An Ancient Custom

Egypt was one of the most advanced civilizations in terms of women’s rights. Women in ancient Egypt had more privileges than women in other civilizations of the period, and were treated as equals to males in many ways. They played a major role in daily life, raising children, and contributing to business.
Poor women were not often educated in ancient Egypt, although middle-class and wealthier families did send their daughters to school. Some women went on to become doctors. Women in ancient Egypt had the ability to sign contracts, own property, testify in court, and even initiate divorce proceedings.

In almost every case, the pharaohs were men. This was passed down through the generations from father to son. Women were only allowed to be pharaoh under a very limited circumstances. The Egyptian people chose a woman of royal lineage to rule the kingdom over a man without. The majority of ancient Egyptian women did not labour outside the home, but those who did were paid equally to males.

The title “mistress of the house” was given to married women in ancient Egypt who were not members of the royal family.

This meant she had entire control over how the day-to-day occurrences and requirements were handled. Servants would assist wealthy families and the royal family with their responsibilities. In contrast to other civilizations, women were not considered ‘property’ of their husbands or fathers.

In ancient Egypt, a ‘pre-nuptial’ contract was frequently incorporated in the marriage procedure. This usually meant that whatever property the woman brought to the marriage would always belong to her. In the case of divorce, this was crucial.

In ancient Egypt, the majority of women were peasants who worked alongside their husbands. When the husband had to go on a trip, the wife was in charge of both the business and the home.

Object Details

An Ancient Custom


Edwin Long



oil on canvas

142 x 224 cms | 55 3/4 x 88 ins

Private Collection