Gender Roles in Ancient Egypt: A Unique Perspective

Ancient Egypt, one of the world’s oldest civilizations, possessed a societal structure that was notably advanced for its time, particularly in terms of gender roles. Women enjoyed higher social status and more legal rights compared to their counterparts in other ancient societies.

Women in Family and Society

In the family structure, Egyptian women held a significant status. They had the right to own and manage property, enter into legal contracts, initiate divorce, and serve as witnesses in court cases. Women were generally in charge of raising children and managing the household, but they also often worked outside the home in various roles.

Working Women: Beyond Household Chores

Women in ancient Egypt had the opportunity to participate in a variety of professions. Many worked in agriculture, but women also served as weavers, dancers, musicians, and even priestesses. Some women, particularly from wealthier families, held administrative posts, were involved in trade, or were scribes.

The Unusual Case of Female Pharaohs

Egypt stands out in the ancient world for having had female pharaohs. Although male pharaohs were far more common, women occasionally assumed the highest position of power. Famous examples include Hatshepsut, who is often regarded as one of the most successful pharaohs, and Cleopatra, the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt.

Men in Ancient Egyptian Society

Men were generally the primary breadwinners, involved in agriculture, craftsmanship, priesthood, or serving in the army. Men also dominated high government positions, although exceptions did exist. The patriarchal norm was prominent, with the eldest male usually serving as the head of the family.


The societal norms of gender roles in ancient Egypt were strikingly progressive for the era. Although it remained a predominantly patriarchal society, women enjoyed more freedoms and opportunities than they did in most other ancient cultures. This unique blend of traditional gender roles with an underlying matriarchal strand provides fascinating insight into the complexities of ancient Egyptian society.

Wikipedia: Ancient Egypt
History Channel: Ancient Egypt
Live Science: Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt for Kids
British Museum: Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt