Mel's Reviews > Women in Ancient Egypt

Women in Ancient Egypt by Barbara Watterson
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's review
Dec 29, 11

bookshelves: 21st-century-non-fiction, women-s-history, gender-issues, egyptian-history
Read in December, 2011 — I own a copy

This was another Christmas present from Bill as he knows how much I like history about women and social history. It's a new popular history of women's lives in Egypt. As someone whose not read much about Egyptian history I found I enjoyed it quite a bit though there were a few things that the author said that I did shake my head at. One thing I noticed was that despite being published in 2011 nearly all the references used were from 1985 and earlier. This seemed a bit strange to me as if Egyptian history is anything like Chinese history there's got to be MANY more books written on the subject post 1985 than before. While most of her sources were secondary she did include lots of examples of text and illustrations which were pretty great.

The book covered attitudes towards women, which seemed overly negative. It seemed like she focused in on bad interpretations of stories rather than trying to create a balanced view. Social and legal positions which I thought was the best chapter. It looked at how women had equal legal rights with men, how they could own property, made loans, did lots of business, and how inheritance went through the mother. It was all fascinating but unfortunately quite short. Occupations and professions was also quite good though she focused in on only a few professions, priestess, midwife, dancer and musician. It did make me want to read more about women priestesses though. Love and marriage was a little less interesting. Health and childbirth were interesting in that it included lots of different medical treatments. These were compared with modern methods which helped explain some of the more bizarre practices (crocodile dung laced with sour milk in the vagina to prevent childbirth - which I can just picture working as the dude goes you've got what? no I don't want to go there!) Dress and adornment, which pointed out that men where much more clothes horses than women in Egypt, domestic life which included lots about diet. And lastly women in power. I think one of the best things about this book was that if focused so much on the lives of "ordinary" women and only addressed the exceptional women in their own chapter at the end. Overall the author did a good job of comparing Egyptian cultures with other ancient cultures, particularly Greece and modern British culture. It did seem much more egalitarian than most cultures. They also drank a lot of beer and saw no disgrace in drunkenness. I think it might have been one of the nicer ancient cultures!
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