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This riveting narrative explores the lives of six remarkable female pharaohs, from Hatshepsut to Cleopatra--women who ruled with real power--and shines a piercing light on our own perceptions of women in power today. Female rulers are a rare phenomenon--but thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, women reigned supreme. Regularly, repeatedly, and with impunity, queens l This riveting narrative explores the lives of six remarkable female pharaohs, from Hatshepsut to Cleopatra--women who ruled with real power--and shines a piercing light on our own perceptions of women in power today. Female rulers are a rare phenomenon--but thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, women reigned supreme. Regularly, repeatedly, and with impunity, queens like Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra controlled the totalitarian state as power-brokers and rulers. But throughout human history, women in positions of power were more often used as political pawns in a male-dominated society. What was so special about ancient Egypt that provided women this kind of access to the highest political office? What was it about these women that allowed them to transcend patriarchal obstacles? What did Egypt gain from its liberal reliance on female leadership, and could today's world learn from its example? Celebrated Egyptologist Kara Cooney delivers a fascinating tale of female power, exploring the reasons why it has seldom been allowed through the ages, and why we should care.


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This riveting narrative explores the lives of six remarkable female pharaohs, from Hatshepsut to Cleopatra--women who ruled with real power--and shines a piercing light on our own perceptions of women in power today. Female rulers are a rare phenomenon--but thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, women reigned supreme. Regularly, repeatedly, and with impunity, queens l This riveting narrative explores the lives of six remarkable female pharaohs, from Hatshepsut to Cleopatra--women who ruled with real power--and shines a piercing light on our own perceptions of women in power today. Female rulers are a rare phenomenon--but thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, women reigned supreme. Regularly, repeatedly, and with impunity, queens like Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra controlled the totalitarian state as power-brokers and rulers. But throughout human history, women in positions of power were more often used as political pawns in a male-dominated society. What was so special about ancient Egypt that provided women this kind of access to the highest political office? What was it about these women that allowed them to transcend patriarchal obstacles? What did Egypt gain from its liberal reliance on female leadership, and could today's world learn from its example? Celebrated Egyptologist Kara Cooney delivers a fascinating tale of female power, exploring the reasons why it has seldom been allowed through the ages, and why we should care.

