Role of women in ancient Egyptian society

Ancient Egypt is generally recognized as having a society that respected women very favourably especially when compared to their neighbours in that era, or even compared to some societies in the modern era.

However, it appears that the role of women were more favourable in the earlier dynasties leading up to the age of pyramid building. Afterwards as the civil administration and infighting between nobles grew, women’s roles lessened.

Some list men and women’s professions as such: (source)

Ancient Egyptian jobs for men

  • bakers
  • scribes
  • priests
  • nobelmen
  • soldiers
  • farmers
  •  merchants

Ancient Egyptian jobs for women are listed as:

  • weavers
  • musicians
  • domestic helpers

However some sources seem to forget that women were the main bakers and beer makers. Beer was of central importance to ancient Egyptian society. Wages were often paid in beer. (source)

Egyptian-beer-bread-making
Bread- and beer-making (made of fermented bread) were usually women’s tasks. Twelfth dynasty of Egypt, 2050-1800 BCE.

Some view these duties as proof that women were domesticated and thus had an inferior position in society (source) it may be our current societal bias that views people that stay at home as less important in the society. Considering that the women were basically the banks of ancient Egypt, their roles may not have been seen as inferior as we think.

Women played an essential role at the highest levels (source). Another reason that current scholars may have misinterpreted the role of women in Ancient Egypt, was the negative connotation of women in literature. However, as wikipedia points out, the same treatment applied to the pharoah. Sometimes we use literature of the day to mock those in power.

Also, in many of ancient Egypt’s artistic depictions, a woman can be seen supporting or clasping their husband, maybe even protecting them.

Ancient Egyptian women were not subservient to men in marriage or divorce. They were free to choose the men they married and they could also divorce their husbands. Egyptian women enjoyed the same economic rights as men and therefore were able to make economic decisions on their own. Property that a married woman acquired on her own was hers to dispose of as she pleased. (source)

By contrast ancient Greek women required a designated male, to represent or stand for her in all legal contracts and proceedings.

Other sources

  • http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/women.htm
  • http://www.ancientnile.co.uk/occupations.php
  • http://www.womenintheancientworld.com/women_in_ancient_egypt.htm
  • http://en.paperblog.com/ancient-egyptian-women-628809/
  • http://classroom.synonym.com/life-girls-ancient-egypt-11514.html
  • https://www.library.cornell.edu/colldev/mideast/womneg.htm
  • http://binsancientegypt.weebly.com/men-vs-women-roles.html
  • http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/people/gender.htm
  • http://www.thekeep.org/~kunoichi/kunoichi/themestream/women_egypt.html

Leave a Reply