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When Women Ruled the World

Narrated by: Kara Cooney
Length: 9 hrs and 15 mins
4 out of 5 stars (210 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2018 Kara Cooney (P)2018 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A Thoroughly Feminist Review of Ancient Egypt

Emphasis on Feminism.

I bought this book because I love Egypt, and as a feminist woman myself, am very interested in its queens. For someone who is not formally educated in ancient history such as myself, it was an interesting look on the past and the few instances of female empowerment within it.

However.

I believe rather than write a factual and informative book about Egyptian queens, she seeks more to make a modern political statement more than anything. Trump and Clinton make frequent appearances, taking up almost as much time and emphasis as its titular queens, and thoroughly infects what could be a fascinating and enlightening look on ancient women.

After finishing this book and doing some more research on the source material, there are some factual errors regarding some numbers and figures. The author admittingly puts a very positive spin on each queen and almost always attributes their failings to men or external factors. Whether or not this is the case, as the author also says, perhaps we will never truly know.

Its epilogue is also an interesting addition, though it makes what has otherwise been a book of history on ancient women into something more like a very long feminist essay. It has interesting thoughts, but our modern outlook on feminism did not exist in the ancient world and looking at it through our modern moral and societal lens distorts it and what truths we do know about it considerably.

While not 100% accurate and quite political, I still found this book an entertaining and informative entry for the history lay-woman to ancient egyptian queens. My only recommendation to those looking to enjoy this book despite its political leanings and slight inaccuracies is to use this as a stepping stone into further learning of ancient Egypt rather than taking it purely at face-value.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, however, I would definitely warn readers of its politics and its inaccuracies and offer further reading on its subjects.

Did I enjoy this book? Yes and no, despite sharing similar views to the author, I felt the inclusion of modern politics distracted from the queens and their fascinating history. I wanted to hear less about Clinton and Trump.

294 of 312 people found this review helpful

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So much conjecture...

First I want to say that I understand Kara Kooney’s frustration with gender inequality. I recognize the way we make allowances for powerful men, yet hold our powerful women to completely different standards. However, I don’t think she should write a “history” that is so tainted by her agenda. As someone else pointed out, this book would have been far more effective if she had let the history speak for itself. Unfortunately, there is such fragmentary evidence of the lives of many of these women that much of the book is speculation.

208 of 228 people found this review helpful

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The women rulers of Egypt is a great subject

But the author uses the history as an excuse to put out her views on current and recent politics in the US, very disappointing. If that had been my interest that is what I would have puchased.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 12-10-18

Edifying

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. Kara Cooney narrated the book herself.

29 of 38 people found this review helpful

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  • Michelle
  • Sunnyvale, CA, United States
  • 05-16-19

Interesting Speculation, Questionable Assumptions

The speculations about the various 'queens' of Egypt are interesting and many seem well founded.

The base assumptions.. that women are so fundamentally different than men that all women are closer to each other than any man or any woman can hope to be is.. extremely suspect.

I find it ironic that an author that is ostensibly 'pushing' a female agenda also claims that women are, indeed, emotionally unstable, insecure and indecisive.

I found the history and historical speculation intriguing. I found the social and gender assertions counter to my personal experience and distasteful.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Deb
  • Berkeley, California USA
  • 05-14-19

Primarily an opinion piece with few facts in support thereof

Terribly disappointed in this book. Listened to a few chapters but irritated that it was primarily opinion based on a sparsity of facts.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Interesting thesis

Just dry at points. Loved the general idea of how women lost their mojo, but like any history book, beware of historical info getting dry. Personally, love history so I overall liked it.

11 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Infomercial for Hilary Clinton

While archaeology does fill holes with speculation this particular book is one person’s thoughts on Egypt laden with jabs and pouty rants about how sexism kept Hilary Clinton out of office. The performance is fine but I don’t believe the ancient Egyptians affected or cared about the outcome of the most recent US presidential election.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Valuable insight

As always, Kara Cooney provides a great story into arguably the world's greatest ancient civilization, Egypt. She provides a revealing, thought provoking approach to women in power, and highlights how each woman Pharoah handled their individual reigns. She ends on a high note, offering valuable insight into the benefits of a woman being in charge of any given society and how the six known female Pharoahs in history can provide guidance for us today through example alone. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested.

14 of 21 people found this review helpful

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All roads lead to Donald Trump

I saw this book and was really looking forward to it because I love Egyptology! But I did not get past the first chapter why does everyone have to politize everything in this country anymore? I could not get past the Donald Trump bashing. the rest of the book could be the greatest book ever written I don't know but I am returning this book. I wanted to read a history book, not a ranting diatribe on current US politics.

9 of 14 people found this review helpful