As we close out Women’s History Month, I’ve noticed there is a name that is rarely recounted in our lists of women heroes.
Hatshepsut was an awesome lady ruler back in the days of Ancient Egypt. Her work is still standing in modern times.
From the book BLACK PEOPLE AND THEIR PLACE IN WORLD HISTORY by Dr. Leroy Vaughn, MD, MBA, Historian his chapter on
Hatshepsut of ancient Egypt is considered the greatest female ruler of all time. This Black empress is the first woman in recorded history to challenge and destroy the theory of male supremacy. After fighting her way to power, she held the throne of the world’s mightiest empire at that time for 34 years. Since her father Thutmose I had conquered most of the known world, Hatshepsut was not faced with an external enemy. Her greatest nemeses were the priests of the God Amen who were determined not to end more than 3,000 years of masculine tradition.
When the priests demanded that she step aside and allow her brother Thutmose II to rule as pharaoh, Hatshepsut tried to discredit her half brother by announcing that Thutmose II was the son of Mutnefert, a concubine, and therefore royal blood was only passed through to her. She knew that all Black African societies, including Egypt, were matrilineal, which means that inheritance, including the power of the throne, was passed through the female line. Hatshepsut could easily trace her female ancestry to her jet-black Ethiopian grandmother, Nefertari-Aahmes, but faced with the alternatives of possible civil war or compromise, she agreed to marry Thutmose II. By all accounts, however, Thutmose II was an overweight, sickly, weakling and allowed Hatshepsut to run the affairs of the monarchy unopposed during their 13 years of marriage (1492-1479 B.C.). Upon the death of Thutmose II, Hatshepsut startled the nation by boldly announcing that she was a man. She donned a fake beard, male clothes, and changed her name from Hatshepsitu to Hatshepsut, its male equivalent. This would be similar to changing one’s female name from Demetria to the male version of Demetrius. Hatshepsut crushed all further opposition by also announcing that she was not the daughter of Thutmose I, but the virgin birth son of God Amen and her mother Ahmose. She declared that the great God Amen appeared to her mother “in a flood of light and perfume” and by “Immaculate Conception” this union produced a baby boy. For those in doubt, she had the entire bedroom scene painted on the walls of her temple in intimate detail. Thereafter, her sculptured portraits depicted her with a beard and male features. She also demanded that her title be changed to “King/Pharaoh of the North and South; the Horus of Gold; Conqueror of All Lands; the Mighty One.”
These changes must have come as quite a shock to the priests who had witnessed her giving birth to two daughters, Nefrure and Merytra-Hatshepset, while married to Thutmose II. Several priests also joked that the one title she could not add was “Mighty Bull of Maat” which implies male fertility.
Hatshepsut became firmly established as King/Pharaoh for the next 21 years (1479-1458 B.C.), and her popularity increased tremendously as did the prosperity of Egypt. She was such a shrewd administrator, sending ambassadors to all her conquered lands, that gold tributes became so plentiful they no longer were weighed but measured in bushel baskets. J. A. Rogers wrote: “She began to publicize herself in the most sensational manner of that time, that is, by the building of temples, pyramids, and obelisks, the size and grandeur of which had never been seen before and regarded by the popular mind as a gauge of the ruler’s power.”
To further demonstrate her triumph over the priests of Amen, Hatshepsut commissioned her Black architect boyfriend, Senmut, to build a structure that would overshadow the colossal temple of Amen-Ra (Karnak), which was the stronghold of her opponents. Under Senmut’s genius was created a magnificent temple, called Deir el Bahari, out of the sheer rock cliff that looks down on the temple of Amen-Ra.
It sits high in the cliffs with a frontage of 800 feet and a series of courtyards and colonnades decorated with relics, shrines, inscriptions, innumerable statues, wonderful terraces, and paradisiacal gardens. Deir el Bahari is still considered one of the world’s most remarkable architectural specimens and the embodiment of Senmut’s multi-faceted genius. Hatshepsut lined the walkway to her temple with sandstone sphinxes of herself. Sphinx monuments were previously reserved only for the male as “Loving Horus”.
As a final blow to her detractors, Hatshepsut ordered the creation of two of the largest most beautiful rose granite obelisks the world had ever seen and presented them as gifts to the temple of Amen-Ra. Hatshepsut astutely ordered the obelisks taller than the temple so that the roof had to be removed to accommodate her gifts, despite the fact that this temple was one of the most colossal structures made by man. Hatshepsut made the obelisks even more conspicuous and overshadowing of the temple by encasing their tops with a precious gold-silver mixture. This made the obelisks so brilliant in sunlight that whenever a visitor looked out on the city, the most dazzling sight was no longer the temple of Amen-Ra but her obelisks.
By riding into battle with her troops, Hatshepsut was the forerunner to all the great African warrior queens from the Candaces of Ethiopia to Queen Nzinga of Angola. Although there were no major wars during her reign, there were revolts. One ancient scribe recounted Hatshepsut’s military accomplishments during a Nubian revolt on a wall in Senmut’s tomb: “I followed the ‘Living Horus’ (Hatshepsut) of upper and lower Egypt - may HE live forever! I saw when HE overthrew the Nubian Bowman, and when their chiefs were brought to HIM as living captives. I saw when HE razed Nubia, I being in HIS majesty’s following…” Denoting Hatshepsut with masculine pronouns was demanded by her and was also a method used to exalt her position as “Living Horus”.
Despite the fact that she often dressed as a male, she never lost touch with her feminine side. Scribes wrote that she was “lovely to look at; graceful in her movements, and fragrant as a flower.” Hatshepsut wrote of herself: “My fragrance is like a divine breath; my scent reaches as far as the land of Punt; my skin is that of pure gold…I have no equal among the gods who were since the world was.”
Hatshepsut’s rule was one of the most prosperous times ever for the people of Egypt who had abundant work, shelter, and food. Memories of Hatshepsut persisted for many centuries after her reign and stories were passed down from generation to generation about her wonderful deeds, brave nature, beauty, and ingenuity until she reached godlike stature. Hatshepsut, a great Black leader of Africa’s Golden Age, has been called “the first great woman in history” but in actuality may be “history’s greatest woman”.
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So please, add King/Pharaoh Hatshepsut to your list next year of women heroes who have made a positive difference in the world.