintained her beliefs while ruling.

  • I knew of Hatshepsut from my art history class and about how she was a pharaoh, but I did not know of how she came to be one. I think your article was fairly short but I feel like you did a good job at explaining how Hatshepsut was able to become a pharaoh. I find it interesting that she was able to hold on to her power and wasn’t forced to give it up.

  • We had just talked about this in class so I wanted to look up this article. The majority of us know that no matter the time period, history just wasn’t kind to women, at least in most societies. The majority of them being patriarchal. It’s interesting that even though she had a son that wasn’t of age, they still let Hatshepsut rule instead of finding another man to fill the role until the son was old enough. Even though she dressed in mens clothes and wore the beard, she still didn’t deny that fact that she was woman and I can only imagine the backlash she got from her people for doing so. Even though she was a very successful pharaoh, I wonder why she didn’t hand the thrown to her son?

  • This article is interesting for it informs the readers about something that is not heard of, and Egyptian woman pharaoh. The story of how she came to be a pharaoh is interesting. Through this article it is important to know that Egypt was successful during her rule. Although Hatshepsut was a successful pharaoh it is sad that she is not as mentioned when learning about Egypt’s history.

  • It is hard to believe that a female was actually able to become a pharaoh. In the past and even in today’s time it is rare that a woman is leader over a community, company, organization, and as any other type of ruling position. In Egypt she saw an opportunity since her step son was too young to rule she claimed her self pharaoh because she was the only one able to be in such a high position. It is funny to think she still hid some features by adding a bread but she made sure people knew she was a women. After her death the people tired to hide her truth, but could not since her reign was successful in many criteria like wealth, trade, and war.

  • Thinking back on how women were seen as less than men and that men were superior it opens my eyes when I see that a women ruled in ancient Egypt. Even if she looked more masculine at the end of the day she was still a women. History doesn’t really agree with females who had some sort of power, but she managed the keep her throe throughout her lifetime. The article was beautifully written and very interesting I had never heard of Hatshepsut.

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