10 Women Who Took Titles Normally Reserved For Men
by Jamie Frevele | 12:30 pm, March 7th, 2012
The story of how Hatshepsut, the favorite daughter of an ailing pharaoh, took it upon herself to name herself pharaoh rather than wait for the next male heir (her nephew) to become old enough, is probably the most recognizable and popular story of a woman taking a man’s title. And while many women were established rulers in ancient Egypt, it was a little crazy when Hatshepsut did it and became the first female ruler of the 18th Dynasty. In the First Dynasty, Merneith was buried with the full honors of a pharaoh — but she had to die first. Several other women also ruled as regents to their sons and queen dowagers, but Hatshepsut was the first to officially rule as a full-fledged pharaoh.
Born in 1508 B.C.E., Hatshepsut was one of three children born to Thutmose I and Aahmes, and she was just the apple of their respective eyes. When Thutmose I died, Hatshepsut’s brother Thutmose II ascended the throne but passed away after ruling for just four years. Their other brother had also died. That left the only male heir to the throne, Thutmose III, who was considered too young to rule at the time. Hatshepsut could have been named as queen dowager, but she figured, “Hey — I’ve basically been ruling as pharaoh while the real pharaoh was sick, so why don’t I just become the pharaoh?” And so, she was the pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty.
As pharaoh, she ruled for 15 years, which was the longest any woman had served up until that point. In order to let people know she meant business, she wore the customary garb that male pharaohs did, including a false beard. During her reign, she ordered dozens of exploratory expeditions to seek out precious materials and was responsible for the construction and creation of tons and tons of monuments and art. So much that there is something for nearly every museum that wanted a piece of Hatshepshut. She was also lucky enough to rule during peacetime, so there was a lot of time (and money, and people, and resources) for her to get things accomplished.
Of course, there was still Thutmose III. Once he grew up and figured out that he could have been the pharaoh, he made it his mission to destroy Hatshepshut’s legacy and had any depictions of her ruined, defaced, or erased completely.
Thutmose III would probably be really annoyed to find out that none of it worked. We’re still pretty damn aware of Hatshepsut’s successful reign as pharaoh.