The Beyond Stone and Bone blog looks at 19th-century Western travelers and ex-patriots, what they said about Egypt and the emotional impact its monuments had on them.
How to experience all things Egyptian in New York
Women's lives in Ancient Egypt
New York City, which traces its roots to 1624, is about 4,700 years younger than and more than 5,500 miles from Egypt. Yet fascination with Egypt has been part of life in America, and New York, since the late 18th century. European traders, pilgrims, and scholars traveled to Egypt, but Napoleon's campaign in Egypt (1798-1801) and the resulting publication of the Description de l'Egypte (1809) and Vivant Denon's Voyage dans la Basse et la Hautes Egypt (1802) ignited the Western world's interest in it. In the early 19th century, Europeans and Americans began to flock to Egypt and its rich and ancient sites as tourists, collectors, scholars, and artists, braving the journey across the Atlantic and through the Mediterranean. Many brought back artifacts; some published their accounts and drawings, further increasing the excitement about Egypt.
For many centuries, the women of ancient Egypt were luckier than most of the women in the world. In the Greek civilization that existed parallel to their own, women lacked many of the rights granted to Egyptian women. For example, instead of needing an older brother or father or son to settle legal affairs as in Greece, Egyptian women had equal rights in the law. They could own, inherit and sell property, begin lawsuits, and freely divorce their husbands.
Some speculate that this freedom had to do with a different order to society. Deeply ingrained beliefs held that the Phaorah was the embodiment and personification of Egypt, and that every man and woman who lived in Egypt was therefore equal in governmental relationship to the Pharoah.