30 review for When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt

  1. 4 out of 5

    Iset

    If you’ll indulge me, I precede this review with a seemingly tangential but ultimately relevant anecdote. A few years ago, as part of a male-dominated gaming group, I observed a discussion regarding how more female players could be attracted to the game. The earnest solutions suggested included pink paint jobs in the store, and adding more caring and nurturing tasks. After attempting and failing to stifle my laughter, I explained that these stereotypes are not in fact biologically in built into If you’ll indulge me, I precede this review with a seemingly tangential but ultimately relevant anecdote. A few years ago, as part of a male-dominated gaming group, I observed a discussion regarding how more female players could be attracted to the game. The earnest solutions suggested included pink paint jobs in the store, and adding more caring and nurturing tasks. After attempting and failing to stifle my laughter, I explained that these stereotypes are not in fact biologically in built into women, and that my personal favourite aspect was the combat, because it offered the most challenge and variety, with no two encounters the same. I was then immediately undercut by an older, evidently traditionalist woman who loudly announced that I was talking rubbish and that a competitive drive just wasn’t in a woman’s natural make up. I wondered just how she explained my lifelong aggressively competitive energy, and of course, it couldn’t possibly be that society’s narrow parameters are too restrictive in their definition of masculinity and femininity; it must be that I and other women like me are some kind of aberrant freaks, despite having never felt any kind of gender dysphoria or confusion about my female identity. Why do I mention this incident? Because Kara Cooney’s When Women Ruled the World, well-meaning as it is and trying to highlight the reigns of some of ancient Egypt’s female rulers, is marred by scientifically unsupported, irrational stereotypes like those above. Even as Cooney sheds light on the historical facts of these women, she infers baseless stereotyped interpretations, such as that these women’s successes as rulers were because they ruled in a different style than men – they ruled better than men, Cooney tells us, avoiding rashly going to war and fostering Egypt’s prosperity like loving mothers. Given that the pool of female rulers is so small, it’s difficult to draw any conclusions about whether female pharaohs were averse to war. I couldn’t believe such nonsense in a non-fiction work from a credited historian – and yes, that is my professional Egyptologist’s opinion. This reading ignores mountains of evidence to the contrary (the many men who have successfully led from economic, diplomatic, scientific, and other foci, with reduced emphasis on war; as well as the women who have successfully and without compunction pursued the more martial arts), and is a biased and limited assessment of both men and women. I don't base that on opinion. The work of neuroscientists, psychologists, and behavioural scientists have shown that much of the notions of in-built feminine empathy and male logic are founded on confirmation bias and unscientific method, while rigorously conducted studies evidence parity and even reversal. Cooney seems confused about her own point, in one moment highlighting how Hatshepsut’s reign was erased from the record by the male kings who followed her, but the next moment discussing how in the face of the dearth of women in modern politics society should take a lesson from ancient Egypt, which “valued a woman’s calmer, more nuanced political skills.” She plucks out six queens from Egyptian history, though there were arguably more of unusual power. Even so, this score of prominent, power-wielding women in ancient Egypt is a small number when compared to 3000 years of history which was for the most part ruled by men. Ancient Egypt is a notable example of female freedom and power – when compared to other contemporary neighbouring societies. But it was still male-dominated, and at times – usually when she is comparing to modern women in politics – Cooney implies it was an idyllic utopia. This doesn’t really ring true – we are closer to gender parity today than at any time in the past – and Cooney does not properly place ancient Egypt in context by making it clear that although it was closer to gender parity than its contemporaries, it was still nowhere near modern standards, let alone an aspirational model. This is a shame because, aside from reinforcing stereotypes about the way in which women rule, and misstating the quality of gender parity in ancient Egypt compared to modern day versus sitting among its contemporaries, Cooney does actually make solid points. She is quite correct in stating the studies which have found the modern female leaders are deemed less trustworthy and more strident than their male counterparts, and they are critiqued more often for their visual appearance than men are, instead of for their policies. She is quite correct in highlighting the enormous gender disparity in modern positions of power. And, to be fair, Cooney does mention that not all ancient Egyptian female rulers avoided war – though she still seems to take the view that in general female power is mysteriously inherently more nurturing and peaceful. I know that a lot of readers strongly dislike historical non-fiction that thrives on “perhaps”, “might have”, and “probably”, so if you’re one of those, you’ll find plenty to dislike here. I personally do not object to it – the way I see it, it is hardly the author’s fault if the amount of evidence we have on a historical subject happens to be scant, and as long as the reader is fully aware of speculation, it can help us to examine possible interpretations and implications out of the evidence. However, sometimes Cooney makes statements out of what is really speculation, with no qualifying “perhaps”, “might have”, or even “must have” in sight; for example, stating that Ankhsenamun became Ay’s Great Royal Wife when in fact this is still heavily debated by Egyptologists since it is based on such scant evidence: (view spoiler)[(a single ring with their cartouches twinned, but Ankhsenamun appears nowhere else even suggested as Ay’s Great Royal Wife, and some Egyptologists read it instead as a familial relationship instead). (hide spoiler)] In another place Cooney says that late in the reign of Ramesses II, “12 crown princes were named and died in succession” before the succession was finally settled on Merenptah, the 13th born son who did eventually become the next pharaoh. This statement is not just misleading – it is unequivocally incorrect. (view spoiler)[Some younger sons predeceased their elder brothers, so when a crown prince died, the title skipped ahead to the eldest surviving son. Of Merenptah’s 12 older brothers, only three were crown prince before him. (hide spoiler)] The section on Kleopatra VII is the most egregious in this regard. Cooney states that there were no female monarchs between Tausret and Kleopatra VII, even though there were several Ptolemaic queens who acted as regent, affirmed co-ruler, and even independent sole ruler, before Kleopatra, most of whom she mentions in Kleopatra’s chapter – so why say there were none? At one point Cooney says that Ptolemy XII had three daughters, citing Kleopatra VI, Berenike IV, and Kleopatra VII herself (view spoiler)[(though Kleopatra VI as a daughter of Ptolemy XII is debated, and is probably the same person as Kleopatra V) (hide spoiler)] , but later in the chapter she finally remembers there was a fourth daughter, Arsinoe IV. She states that Arsinoe IV was assassinated in her early thirties, moments after telling us that Kleopatra was aged 28 and Arsinoe IV was her younger sister. I get the distinct impression that Cooney doesn’t know the subject of Ptolemaic Egypt that well. Cooney accepts uncritically the hypothesis that Kleopatra VII was illegitimate, without discussing the evidence at all. (view spoiler)[The basis for suggesting that Kleopatra VII was illegitimate rests on no more than the implication that Kleopatra VII learnt Egyptian and a single mention by Strabo that Berenike IV was Ptolemy XII’s only legitimate daughter. However Plutarch does not specifically say that Kleopatra VII learnt Egyptian or that it was her only additional language, he states that Kleopatra VII knew seven other languages, among which people often presume that Egyptian was one, and it does not necessarily follow that learning a language means one has ancestry. Meanwhile Strabo makes known errors about Berenike IV in his text, and no other sources suggest anything other than that Kleopatra VII was legitimate, plus combined with the fact that in the Ptolemies' long three-centuries reign they persistently promoted a Hellenistic elite, and practised incest, and that Roman sources hostile to the Ptolemies mention nothing out of the ordinary or scandalous about the mystery mother... it doesn't look great for this particular hypothesis (until/unless further evidence is discovered). (hide spoiler)] Cooney also states that Kleopatra VII’s line died out with her grandson, Ptolemy of Mauretania, despite discussion by historians that there were in fact further descendants. I really wanted to praise this book. I viewed Cooney’s previous book on Hatshepsut positively – yes, it was a popular history, and yes, it was highly speculative, but being aware of the caveats it was useful in examining the gaps in Hatshepsut’s history and the plausible scenarios that might have filled them. The basic premise of this book is one that I am interested in: female rulers of ancient Egypt, particularly those lesser known (Merneith, Sobekneferu, Tausret) rather than those more well-known (Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Kleopatra VII). I am a little disappointed that Cooney went for the big names. She does mention in the course of the text some of the stories of yet more female regents, co-rulers, and monarchs (Neithhotep, Neferuptah, Ahmes-Nefertari, Nefertari, Kleopatra II, Kleopatra III, Berenike IV), but some are not mentioned at all (Khentkawes, Ankhesenpepi II, Tiye, Arsinoe II). I don’t even mind the copious speculation in the text. What is misleading is when Cooney accepts certain hypotheses uncritically and conveys them to the reader as fact instead of just one possible scenario, and she does this far too often. On top of this, the book is marred by Cooney’s adherence to disproven gender stereotypes, which comes across as unscientific and decidedly not objective.