Welcome to the first article in the “Celebrating Women” for Women’s History Month! It’s my first article series to celebrate women in history or women making history! Thank you to Stephanie Thornton for starting everything off with a post on Hatshepsut. If you’d like to continue on with the tour, which runs March 19-31, 2014, follow along each day on the main blog or head to this blog page, Women in History, which will be updated daily with the scheduled link.
Hatshepsut’s Reign of Egypt and Her Grand Success
by Stephanie Thornton, historical author
It’s Women’s History Month, and there’s no better time for me to gush about my all-time favorite woman in history. I’ve been obsessed with Hatshepsut since I wrote a report on her in 7th grade (Cleopatra was taken) and realized that the world knew relatively little about this enigmatic woman who became one of ancient Egypt’s most successful pharaohs.
Hatshepsut was the daughter of Pharaoh Tutmose I and Queen Ahmose. (BTW- There are multiple spellings of some of these names and for clarity’s sake, I’m going to use the ones I used in my upcoming novel, Daughter of the Gods.) Her father had several other children, but all of them predeceased him, save Hatshepsut and her half-brother, Thutmosis. That’s one of the hazards of living back then- life expectancies hovered somewhere near the 30 year mark.
Thutmosis was the son of the Pharaoh and a lesser wife named Mutnofret. When Tutmose died, Thutmosis became pharaoh. His reign was short, dated anywhere from two to twelve years, but with most historians leaning toward the former. Regardless, the man’s only major accomplishment while on the throne was fathering a son with a dancing girl named Aset and Hatshepsut’s daughter, Neferure.
Then he dies.
Such a terrible shame, but not for Hatshepsut! Thutmosis kicking the bucket allows Hatshepsut to become regent to her toddler stepson. (And yes, little Tutmose would also be her nephew since he’s her brother’s kid.)
Hatshepsut sits by dutifully for seven years, ruling for Tutmose like a good little regent. But then, for whatever reason (and we don’t really know what this reason is) she declares herself Pharaoh.
Only two other women before Hatshepsut were Pharaoh and both were the end of their family lines, the last link in a family to toss on the throne. And both women brought about the end of their family dynasties. (Oops.)
But Hatshepsut’s reign was a grand success. She went on to built the architectural marvel of Deir-el-Bahri (there I am in front of it!), organize an expedition to reopen trade to the mythical land of Punt, and keep the peace in her country for several decades.
Hatshepsut disappears from the historical record around 1482BCE and then Tutmose gets to take his place on the throne. Late in his reign all references to Hatshepsut as Pharaoh and all her monuments and statues are destroyed. Historians once believed this was an act of revenge against his usurper stepmother, but now it’s believed it was merely to secure later successions and erase the aberration of a female ruler from Egypt’s history.
Hatshepsut may not be as famous as Cleopatra VII (who lost the entire country to Rome, by the way), but of all the women pharaohs, Hatshepsut was by far the most successful. In fact, even compared to the entire list of Egypt’s rulers, Hatshepsut would certainly rank in the top five. I’m biased, but I’d say she only comes behind Ramesses II, although he lived so long (ninety-some-odd-years-old) that his death sunk the country into a slump from which it would never recover.
So there’s no doubt about it: Hatshepsut is a rock star!
About Stephanie Thornton (in her words)~
I’m a writer and high school history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since I was twelve. I’d stalk Theodora and Hatshepsut if I could, but they’re kind of dead. So I travel to ancient sites they’ve been to and write books about them instead.
My debut novel, THE SECRET HISTORY: A Novel of Empress Theodora, will be published by NAL/Penguin in July 2013, and DAUGHTER OF THE GODS, a story of Pharaoh Hatshepsut, will hit the shelves May 2014, and TIGER QUEENS, a story of the women of Ghenghis Khan, will be coming Fall of 2014.
I live with my husband and daughter in Alaska, where I’m at work on my next novel.
Coming Soon, May 2014……..DAUGHTER OF THE GODS, Synopsis~
Egypt, 1400s BC. The pharaoh’s pampered second daughter, lively, intelligent Hatshepsut, delights in racing her chariot through the marketplace and testing her archery skills in the Nile’s marshlands. But the death of her elder sister, Neferubity, in a gruesome accident arising from Hatshepsut’s games forces her to confront her guilt…and sets her on a profoundly changed course.
Hatshepsut enters a loveless marriage with her half brother, Thut, to secure his claim to the Horus Throne and produce a male heir. But it is another of Thut’s wives, the commoner Aset, who bears him a son, while Hatshepsut develops a searing attraction for his brilliant adviser Senenmut. And when Thut suddenly dies, Hatshepsut becomes de facto ruler, as regent to her two-year-old nephew.
Once, Hatshepsut anticipated being free to live and love as she chose. Now she must put Egypt first. Ever daring, she will lead a vast army and build great temples, but always she will be torn between the demands of leadership and the desires of her heart. And even as she makes her boldest move of all, her enemies will plot her downfall….
Once again, Stephanie Thornton brings to life a remarkable woman from the distant past whose willingness to defy tradition changed the course of history.
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