According to tomb scenes it would appear that most ancient Egyptian women worked in the home where they are clearly shown doing domestic work, their 'light skins' an indication that they must have spent most of their time indoors. Whereas the men were always painted with brown skins, an indication that they predominantly worked outdoors. However these scenes are most likely to have been idealistic, rather than realistic and should be viewed as such.

In truth, evidence clearly suggests that there was paid work available for women and those of a better education would have been quite capable of taking up professional posts, usually as administrators, or supervisors.

Skilled woman also entered the weaving, mourning and music businesses. Whilst unskilled women often took work as domestic helpers. Though it has to be said that in general, women performed these task for other women in private or royal households and there is no evidence to say that women ever supervised male workers, except for the most senior of royal women.

One such recorded occupation was that of 'Judge and Vizier to Pharaoh', held by Lady Nebet of the Old Kingdom. A vizier was the most powerful person after the king, acting as his 'right hand man' It is thought however that Nebet's husband actually officiated in the post whilst she held the title.

Surviving texts often describes harems (women's quarters within the palace) as important economic organisations that received regular supplies of rations and which were governed very much as a business by royal women. There was one particular ‘harem’, founded in the reign of Tuthmoses III (1479-1425 BC), which was constantly occupied throughout the rest of the 18th Dynasty. Permanent harems of this period would have had agricultural lands, cattle and weaving centres, training facilities and many female employees. These ‘harems’ were obviously powerful and independent establishments, both physically and economically.

Taking up a career in entertainment was another particularly good job for women, as musicians and dancers were always in great demand. Two reknown musicians in the Old Kingdom were Hekenus and Iti. These women was so popular that they even had their act painted on the wall of a tomb. This was a particularly great honor as usually only members of the deceased family were included in the scenes.

    • Hairdresser
    • Grinding Girl
    • Supervisor of the Cloth
    • Supervisor of the Wig Workshop
    • Treasurer
    • Steward
    • Composer
    • Songstress
    • Prostitute
    • Weaver
    • Dancer
    • Musician
    • Mourner
    • Priestess
    • Supervisor of the Dancers of the King
    • Supervisor of the Royal Harem

(Note - Some of these jobs were also done by men)

It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the importance of the working woman and the impact she had on the ecomonic strength of Ancient Egypt.

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