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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.

Editorial Review

A feminist take on ancient Egypt

I won't lie, there was a point in my life where I dreamed about becoming an Egyptologist. And with so much history to explore, there's still a part of me with an insatiable appetite for more. For another layer of interest, Kara Cooney adds a touch of women's history as she discusses some of the female pharaohs who led this powerful and legendary civilization. From Hatshepsut to Nefertiti and Cleopatra, Cooney manages to synthesize modern perceptions of womanhood and femininity with those of ancient Egypt—and what feels like our eternal struggle to put women in positions of power—combining two of my favorite histories. —Michael C., Audible Editor

What listeners say about When Women Ruled the World

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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.

479 people found this helpful

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Difficult to know what to trust

Let me preface this by saying that I’m a woman, a liberal and a feminist. In no way am I opposed to the message that women can and should lead. However, I felt that this historical interpretation was driven by an overt agenda — namely, to show that the “feminine” style of rule (whatever that is) is more appropriate in times of crisis, and was recognized as such by the ancient Egyptians. Every fact presented supports that thesis; no counter-examples have been allowed or considered. This is not objective scholarship. Ok, there were women pharaohs in the second and twelfth (?) dynasties. What about in between? When crises occurred at other times, why were women not selected? This question challenges her thesis, so it is not addressed; it is passed over, ignored. Another point: the author asserts that women were valued as moderating influences, as consensus-builders; but what is the evidence that the ancient Egyptians—a culture so far removed from our own—viewed women in this way? She makes all these assertions without presenting any proof to back them up. I am left with distrust and confusion. How can I trust her interpretation of the facts? How can I even be sure that all the facts were considered?

I feel that feminism is best served by truth. Exaggerating or willfully misinterpreting women’s histories does as much harm as trivializing them. Honestly, I am surprised that National Geographic lent its name to this dubious work of scholarship.

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couldn't make it past 2nd chapter

I thought I was going to read a book about the queens' lives (good and bad) and instead it was a feminist manifesto. I am a feminist myself but I was looking forward to learning the history not the redundant reiteration of what it is to be a woman. I let it slide the first chapter with the unrelated trump and hillary rant and was hoping for some meat the second chapter but it was still disappointing. It was at a point where I felt I could not trust the author's account bc of how much she was just hyping them up in general. performance was alright but I can't continue.

9 people found this helpful

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Like mixing milk chocolate and steak

Both are good independently and together they aren’t necessarily terrible, but it doesn’t quite work.

The Egyptology in this is great. Interesting look at ho women wielded power in ancient Egypt.

The thesis that women deserve to have power because they approach problems in different and sometimes better ways then men, OK doesn’t seem unreasonable.

But, the connection of the 2016 election to 2nd Millenia rulers was convoluted at best. Kind of felt like the publisher said hey your a feminist and an Egyptologist right? Respond to a Trump presidency. It didn’t really work.

Author does a great job with history and narration. I agree with her in principle. But, the book kinda feels like a NYT #metoo editorial got blended with a book on Egypt.

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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.

47 people found this 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.

358 people found this helpful

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Don’t need to know the author’s political views

I expected a history of the women who ruled Egypt instead I found out how much the author hates Trump and men in general

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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.

28 people found this 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.

54 people found this helpful

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Overall arch leaves something to be desired

While I was excited about the premise here it turned out the thesis was strained and misleading as to the time scales involved between particular instances or female rule in ancient Egypt. Sweeping generalities made early on we're often contradicted in individual instances (of which there are so few that the contradiction immediately invalidate the supposed trend). There are some fun facts in here, but the overall arch leaves something to be desired.

11 people found this helpful

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  • A.V.F
  • 02-22-21

Politics rather than history

It contains too much of the author's political views and seems more designed to speak about the present than the past. It is a shame as I was truly looking forward to reading it. It was a waste of a good credit.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-30-20

empowering

I the positive portrayal of female rulers. very enjoyable listen. would be purchasing future releases.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Carpet shark
  • 07-11-21

Well worth it

loved it, have listened to it a few times, worth buying. factual but also a bit of speculation on the things we don't know about

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-17-21

Very biased by own cultural environment

The book contains too much speculation and very little mention of historical sources. Even worse, bulk of the text is about cultural biases of the author: how people have suffered because of the ritual sacrifices (is there any evidence that they suffered?), how incestual practices were damaging for Egypt (contrary to evidence), how women in power needed to put up a show of masculinity like women today (no evidence for this). These practices should have been placed and explained in the context of the era, not 21st century USA.

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  • Gingerkat
  • 11-06-21

Brilliant

If you are interested in Egyptian history of their powerful women. Ignore the negative review. Obviously ample who can't face the truth!

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  • Carmel J.
  • 11-03-21

Educational yet fascinating and entertaining

Excellent to hear a version of history with a female interpretation. Easy to listen to the narration.

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  • Ezada
  • 09-25-21

excellence

I loved every moment of it. This is the second book from Kara Cooney and I am looking forward to read more from Her.

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  • Laura-Jane
  • 08-18-21

Absolutely Brilliant

So interesting and very easy to listen to. I felt like I learned some much about the ancient world but also how the same problems arise today.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-25-21

I really wanted to like it

Kara reads well and is clearly passionate about women’s rights and the male gaze which has written history. What I found hard to manage was the quick transfer between what we can’t know and then assumptions inferred, while at the same time criticising many assumptions having been made in the past.

1 person found this helpful