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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.

What listeners say about When Women Ruled the World

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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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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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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.

1 person found this helpful

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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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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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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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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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interesting and informative

A really nice and well-written book. This is my second book from this particular author and I strongly recommend to read all of titles provided by Kara Cooney.

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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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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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  • Newme
  • 05-01-21

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.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Morgan
  • 07-03-19

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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  • Hannah Elarabawy
  • 03-01-21

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.

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  • michael a jones
  • 25-12-20

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

9 people found this helpful

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  • Chris
  • 23-05-19

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.

39 people found this helpful

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  • Deb
  • 14-05-19

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.

48 people found this helpful

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  • BVerité
  • 01-01-19

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.

359 people found this helpful

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  • Michelle
  • 16-05-19

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.

29 people found this helpful

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  • Kathleen
  • 17-05-19

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.

55 people found this helpful

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  • blair E godshall
  • 06-02-21

wanted to enjoy but political propaganda ruins it

I love history. I wanted to love this but I don't want to hear about trump or Clinton. I just want to hear the history without every single fact being spun to fit a narrative. let me make my own conclusions based off research and not rhetoric.

5 people found this helpful