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The mother who became Pharaoh

ONE WOMAN TO RULE THEM ALL: A statue of Hatshepsut on display in Egypt

MOTHER’S DAY is a special time dedicated to giving thanks to the wonderful women who give life, raise children as well as for being a constant source of support and champion for the young. But this Sunday, mother-of-two Charmaine Simpson, co-founder of Black History Studies, will dedicate the occasion to Hatshepsut, a proud mother and queen, who went on to become Pharaoh. Here she tells Janelle Oswald why she believes Hatshepsut is an inspirational figure worthy of representing black women around the world

“The invisibility of black women in history is linked to the fact that some historians felt their lives did not merit inclusion, resulting in their contributions being ignored. However, it is important to recognise that black women's history makes for a more inclusive, richer, fuller and, more importantly, truthful account of world history.

“Ancient Egypt was the first major civilisation in Africa for which records are abundant. During this time, ancient Egypt was ruled by successive families or dynasties that formed the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom period. The stability of rule was disrupted by “intermediate periods” when ancient Egypt went into periods of decline.

“Hatshepsut Ma'at-ka-Ra is the only known female Pharaoh (king) in ancient Egypt, ruling for more than 20 years during 1650-1600 BC. She is considered one of the most successful.

“Her name Ma'at-ka-Ra means ‘Truth/Order/Balance (“Ma'at") and the Spirit/Double (“ka") of Ra'. Hatshepsut means ‘Foremost of Noble Women.'  

“Hatshepsut was the only child born to the King Thutmose I by his principal wife and queen, Ahmose. After the death of her father at age 12, Hatshepsut married her half-brother Thutmose II in 1615 BC who reigned for 15 years.  

“Marriage was a very important part of ancient Egyptian society. Some scholars say it was almost a duty to get married. In Ancient Egypt, marriage required no religious or legal ceremony, no special bridal clothes, no exchange of rings and no change of names to indicate marriage, like we practice today. During their marriage, Hatshepsut and Thutmose II were not able to produce a male heir but had a daughter named Neferure.  

“Thutmose II died after a 15-year reign, making Hatshepsut a widow before the age of 30. The throne fell to Thutmose III, a step-son and nephew of Hatshepsut. However, because Thutmose III was a child and unable to rule ancient Egypt, Hatshepsut served as regent for three years until she proclaimed herself Pharaoh or King.


“Taking on all majestic duties, Hatshepsut represented herself in the traditional king's shendyt kilt and crown, along with a fake beard in order to assert her authority.  

“She relinquished her titles relating to those only a woman could hold, and took on those of the Pharaoh eventually dropping the female ending from her name ('t') and became His Majesty, Hatshepsu. 

ON SITE: Charmaine Simpson visits Djesser-Djeseru, one of Hatshepsut’s most famous monuments

“Under Hatshepsut's reign, Egypt prospered. Unlike other rulers in her dynasty, she was more interested in ensuring economic prosperity and building and restoring monuments throughout Egypt and Nubia rather than conquering new lands, like her male counterparts.

“To celebrate her 16th year in power, Hatshepsut built two obelisks cut at the ancient granite quarry in Aswan, which were transported to the Temple of Amun in Karnak. The two great obelisks were each 29.5m tall, with one still standing today.

“Hatshepsut had one notable trading expedition to the land of Punt in the ninth year of her reign. Punt is believed to lie in northeast Africa, somewhere in the area of Eritrea, Ethiopia and southern Sudan or in present day Somalia. Punt was a land rich in products ancient Egyptians desired such as myrrh, frankincense, woods, sweet-smelling resin, ivory, spices, gold, ebony, and aromatic trees. Scenes of this expedition can be seen at her mortuary temple Djeser-Djeseru at Deir el Bahri.

“Hatshepsut died circa 1600 BC. In 2007, researchers announced that Hatshepsut's mummy had been identified in the Valley of the Kings.

“After her passing, Hatshepsut's successor Thutmose III became the greatest of all Pharaohs due to his military campaigns to establish Egyptian rule of Syria and Palestine.

However, he destroyed and defaced Hatshepsut’s monuments, erasing many of her inscriptions and constructed a wall around her obelisks.

“Nevertheless, despite Thutmose III’s chauvinist efforts to erase Hatshepsut’s mighty legacy, she still remains powerful.

“Hatshepsut’s legacy reflects how black women made important contributions to the development of civilisations, and their service and sacrifice ensured the survival of black people from the origin of humanity to the present. Knowing the history of black women empowers us to achieve and live a more enriched existence.”

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