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    This is a fascinating study of six women who ruled ancient Egypt, ranging from Merneith 5000 years ago to Cleopatra when the BC countdown ended. There isn't much truly documented detail for much of the volume, as she freely admits, but I found Cooney's conclusions and speculations convincing and fascinating. The time spanned through the various dynasties was really mind-boggling, and her portrayal of life both for the ruling class and the other citizens in the hierarchy was excellent; I learned This is a fascinating study of six women who ruled ancient Egypt, ranging from Merneith 5000 years ago to Cleopatra when the BC countdown ended. There isn't much truly documented detail for much of the volume, as she freely admits, but I found Cooney's conclusions and speculations convincing and fascinating. The time spanned through the various dynasties was really mind-boggling, and her portrayal of life both for the ruling class and the other citizens in the hierarchy was excellent; I learned a lot from the book and though it well worthwhile. My only reservation is that I felt she drew too many parallels from the ancient time to contemporary situations with too many suggestions on how we ought to conduct ourselves. It was a bit distracting at times. I agreed with her almost all of the time, but still felt she should have stuck with the straight history in the narrative and put her modern moral judgments in footnotes or otherwise kept them separate. I won a copy from the Goodreads Giveaway program and was quite delighted to have done so.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    This is a history of six women who ruled ancient Egypt. I expected to really enjoy this, having given the author’s first book (The Woman Who Would Be King) five stars. I also hate to say bad things about a book that a tour company was kind enough to send me. Unfortunately, the honest truth is that this was really bad. It’s almost impressive how the author managed to both beat the reader over the head with a feminist message and be incredibly sexist at the same time. The one positive quality that This is a history of six women who ruled ancient Egypt. I expected to really enjoy this, having given the author’s first book (The Woman Who Would Be King) five stars. I also hate to say bad things about a book that a tour company was kind enough to send me. Unfortunately, the honest truth is that this was really bad. It’s almost impressive how the author managed to both beat the reader over the head with a feminist message and be incredibly sexist at the same time. The one positive quality that carried over from the author’s previous book is that she managed to write engaging stories without glossing over uncertainty in the historical record. I appreciate that. On the less positive side, a lot of the uncertainties were left for footnotes. This is problematic because anyone who doesn’t read the footnotes will be left to simply believe the author’s narrative reconstruction is the truth. This book also felt lighter than the previous one, perhaps because there were so many uncertainties. She’s also covering six women in one book, instead of just one. OK, back to the most problematic parts of this book. On numerous occasions, the author states that ‘women rule differently from men’, endorsing outdated, gender essentialist ideas about men and women. She constantly refers back to stereotypes as though they are true and have useful explanatory power. There are so many examples of this, I don’t even know where to begin. She also constantly compares the way women were treated in ancient Egypt to modern times. In many cases, I felt she was projecting current views onto ancient Egyptians without sufficient evidence. In every case, the references to current events felt jarring and will quickly date the book. Some of these references to current events include lectures about modern politics that only tangentially related to her point. For example, to demonstrate that people don’t always act in their long term best interest, she treats us to a paragraph-long diatribe about global warming. Basically, this whole book feels like the author just has an ax to grind. She’s decided to focus on six women about whom very little is known. That doesn’t make for a great story. She’s just used them as a springboard to lecture us about how men and women are different; how women should probably be in charge because of those differences; and how women are still experiencing sexism today. The connections she makes between these women and modern figures are poorly supported, relying on insufficient evidence from both time periods to support her claims. Honestly, I can’t imagine this book appealing to anyone, as the liberal politics are likely to annoy conservatives and the sexism is likely to annoy liberals. I’m incredibly disappointed that this was the author’s follow up to a great debut. This review first posted at Doing Dewey.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    Kara Cooney Ph.D. points out that ancient Egypt was punctuated by periods of rule by women. Many women ruled as regents for their young sons; then advised them privately when they took the throne in their teens. Cooney reviews the reign of six female pharaohs of the Ptolemaic period that ruled in their own right. They are: Merineth, Neferusobeck, Nefertiti, Tawosret, Hatshepsut and Cleopatra. The author discusses their similarities and differences of their reigns. Cooney describes how Hatshepsut Kara Cooney Ph.D. points out that ancient Egypt was punctuated by periods of rule by women. Many women ruled as regents for their young sons; then advised them privately when they took the throne in their teens. Cooney reviews the reign of six female pharaohs of the Ptolemaic period that ruled in their own right. They are: Merineth, Neferusobeck, Nefertiti, Tawosret, Hatshepsut and Cleopatra. The author discusses their similarities and differences of their reigns. Cooney describes how Hatshepsut and Cleopatra took and held power. The book is well written and meticulously researched. Cooney reveals how these women survived in a male-dominated world. The author points out that women in ancient Egypt had the right to own property, and the right to divorce. I found the book interesting and could not help but make comparisons in my mind to women’s rights today. I found the book most interesting and will look for more books by the author. Kara Cooney is a Professor of Egyptology at UCLA. The books nine hours and fifteen minutes. I read the book as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. Kara Cooney narrated the book herself.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    3.5 stars, rounded down. This was fascinating, but ultimately far less thorough than The Woman Who Would Be King.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    I picked this up on a whim from Audible when I had credits to burn (and was trying to use them to cancel my account since I have like 129357 audiobooks and I don't need to keep accruing credits, but have I cancelled yet? NO!). I wasn't really sure what to expect from this, but I've been reading lots of feminist stuff lately, and I'm always a fan of history, so I figured I'd take the chance. And I'm not sorry. I enjoyed it quite a lot. Because Egypt only really documented the "official" record th I picked this up on a whim from Audible when I had credits to burn (and was trying to use them to cancel my account since I have like 129357 audiobooks and I don't need to keep accruing credits, but have I cancelled yet? NO!). I wasn't really sure what to expect from this, but I've been reading lots of feminist stuff lately, and I'm always a fan of history, so I figured I'd take the chance. And I'm not sorry. I enjoyed it quite a lot. Because Egypt only really documented the "official" record they wanted to portray, there isn't much historical documentation about the personal lives of many of these women, but I thought that Cooney's conclusions about these women and their motives and actions were interesting and made sense. Were they accurate? No way to know, since, again, it's not like they left their diaries behind. A quick perusal of the other reviews of this book claim that Cooney engaged in sexism... but I don't know that I agree since there wasn't a prejudicial or discriminatory aspect here. I do agree that she sometimes defaulted to stereotypical gender traits, but that's kind of to be expected, honestly. At the very least, this book has piqued my interest in learning more about some of the lesser known Queens (or female Kings) of Egypt. Everyone has heard of Nefertiti and Cleopatra, and probably most have heard of Hatshepsut, but I'd never heard of Merneith or Neferusobek or Tawosret at all. So I will likely keep an eye out for other books about them. Overall, I liked this, but I'm no Egyptian scholar or expert, and so I'm OK with not having all the facts. I never felt like anything was misrepresented or stated as fact when fact was unknown - Cooney stated repeatedly that there was little known about a lot of these women's lives and reigns, and so her conclusions are going to be a lot of conjecture. I don't mind that at all. I will probably also check out Cooney's other book The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt at some point.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cara

