Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt” as Want to Read:
When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  2,002 ratings  ·  349 reviews
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 l
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by National Geographic Society
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,002 ratings  ·  349 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt

If you’ll indulge me, I precede this review with a seemingly tangential but ultimately relevant anecdote. A few years ago, as part of a male-dominated gaming group, I observed a discussion regarding how more female players could be attracted to the game. The earnest solutions suggested included pink paint jobs in the store, and adding more caring and nurturing tasks. After attempting and failing to stifle my laughter, I explained that these stereotypes are not in fact biologically in built into
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating study of six women who ruled ancient Egypt, ranging from Merneith 5000 years ago to Cleopatra when the BC countdown ended. There isn't much truly documented detail for much of the volume, as she freely admits, but I found Cooney's conclusions and speculations convincing and fascinating. The time spanned through the various dynasties was really mind-boggling, and her portrayal of life both for the ruling class and the other citizens in the hierarchy was excellent; I learned ...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Nov 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
This is a history of six women who ruled ancient Egypt. I expected to really enjoy this, having given the author’s first book (The Woman Who Would Be King) five stars. I also hate to say bad things about a book that a tour company was kind enough to send me. Unfortunately, the honest truth is that this was really bad. It’s almost impressive how the author managed to both beat the reader over the head with a feminist message and be incredibly sexist at the same time.

The one positive quality that
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars, rounded down. This was fascinating, but ultimately far less thorough than The Woman Who Would Be King.
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
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I picked this up on a whim from Audible when I had credits to burn (and was trying to use them to cancel my account since I have like 129357 audiobooks and I don't need to keep accruing credits, but have I cancelled yet? NO!). I wasn't really sure what to expect from this, but I've been reading lots of feminist stuff lately, and I'm always a fan of history, so I figured I'd take the chance. And I'm not sorry. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Because Egypt only really documented the "official" record th
So disappointed with this book. Unlike many other readers, I was not familiar with Cooney's prior work and only picked this up because it was a new purchase by my local library and I love learning about Ancient Egypt, especially the women rulers.

I've never read a book with so many presumptions and theories passed off as facts (example: Cooney states that Nefertiti grew with up with Akenaten. There are theories that she was foreign born, so stating for sure that she grew up in the same palace is
Mar 28, 2020 rated it did not like it
I read the first 1.5 chapters and skimmed the rest. It's way too political for me. I just wanted to learn about the various female rulers of ancient Egypt. I really don't care why Hilary Clinton lost the presidential race. Actually, I do care, but I'd rather hear about it through unbiased news or political experts.

It's inaccurate and embarrassingly biased. Note to all feminists: If you want to help women, don't perpetuate the lie that we're made of sugar and spice and everything nice. It doesn'
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, audiobook
I enjoyed reading the historical fiction Nefertiti by Michelle Moran a few years ago. It has piqued my interest in Egyptology and when I found this book about the females that ruled Egypt, I knew I had to get the rest of the story.

If you're like me, you likely know more about European history and monarchs than Egyptian dynasties. You also likely know of the intrigue, politics, sex, murder, and other techniques necessary to obtain and hold your European rule. Again, if you're like me you are like
Laura Noggle
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Such a disappointment. Very little in the way of facts, which, dealing with the material is understandable.

It was her sexist gender stereotypes and constant comparison to modern politics that really put me off.

Loved the subject matter and it was entertaining in between the annoying parts, but very flimsy in the nonfiction department.
~Dani~ LazyTurtle's Books
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wheelathon-iii
Read this review and more at Book Geeks Uncompromised!

When Women Ruled the World is a great look at the rise to power of six women in Ancient Egypt. One of the things that have fascinated me about Ancient Egypt is the culture’s relationship and treatment of women. While still very much a patriarchal society, Egyptian women had more rights than their contemporaries in other parts of the world. They had the right to own property and the right to a divorce; things women in most of the world would n
Jun 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Very informative and detailed, but it’s bogged down by the authors need to constantly draw connections to current political figures and contemporary attitudes, often misrepresenting behavior and cultural attitudes as some sort of universal act of a human hive mind while ignoring centuries and vast differences in culture that separate American from ancient Egyptians.

I’ll be honest. It annoyed me a lot. Like a white lady telling me she was Cleopatra in a past life levels of annoyed me.

A decent re
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Simply put this is a great read. A must for any women's or gender studies class.
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stefan Bach
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Barely made the cut. First time I understand all those people here calling for that half star.
It's barely even 1.5 stars. I blame my gentle heart.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
Many of the facts in this book are presented as being wishy-washy in some parts, and then somewhat absolute in other parts (i.e. in "Neferusobek" states Amenemhat IV and Neferusobek might have been siblings, and then goes on to state "when Amenemhat IV married his half-sister Neferusobek"...these unnecessary, un-clear titles were not needed. Cooney does mention the extreme difficulty of being an Egyptologist, but some of the research could have been more clearly explained. One part especially le ...more
While I enjoyed this book, I did have a couple of issues. It always felt jarring when Cooney brought up a modern example or comparison. I understand why she discussed those topics, but it never felt like it fit in with the rest of the book to me.

I also think I would have preferred just having a history of the female rulers, rather than any other discussion about them. There were a few women Cooney mentioned in passing, and I would have liked to learn more about them.

Overall, I’d recommend this
Quick biographies of six queens of Egypt, most ruling as their dynasties ended. Scratched my childhood Khem fandom. But it was off-puttingly gender normative. I appreciate the author's point that these were not feminist heroes; they were not trying to bring women into full civic equality with men. But I found annoying how often she ascribed these women as having almost instinctual peace making impulses, even as she describes them cheerfully killing people.

Good bus book.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Kara Cooney has produced an interesting and fascinating book about 6 female pharaohs (Kings) in Egyptian history - Merineth, Neferusobek, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Tawosret and of course Cleopatra. This book compares and highlights truths and historical facts/information as well as providing similarities of struggles in power/politics and patriarchy that women of power face today. I found it very interesting and could relate the essence of the books meaningful content to the world of power and poli ...more
Lake Villa District Library
[Re]INVEST in 2020: In March, celebrate Women's History Month! Find this book in our catalog! ...more
Jun 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Needs more footnotes and to be clearer over what is know facts and what is unclear
Susan O
I enjoyed this book from the standpoint of the Egyptian history. Cooney is knowledgeable of the history, what is known and unknown, and reasonable suppositions. What I didn't enjoy as much were her speculations about women and their rule in general, or the applications of those ideas to modern times. I was left wondering if what she states as fact was just opinion. I listened to the audio book, so perhaps in the written work there are footnotes and references to back up these assumptions.
Jo Burl
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm sad that this book was disappointing. I had pre-ordered on Amazon because I enjoyed Kara's book on Hatshepsut and I was hoping there would a lengthy chapter on Nefertiti with all of the current research on her. Additionally, I loved the episodes when she was on the podcast, Eric's Guide to Ancient Egypt (which I hope returns soon!!!).

I'm one of those people that hate the "perhaps, could have, might be" type of fill ins in non-fiction books. I know that a certain amount is necessary
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, learning about how women rule differently from men, and how it was successfully accomplished in ancient Egpyt, was very interesting. On the other hand, the hidden agenda and aside jabs detracted from the narrative so much, that in the end, I was more annoyed than inspired by the text.
Laurel Reinoehl
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shaelene (aGirlWithBookss)
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you're interested in female leadership throughout time, specifically in Ancient Egpyt then this book is a good starting point. However, if you are already well versed on some of the Queens mentioned in this book, then I suggest you skip as it's just a brief history of their Regin and doesn't go too far into depth.
This book is much more suited toward a beginner learning about female Egyptian rule.
The book also shares very strong feminist views on female leadership as well as opinions on femal
Elizabeth Reed
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
As an archaeologist, I did enjoy this book for its use of multiple avenues of evidence to form the narrative of these six queens of Egypt (though there is some conjecture, as there often is in studies of the distant past). Perhaps this is why I wish the book were less focused on its modern parallels. They felt forced in some places, in others redundant. I feel the flow of the book would have been better maintained if these comparisons were made at either the end of each chapter, or in the epilog ...more
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a vexing book. When the author stuck to Ancient Egypt it was quite interesting. I realize the further one goes back in history, the harder it is to find evidence, but I appreciated the theories that may have allowed women in Ancient Egypt ascend to power. What I did not like was using modern feminist thoughts or American politics in the narrative to support her ideas. It was really jarring and out of context.
Juniper Nichols
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Like “Women and Power” meets “The Woman Who Would Be King.” Much like her biography of Hatshepsut, the author expands on interpretations of the reigns of six Egyptian female rulers, this time peppered with analogies from today’s leaders, and why it is still so hard for the world to accept the leadership of women. Also in conclusion, why it’s needed more than ever. Highly recommended, especially if you love Egyptology!
A lot of this is speculation, as is much about ancient Egypt, because there is just so little documentation. However, the inferences are intriguing, and Cooney makes some very interesting points about female power--and why males have historically been so frightened of it--both in the past, present and possibly what it could look like in the future. It takes some rather dry historical information and makes it enjoyable and entertaining to the lay person. It's definitely a worthwhile read, even ac ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A History of Nigeria
  • A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs
  • We're All Marketers: 20 Go-To Principles To Help You Market Like a Marketer
  • Women Warriors: An Unexpected History
  • Start at the End: How to Build Products That Create Change
  • The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul
  • Rivals! Frenemies Who Changed the World (Rivals!, #1)
  • More Bedtime Stories for Cynics (Bedtime Stories for Cynics, #2)
  • Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past
  • Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon
  • The Life and Times of Prince Albert
  • Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women Before 1400
  • What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader
See similar books…
Dr. Kathlyn M. Cooney aka Dr. Kara Cooney is an Egyptologist and Assistant Professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture at UCLA. She was awarded a PhD in 2002 by Johns Hopkins University for Near Eastern Studies. She was part of an archaeological team excavating at the artisans' village of Deir el Medina in Egypt, as well as Dahshur and various tombs at Thebes.

In 2002 she was Kress Fellow at the Nat

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our lis...
44 likes · 15 comments