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The Role of Women in Ancient Egypt

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The Role of Women in Ancient Egypt

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  • November 4, 1996
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From the time of the Old Kingdom to the time of the New Kingdom, Ancient Egypt was a society dominated by men. Much of the history of Egypt is expressed through the perspective of Egyptian males. This leaves the perspective of the other half of the Egyptian population, females, unexplored. When women of Ancient Egypt are discussed it is often just the women of power or royalty who receive attention. This leaves many people unaware of the role of the average women in this society. Achieving A reversal of this unawareness is done by explaining the role of the average Egyptian woman in the family, the legal rights of women, and the role of women in the temples.

In Ancient Egypt the main purpose for women was to marry and to reproduce. 'To marry and beget children may have been the duty of every right-thinking Egyptian, but it was a duty which was very much welcome.' (Tyldesley 1994). There was no legal age of consent. Men would consider women eligible for marriage upon menstruation. This meant that women would marry as young as ten or eleven. Marriage was a private matter with no intervention from the state. No formal ritual was performed to marry a man and a woman. A woman was considered married upon moving into the husband's household. The husband had the responsibility to care and protect his wife as her father did. The husband was not to be the legal guardian of his wife. This left the woman independently in control of her own assets. Women could jointly own property with their husbands and were publicly acknowledged as being part owner of the property. Upon the husband's death or divorce the woman was to inherit some or all of his assets.

Ancient Egyptian women in marriage were expected to be fertile. This determined the basic success of a marriage. The masculinity of a man depended on the amount of children he could father. A woman who could bear many children was looked upon favorably by her husband and her peers (Tyldesly 1994). The wife was to blame...