    So disappointed with this book. Unlike many other readers, I was not familiar with Cooney's prior work and only picked this up because it was a new purchase by my local library and I love learning about Ancient Egypt, especially the women rulers. I've never read a book with so many presumptions and theories passed off as facts (example: Cooney states that Nefertiti grew with up with Akenaten. There are theories that she was foreign born, so stating for sure that she grew up in the same palace is So disappointed with this book. Unlike many other readers, I was not familiar with Cooney's prior work and only picked this up because it was a new purchase by my local library and I love learning about Ancient Egypt, especially the women rulers. I've never read a book with so many presumptions and theories passed off as facts (example: Cooney states that Nefertiti grew with up with Akenaten. There are theories that she was foreign born, so stating for sure that she grew up in the same palace is a bald-faced lied.) Numerous other assertations were stated as facts throughout the book. She also goes on to say that Nefertiti held little power in their relationship which I find very hard to believe, there's a reason she was named co-regent. This wouldn't have been the case if she was a dumb doormat, nothing but a pretty face. If you're going to state something like that, back that shit up with proven, verifiable facts. Just because Cooney think's feminism makes women better rules but weak is absolutely ridiculous. Cooney's assumptions and endless posed questions were irritating to read, especially with how many there were and the content. I didn't like how she had to bring current USA politics into her book. If I wanted to read politics, I would have. I wanted to read about Ancient Egypt - she drew an unnecessary bridge between the two. For all of her education, it seems she knows next to nothing or would rather had a political discussion based on gender roles and current politics. Not what I thought I'd be reading when I started this. If you're going to pass off mere speculation as fact be a tabloid writer instead of a Egyptologist. I'd rather read a textbook than this bullshit excuse for a factual piece of literature. I will likely never read another book by her again.

