• When Women Ruled the World

  • By: Kara Cooney
  • Narrated by: Kara Cooney
  • Length: 9 hrs and 15 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (2,520 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.

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.

483 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.

360 people found this helpful

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Girls are made of sugar and spice...

Learned if also manichean feminist tract. Women=good. Men=bad. If you go for this type of female chauvinism, then this book is for you. A straight history would have been effective to show how strong, cany women in antiquity could rule effectively in a man's world. Instead, too often here we get feminist polemics, almost always tied to how great Hillary Clinton is and how bad the author sees Donald Trump being. Sad. She could have empowered her readers, female and male, to draw conclusions she favors. Instead, she does their thinking for them and alienates them. Certainly me, anyway.

57 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.

56 people found this helpful

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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.

49 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.

40 people found this helpful

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A trite, sexist take on Egyptian kingship

Almost everything is wrong with this book from title to historiographical approach. It offers a fresh alternative, but fails to deliver more than a facile analysis of complex and often obscure historical contexts, dressed in sexist over-simplifications of history and male behavior.

39 people found this 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.

37 people found this 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.

31 people found this helpful

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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.

31 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.

4 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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  • 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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  • 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

1 person found this helpful

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  • Suzi
  • 08-05-22

fascinating history

A really interesting look at the impact of women ruling in Egypt during the rule of the Pharaohs.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Abbie
  • 06-27-22

Sad

I couldn't get passed the constant reference to Hillary Clinton and Theresa May as If they are great women. Sadly these women are nothing like the Queens of Egypt and I found the compassion or rather use of their names as examples of modern women in power, to be distasteful and unjustified, given that neither have done anything good for their people.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-18-22

excellent

I enjoyed listening to the author. This book is an excellent analysis of why women are usually shunned from places of power. But, on occasion, when allowed, can really make a difference.

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  • Mr G Carter
  • 01-23-22

Interesting but lacking

The title seems misleading. The majority of women discussed never held the total power that is discussed in the introduction - most were co-king or regents rather than outright pharaohs. Also, whilst there are interesting parts about Egypt's social structures and commentaries on their ways of life, very little is actually mentioned about what these women actually did in power, more about their struggle for it. Out of an hour's chapter, I'd say 40% is spent on context, 30% on the woman, 15% on her struggle, 10% on modern equivalents and about 5% on what they actually achieved when in power. I was quite excited to listen to this, but realising the structure of each chapter with very little to show for it afterwards means that I have stopped listening. There is also a lot of ambiguity in there with the word 'possibly' cropping up a lot. The narrator is easy to listen to though.

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  • Sarah Mo
  • 01-14-22

Fascinating

I was in two minds to listen after reading some negative reviews but this was a great listen, really fascinating. Beautifully read by the author too. Would recommend

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  • Y. E. Kling
  • 12-21-21

enjoyed and learnt

this book is not your standard history tomb with evidence and attempt to be as objective and dispationat as academically possible. It is more a socio political examination of the historical figures discussed with interesting parallels to our time = history repeats itself. my takeaways is that we should move away from monogamy to other family structures that would change the male female dynamic the Greeks got us into.

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Cat Masters
  • 05-02-22

So interesting!

This book is brilliant. I loved every minute whilst listening. Kara has a very pleasant voice and she narrated beautifully. I Highly recommend this book. You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy it. I learned more about the women who ruled in Ancient Egypt from this book than I had learned from any class or research project I’ve done in my entire lifetime. Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Thank you.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-14-21

Interesting and insightful

After reading the reviews, I was hesitant to read this book, but I thought I’d give it a go. I’m glad I did. I feel that if it were written by a man, people would have a different opinion of it. I found it interesting and insightful. As with all history publications, the information should be approached with an open mind, and you must be willing to look at things from an alternate point of view, which in this case, means to take off the patriarchal glasses our society gives us at birth.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Nadia Lewis
  • 06-22-22

Long live the queens...

So intriguing and immensely enjoyable, Kara Cooney weaves the lives of these amazing women into stories that will transport you back to ancient times, while simultaneously remain relevant today.

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  • S.Attenborough
  • 02-13-22

Historical Inaccuracies Abound

There are some glaring historical errors in this book. For example in the last section about Cleopatra VII, the author compares the Ptolemaic removal of spouses akin to Henry VIII in a ‘Elizabethan Court’. Henry VIII operated in a Tudor Court NOT Elizabethan. Elizabethan was a term used for the reign of Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I. There cannot be an Elizabethan Court BEFORE she was even out of swaddling clothes let alone giving the appellation to a child 3rd on the list of possible Tudor monarchs!!

It is just so ridiculous that a historian would make such a fundamental and embarrassing error. Just one of many errors....