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The history of Egypt is filled with exciting and unusual stories, perhaps none so much as that of Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh.

The granddaughter of the famous Amenhotep I, Hatshepsut wasn't really in line to be the king of Egypt, especially since she was a she. Males were the rulers in those days, and females were shut out of the line of succession.

But when her father, Thutmose I, died, his son, Thutmose II, became king. This Thutmose was married to Hatshepsut. (Thutmose I had two wives, Mountnofrit (the mother of Thutmose II) and Aahmes (the mother of Hatshepsut).

Thutmose II, archaeologists tell us, ruled only three or four years, dying of a skin disease. He had a son, who was Hatshepsut's nephew. This son, Thutmose III, was very young when his father died. They ruled together for awhile, then Hatshepsut declared herself ruler.

Amazingly, she ruled for 15 years, while her nephew came of age. She wore the traditional clothing of the male pharaohs, and she had support of the Egyptian elders (including the powerful head priest of Amon) and the Egyptian people. No major wars were fought at this time, but the Egyptians did make expeditions to neighboring civilizations, spreading the word that their ruler was a woman.

After Hatshepsut's death, Thutmose III was so jealous of her that he ordered her monuments obscured and all mention of her erased from the walls of temples and other important buildings. Since the ancient Egyptians believed that a person's spirit lived on as long as his or her name was carved into a wall, Thutmose's decision to erase his hated aunt's name was probably because he thought that he would destroy her spirit as well.

But her name lives on, as an example of the power that one woman can possess if she sets her mind to achieving it. In a time when women were thought of as second-class citizens, good only for delivering sons who would be kings, Hatshepsut was the ruler herself, and she did it for 15 years. Courageous, strong-willed, and dynamic, Hatshepsut has passed on her name to the list of famous women in history.

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David White