  8. 4 out of 5

    KLC

    I read the first 1.5 chapters and skimmed the rest. It's way too political for me. I just wanted to learn about the various female rulers of ancient Egypt. I really don't care why Hilary Clinton lost the presidential race. Actually, I do care, but I'd rather hear about it through unbiased news or political experts. It's inaccurate and embarrassingly biased. Note to all feminists: If you want to help women, don't perpetuate the lie that we're made of sugar and spice and everything nice. It doesn' I read the first 1.5 chapters and skimmed the rest. It's way too political for me. I just wanted to learn about the various female rulers of ancient Egypt. I really don't care why Hilary Clinton lost the presidential race. Actually, I do care, but I'd rather hear about it through unbiased news or political experts. It's inaccurate and embarrassingly biased. Note to all feminists: If you want to help women, don't perpetuate the lie that we're made of sugar and spice and everything nice. It doesn't help. If you think women are inherently gentler as world leaders, you should check out Queen Mary I, aka "Bloody Mary," and Elizabeth Bathory. For the record, the reason there aren't more violent women throughout history is because women don't have as much power. Historically, in cultures where women have equal amounts of power, they commit equal amounts of violent crimes. It has nothing to do with gender. I can see why the general public doesn't know that, but why does this historian not understand that yet? Also, she seems to think ancient Egypt practiced equality more than we do because they had female rulers. That's so inaccurate. I once had a South Korean boss who was proud that they got a female president before America did. This same man would often tell me to wear makeup because men wouldn't like my natural face. So ... That alone is not an indication of gender equality. Just saying.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Grumpus

    I enjoyed reading the historical fiction Nefertiti by Michelle Moran a few years ago. It has piqued my interest in Egyptology and when I found this book about the females that ruled Egypt, I knew I had to get the rest of the story. If you're like me, you likely know more about European history and monarchs than Egyptian dynasties. You also likely know of the intrigue, politics, sex, murder, and other techniques necessary to obtain and hold your European rule. Again, if you're like me you are like I enjoyed reading the historical fiction Nefertiti by Michelle Moran a few years ago. It has piqued my interest in Egyptology and when I found this book about the females that ruled Egypt, I knew I had to get the rest of the story. If you're like me, you likely know more about European history and monarchs than Egyptian dynasties. You also likely know of the intrigue, politics, sex, murder, and other techniques necessary to obtain and hold your European rule. Again, if you're like me you are likely aghast at how you would always have to be watching your back during those times. Well, Egypt was all of that PLUS incest. Literally, keep everything in the family. The women that ruled Egypt had to be mentally stronger and more cunning than any man. They were amazing rulers. Merneith, Neferusobek, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Tawosret, and Cleopatra all have my respect for the things they were able to achieve in terms of rising to power and what they did once they had power. I don't want to include any spoilers but the epilogue was some real food for thought. It is entitled, why women should rule the world. The older I get, the more I think this may be a good idea. And, I'm not just saying that because I live in a household of all women :-)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Laura Noggle

    Such a disappointment. Very little in the way of facts, which, dealing with the material is understandable. It was her sexist gender stereotypes and constant comparison to modern politics that really put me off. Loved the subject matter and it was entertaining in between the annoying parts, but very flimsy in the nonfiction department.

  11. 5 out of 5

    ~Dani~ LazyTurtle's Books

    Read this review and more at Book Geeks Uncompromised! When Women Ruled the World is a great look at the rise to power of six women in Ancient Egypt. One of the things that have fascinated me about Ancient Egypt is the culture’s relationship and treatment of women. While still very much a patriarchal society, Egyptian women had more rights than their contemporaries in other parts of the world. They had the right to own property and the right to a divorce; things women in most of the world would n Read this review and more at Book Geeks Uncompromised! When Women Ruled the World is a great look at the rise to power of six women in Ancient Egypt. One of the things that have fascinated me about Ancient Egypt is the culture’s relationship and treatment of women. While still very much a patriarchal society, Egyptian women had more rights than their contemporaries in other parts of the world. They had the right to own property and the right to a divorce; things women in most of the world would not dream of being able to have and do. Unfortunately, the records for a lot of the time periods involved are so vague and inscriptions have been struck through and marked over so many times in some cases that a lot of what is known is conjecture and generalizations. Because of this, there are a lot of “maybes” and “perhaps” in telling the story of individuals from thousands of years ago. This did get a little tiring to read at time but ultimately it is just part of the nature of the topic. One of the things that Cooney generalizes fairly frequently is that women were needed at specific points in history for their tendency to avoid risk and avoid fights. While obviously not every woman falls into that generalization, it makes sense that a woman taking a man’s place in a patriarchy must step carefully. Everything she touches must turn to gold or it would be her name stricken from the temples and tombs. I felt like Cooney did a wonderful job at walking the reader through what life was life for these women and the circumstances that birthed their opportunities to rise to power. Many times the circumstances went back several generations and were quite complicated but I always felt like it was a story being told, reading about their lives never felt dry to me at all. For someone like me that enjoys reading about ancient cultures but maybe doesn’t know too much about them, I think is a great place to start. It not only explores these six women but also touches on various facets of Ancient Egyptian culture in a way that is very engaging and easy to read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Very informative and detailed, but it’s bogged down by the authors need to constantly draw connections to current political figures and contemporary attitudes, often misrepresenting behavior and cultural attitudes as some sort of universal act of a human hive mind while ignoring centuries and vast differences in culture that separate American from ancient Egyptians. I’ll be honest. It annoyed me a lot. Like a white lady telling me she was Cleopatra in a past life levels of annoyed me. A decent re Very informative and detailed, but it’s bogged down by the authors need to constantly draw connections to current political figures and contemporary attitudes, often misrepresenting behavior and cultural attitudes as some sort of universal act of a human hive mind while ignoring centuries and vast differences in culture that separate American from ancient Egyptians. I’ll be honest. It annoyed me a lot. Like a white lady telling me she was Cleopatra in a past life levels of annoyed me. A decent read, if you can look past the White Feminusm™️

