Ancient Egyptian Women: Family, Marriage, and Role

Last Updated on November 27, 2020 by admin

During ancient Egyptian times, women were not restricted to just a wife or female head of household. They assumed a variety of responsibilities and roles that equaled that of their husbands, fathers and brothers. You may be surprised to learn that women also help various jobs and positions within society, which is discussed within this article.


The Role of the Woman


Ancient Egyptian women enjoyed a variety of the same rights that her male counterparts enjoyed. Women were viewed almost as an equal to men. They were allowed by law to conduct their own business negotiations. They were allowed to own their own land. If a woman became involved in a case that was taken to court, they were represented by their own account. Although, they could accomplish all of the above by law, they were still expected to obey the wishes of their fathers (when not married) and their husbands (when married).


Just as a man was punished for his wrongdoing, so was a woman during ancient Egyptian times. Both sexes were subject to the same consequences. When it came to laying down the law, it was sometimes the duty of the mothers and wives of the pharaohs who took up this responsibility. The common people viewed these women with great respect and obeyed whatever they deemed the truth or decision.


Jobs for Ancient Egyptian Women


When servants and slaves were not an option, women who were responsible for raising their children and taking care of the household chores, could also assume a few job responsibilities. Ancient Egyptian women assumed the control of farms, as well as ran their own businesses. This was usually accomplished when their husbands or sons were unable to do so. In the court and temple system, women held jobs. They also took on the roles of singers, musicians, dancers, as well as acrobats. A woman could also become a nanny or maid within the household of a well-to-do family. They were expected to take care of the household chores, as well as help with the raising of the children. Women who were of noble stature could assume the position of priestess if they wished. Other jobs available to women during these times included perfume maker, as well as the curious role of professional mourner.


The Prospect of Marriage


When it came to marriage, peasant girls often married about the age of 12. It was not uncommon to find that their husbands were often a couple of years older than they were. Females who came from a more wealthy family were married at a slightly older age. Ancient Egyptians followed the process of arranged marriages, when the parents were responsible for finding a mate for their offspring. Sometimes, young adults were allowed to choose their own partner.


Regular citizens were allowed one wife, while the kings took several at one time. Marriage ceremonies were preceded by a written contract that was signed by both parties. It is unclear if this is the first evidence of a pre-nuptial agreement. Within the contract, it is stated that the wife will receive an allowance from their spouse. If the marriage is terminated for any reason, the contract states that the wife will keep anything that she brings into the marriage. The contract also says that both parties can own their own land.




If things do not work out with married couples, divorce was an uncommon choice, but available. When a husband abused his wife, she would seek assistance from her family. The family would then try to get the husband to change his ways, but if he did not comply, then a divorce was the next course of action. It was not a long drawn out process like today. They simply had to sign a paper, which annulled the marriage. A witness must be present for this to be completed. Afterwards, the wife would assume responsibility of the children and she was able to remarry if she wished.