Women in Egypt had the most secure position of females anywhere in the ancient world. During the Pharaonic Period, women were recognized as having equal legal rights as men and therefore had the right to own, inherit, and manage property and appear in court in their own capacity and not with a male guardian. The wife had a valued position in any household and was normally in a monogamous marriage, although sexual fidelity on the part of the husband was not expected. Women found it difficult to exercise their legal rights unless they were backed by male protection, so their legal rights were often more theoretical than practical. During the Graeco-Roman Period, these rights were restricted in accordance with classical practice.
   The principal role of a woman of all classes was to be a wife and manage her household, so she was invariably known by the title nebet per, mistress of the house. She had to bear and rear children and feed and clothe her husband and offspring, thus a large part of their time was taken up with food preparation, including the grinding of wheat into flour, and textile manufacture. Wealthy women had servants, but even royal wives and princesses were involved in the weaving process. There is little evidence supporting the use of peasant women in agriculture apart from the winnowing process and in the harvesting of flax. Women were normally barred from administrative and political offices and so wielded their influence from behind the scenes, although there were powerful queens, like Tiy and Nefertiti, and queen mothers, like Merneith and Ankhesenmeryre. The few queens regnant in Egyptain history, for example, Nitocris, Sobeknefru, and Tewosret, were ephemeral stopgaps and marked the end of their dynasties. The only exception was Hatshepsut, who usurped the throne and reigned for a lengthy period. Only during the Ptolemaic Period did Egyptian queens wield real power, notably Cleopatra VII.
   See also Marriage; Sex.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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