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Simply put this is a great read. A must for any women's or gender studies class.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gia

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Oh wow, I did NOT like this book. It was pretentious, full of speculation and assumptions that seemed solely powered by the author’s POV. Others, I’m sure could argue that as a Egyptologist she delivered information about the selected women in this book with details. However, half the information were riddled off like fact sheets about the era these women held power—no facts about their unique ruling styles, specifics about why these picks were greater than others, no proof given to back up the Oh wow, I did NOT like this book. It was pretentious, full of speculation and assumptions that seemed solely powered by the author’s POV. Others, I’m sure could argue that as a Egyptologist she delivered information about the selected women in this book with details. However, half the information were riddled off like fact sheets about the era these women held power—no facts about their unique ruling styles, specifics about why these picks were greater than others, no proof given to back up the claims about how (if/when) they were able to manipulate the position of power in their favor. What’s more, she continued to run off on the notion that with each new dynasty the previous female pharaoh would have had he name whipped from history, so why continue to push the concept that the later female rules were likely inspired by the former if they technically “didn’t” exist? Skipping over the fact that she every chance she got to remind the reader of ancient Egypt’s ideologies and mythologies when it came to the decision of selecting a woman as king essentially by default because they were seen as less hostile, less likely to cause wars or be erratic aka complicit. The author makes a point of tying in details and examples of our current political climate and the “lack” therefore of the female presence. Not to say that this point was entirely wrong but she choose to ONLY point out the failures when making this point or any point to be honest. Strategically leaving out positive women in power today in terms of politics ie reasons why Hillary Clinton did not win the past presidential election in regards to her appeal to the public based on how attractive she is and is not🙄. Moreover, how this is some how connected to her time as the First Lady when she was seen (and in ways now) being seen as over stepping her bounds of what she is allowed to do and what she isn’t. And it gets better; the current First Lady seems to know her “place” because she spends her time redecorating??—— I can’t recall the full passage. I was rolling my eyes a lot here. However, my point being, need we forgot the eight years the Obamas were in office and the presence, influence and power they EACH held during that time?? I mean, I wasn’t the only one who dreamed that right?? OR the 70+ women running in the 2018 Midterm elections across the country!!? I wanted to like this book so much but why?? Why take such a CIS, cynical, impersonal, allusive, and disappointing stance with this book? If I were to recommend this book to anyone it would be a straight, white male 🤷🏾‍♀️. My full review on this book will be up later this week. These notes are just the ones freshest in my mind after finishing this book, so I tried to be objective but uggh it was difficult.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stefan Bach

    Barely made the cut. First time I understand all those people here calling for that half star. It's barely even 1.5 stars. I blame my gentle heart.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    Needs more footnotes and to be clearer over what is know facts and what is unclear

  17. 4 out of 5

    honeybean

    Many of the facts in this book are presented as being wishy-washy in some parts, and then somewhat absolute in other parts (i.e. in "Neferusobek" states Amenemhat IV and Neferusobek might have been siblings, and then goes on to state "when Amenemhat IV married his half-sister Neferusobek"...these unnecessary, un-clear titles were not needed. Cooney does mention the extreme difficulty of being an Egyptologist, but some of the research could have been more clearly explained. One part especially le Many of the facts in this book are presented as being wishy-washy in some parts, and then somewhat absolute in other parts (i.e. in "Neferusobek" states Amenemhat IV and Neferusobek might have been siblings, and then goes on to state "when Amenemhat IV married his half-sister Neferusobek"...these unnecessary, un-clear titles were not needed. Cooney does mention the extreme difficulty of being an Egyptologist, but some of the research could have been more clearly explained. One part especially lends credit to another "well known Egyptologist" but didn't explain what differences to other ideologies there may be within research. This book was also unnecessarily charged with American politics. Even with my thoughts mirroring what was stated in this book (i.e. clear distaste of the Trump administration), it dates the book to this country and this time frame, and I honestly didn't really want to read anything so modernly politically charged when picking up a book about Egyptian female/genderqueer rulers. For being a National Geographic trademark book, if it were to be so politically charged, I would have liked to see more discussion about non-American politics.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brianne

    While I enjoyed this book, I did have a couple of issues. It always felt jarring when Cooney brought up a modern example or comparison. I understand why she discussed those topics, but it never felt like it fit in with the rest of the book to me. I also think I would have preferred just having a history of the female rulers, rather than any other discussion about them. There were a few women Cooney mentioned in passing, and I would have liked to learn more about them. Overall, I’d recommend this While I enjoyed this book, I did have a couple of issues. It always felt jarring when Cooney brought up a modern example or comparison. I understand why she discussed those topics, but it never felt like it fit in with the rest of the book to me. I also think I would have preferred just having a history of the female rulers, rather than any other discussion about them. There were a few women Cooney mentioned in passing, and I would have liked to learn more about them. Overall, I’d recommend this if you’re interested in Ancient Egypt, but I’d recommend The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt more.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Quick biographies of six queens of Egypt, most ruling as their dynasties ended. Scratched my childhood Khem fandom. But it was off-puttingly gender normative. I appreciate the author's point that these were not feminist heroes; they were not trying to bring women into full civic equality with men. But I found annoying how often she ascribed these women as having almost instinctual peace making impulses, even as she describes them cheerfully killing people. Good bus book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Kara Cooney has produced an interesting and fascinating book about 6 female pharaohs (Kings) in Egyptian history - Merineth, Neferusobek, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Tawosret and of course Cleopatra. This book compares and highlights truths and historical facts/information as well as providing similarities of struggles in power/politics and patriarchy that women of power face today. I found it very interesting and could relate the essence of the books meaningful content to the world of power and poli Kara Cooney has produced an interesting and fascinating book about 6 female pharaohs (Kings) in Egyptian history - Merineth, Neferusobek, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Tawosret and of course Cleopatra. This book compares and highlights truths and historical facts/information as well as providing similarities of struggles in power/politics and patriarchy that women of power face today. I found it very interesting and could relate the essence of the books meaningful content to the world of power and politics today in our modern world. I have always been fascinated with Egypt's history and found this book a fantastic read. I would definitely reccomend it to anyone with an interest in politics, history, egyption history and pharohs.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lake Villa District Library

    [Re]INVEST in 2020: In March, celebrate Women's History Month! Find this book in our catalog! [Re]INVEST in 2020: In March, celebrate Women's History Month! Find this book in our catalog!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Susan O

    I enjoyed this book from the standpoint of the Egyptian history. Cooney is knowledgeable of the history, what is known and unknown, and reasonable suppositions. What I didn't enjoy as much were her speculations about women and their rule in general, or the applications of those ideas to modern times. I was left wondering if what she states as fact was just opinion. I listened to the audio book, so perhaps in the written work there are footnotes and references to back up these assumptions.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jo Burl

    I'm sad that this book was disappointing. I had pre-ordered on Amazon because I enjoyed Kara's book on Hatshepsut and I was hoping there would a lengthy chapter on Nefertiti with all of the current research on her. Additionally, I loved the episodes when she was on the podcast, Eric's Guide to Ancient Egypt (which I hope returns soon!!!). Negatives: I'm one of those people that hate the "perhaps, could have, might be" type of fill ins in non-fiction books. I know that a certain amount is necessary I'm sad that this book was disappointing. I had pre-ordered on Amazon because I enjoyed Kara's book on Hatshepsut and I was hoping there would a lengthy chapter on Nefertiti with all of the current research on her. Additionally, I loved the episodes when she was on the podcast, Eric's Guide to Ancient Egypt (which I hope returns soon!!!). Negatives: I'm one of those people that hate the "perhaps, could have, might be" type of fill ins in non-fiction books. I know that a certain amount is necessary but after a bit I felt that there was to much of that in this book. I understand that book was giving a feminist take on Egyptian rule, but it just seemed that after awhile the author went overboard and started man-bashing. It was like she objected to patriarchy, but to get her point across she took shots at "typical" male ways of thinking and ruling that are not as good as female ways, and so sounded misandrist instead. She indulged in what she disliked so much. Also, not all of her examples of modern women and how they are not taken as seriously or treated as fairly as men worked. That's okay. But there is a certain American politician that was brought up several times as an example of a woman treated unfairly. There are some of us women who just don't like this politician, not because she's a strong woman but because of some of her wrong doing. And yes, I don't like it when men do that either. This politician's gender did not enter into whether I liked he or not, I hope for an truthful, strong woman to come along that I can embrace. I hope to vote for her some day. Sooner rather than later, I hope. Lastly, the title could have been reworked. The women in this book didn't rule even their own known world, only Egypt. Positives: I knew next to nothing of Merneith or Neferusobek, and now I find that I need to learn more, what little there is to learn. Even Tawoseret. I'm looking forward to digging into the footnotes and ordering some of the material there. Footnotes!!! I love good footnotes. Thank you for providing so many. Now of only there had been a map or genealogy. But, the author explained what the name meant, especially throne names, and how they reflected what the ruler hoped to accomplish. Extra thank you!! I know Nefertiti has been done to death, and I think I've read everything I can find on her, but somehow I never realized that there were 3 schools of thought on her (American, British and French? German?). That kind of helped me to mentally organize all the different theories on her. I wish someone would write a book with all three theories in one book, divided by school of thought. How convenient that would be to have it all in one spot. I'm uncertain which could be the correct theory, of if there is one not yet considered, but it makes for interesting reading. Every Amarnaphile seems to have their favorite theory, but I bounce around. Cleopatra. She gets a little boring, but I actually enjoyed this author's take on her. Never realized before how much the Roman version of history had colored my thinking. AND, I never realized just how inevitable her ending was.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I was ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, learning about how women rule differently from men, and how it was successfully accomplished in ancient Egpyt, was very interesting. On the other hand, the hidden agenda and aside jabs detracted from the narrative so much, that in the end, I was more annoyed than inspired by the text.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laurel Reinoehl

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The writing is dryer that the Egyptian landscape, full of "probably", "should have", and "must have". Too much presumption, too little fact (although there may never be more definitive evidence about Egyptian queens). TOOOOOOO much repetition of the same point. And too much belief that the women were of course not acting in any self interest, or just really lucky, or anything but brilliant and striving against the odds heroically.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shaelene (aGirlWithBookss)

    If you're interested in female leadership throughout time, specifically in Ancient Egpyt then this book is a good starting point. However, if you are already well versed on some of the Queens mentioned in this book, then I suggest you skip as it's just a brief history of their Regin and doesn't go too far into depth. This book is much more suited toward a beginner learning about female Egyptian rule. The book also shares very strong feminist views on female leadership as well as opinions on femal If you're interested in female leadership throughout time, specifically in Ancient Egpyt then this book is a good starting point. However, if you are already well versed on some of the Queens mentioned in this book, then I suggest you skip as it's just a brief history of their Regin and doesn't go too far into depth. This book is much more suited toward a beginner learning about female Egyptian rule. The book also shares very strong feminist views on female leadership as well as opinions on female rule and a woman's role in society today, as well as the 2017 US election between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. If you have an issue with strong feminist views in a book, then this won't be for you. In Cooney's novel, we learn about 6 Queens of Egypt- three more well known (Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra) and three lesser-known (Merneith, Neferusobek, and Tawosret). There are plenty of books by Egyptologist out there that go farther in-depth about the three well-known queens. But this book does a great job at discussing the three lesser known queens and introducing them to readers. During each respective queens chapter, we go through their rise to power and their downfall, as well as what the political climate in Egypt at the time was like. Cooney does a great job at explaining to the reader the connections to leadership in ancient times vs present day and how many of the biases we hold over women have been happening for thousands of years, how it may have differed in Ancient Egypt and how some has stuck with us. The book was well thought out, points got across easily and it was quite an accessible read that wasn't too complex that the average non-fiction, non-scholarly reader could digest it. It's interesting, thought-provoking and has really made me think about how much farther women will have to fight to finally be accepted as leaders of the world in a capacity that is equal to men. 3.5 stars.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Reed

    As an archaeologist, I did enjoy this book for its use of multiple avenues of evidence to form the narrative of these six queens of Egypt (though there is some conjecture, as there often is in studies of the distant past). Perhaps this is why I wish the book were less focused on its modern parallels. They felt forced in some places, in others redundant. I feel the flow of the book would have been better maintained if these comparisons were made at either the end of each chapter, or in the epilog As an archaeologist, I did enjoy this book for its use of multiple avenues of evidence to form the narrative of these six queens of Egypt (though there is some conjecture, as there often is in studies of the distant past). Perhaps this is why I wish the book were less focused on its modern parallels. They felt forced in some places, in others redundant. I feel the flow of the book would have been better maintained if these comparisons were made at either the end of each chapter, or in the epilogue. That being said, Cooney is able to capture your attention with her dramatic retelling of these stories, weaving in aspects of Egyptian culture and economy that help you better understand how difficult it was to be a female ruler at the time and appreciate that these women, for the most part, succeeded in doing so.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This was a vexing book. When the author stuck to Ancient Egypt it was quite interesting. I realize the further one goes back in history, the harder it is to find evidence, but I appreciated the theories that may have allowed women in Ancient Egypt ascend to power. What I did not like was using modern feminist thoughts or American politics in the narrative to support her ideas. It was really jarring and out of context.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Juniper Nichols

    Like “Women and Power” meets “The Woman Who Would Be King.” Much like her biography of Hatshepsut, the author expands on interpretations of the reigns of six Egyptian female rulers, this time peppered with analogies from today’s leaders, and why it is still so hard for the world to accept the leadership of women. Also in conclusion, why it’s needed more than ever. Highly recommended, especially if you love Egyptology!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alana

    A lot of this is speculation, as is much about ancient Egypt, because there is just so little documentation. However, the inferences are intriguing, and Cooney makes some very interesting points about female power--and why males have historically been so frightened of it--both in the past, present and possibly what it could look like in the future. It takes some rather dry historical information and makes it enjoyable and entertaining to the lay person. It's definitely a worthwhile read, even ac A lot of this is speculation, as is much about ancient Egypt, because there is just so little documentation. However, the inferences are intriguing, and Cooney makes some very interesting points about female power--and why males have historically been so frightened of it--both in the past, present and possibly what it could look like in the future. It takes some rather dry historical information and makes it enjoyable and entertaining to the lay person. It's definitely a worthwhile read, even accounting for some obvious political biases.

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