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Women Monarchs And Heads Of StateWomen-Monarchs-And-Heads-Of-State

  • Subject: Ancient Civilizations
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
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  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will understand the following:
1. Women have led countries since ancient times.
2. We can compare and contrast the rules of various women.


For this lesson, you will need:
Biographical reference works


1. Inform students that successful television shows and dramas have been based on the premise that individuals from various eras, most of whom may now be deceased, come together for a meeting. These people would never have met in real life, but audiences are fascinated by what they might have said to one another if indeed they had somehow met. Explain that the students are going to simulate one of those television shows or dramas by holding a panel discussion of women who had been monarchs or heads of state. Students will have a chance to select the women, in addition to Hatshepsut of Egypt, who will make up the panel. Include Hatshepsut (circa 1520-1483 B.C.) on the panel as the first woman known to have ruled a country.
2. Go over the basics of panel discussions:
  • The panel is made up of experts (often five or six) on a preselected topic (for example, the high points and low points of the women's roles as leaders). The individuals are often chosen because they have some experiences in common and some that are different.
  • The discussion consists mostly of remarks by the members of the panel to questions and comments from a moderator and other members of the panel.
  • The questions can ask for facts or opinions.
3. Ask students what they think are the moderator's responsibilities. Explain the responsibilities as follows if necessary:
  • Setting up the room or auditorium to make discussion easy and to help the audience hear questions and responses
  • Explaining why the panel has been brought together
  • Introducing each member of the panel (There should be a name tent, or placard, for each panelist to sit behind.)
  • Clearly stating each question, directing it to the panel at large or to one individual, then giving other members of the panel a chance to respond
  • Calling on panelists who indicate they have questions for one another
  • Noting for the audience what points panelists seem to agree on and what points they seem to disagree on
  • Watching the time and eliminating some planned questions if necessary
  • Opening the floor to questions from the audience
  • Summing up the discussion and thanking participants and audience members
4. Go on to elicit or state the responsibilities of each member on the panel of women leaders, as follows:
  • Becoming very familiar with the details of the woman's life by doing research in primary and secondary sources
  • Determining what the woman might have thought about particular issues
  • Preparing to respond to the overarching topic of the panel—the high points and low points of her time as monarch or head of state
  • Contributing to the discussion by listening actively and indicating that she has questions or comments about what another member has said
  • Giving her copanelists time to respond; that is, not monopolizing the discussion
5. Having shared your expectations for the panelists and moderator, now ask for volunteers or select students to assume the roles of moderator and Hatshepsut and each of the other women political leaders. You will need students to play five or six of the following leaders or women rulers suggested by students:
  • Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland (1558-1603)
  • Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (1837-1901)
  • Prime Minister Indira P. Gandhi of India (1966-1977)
  • Prime Minister Golda Meir of Israel (1969-1974)
  • President Maria Estella Mart?nez Cartas de Per?n of Argentina (1974-1976)
  • Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom (1979-1990)
  • Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan (1988-1990)
6. Give all participants an opportunity to conduct research about the women selected for the panel. The moderator should familiarize himself or herself with all the women rulers. The students playing former leaders should concentrate on learning about the women they are representing but should learn a little about the other leaders as well so that they can engage in meaningful conversation among themselves.
7. To help ensure that the panel discussion is lively, direct the panelists and moderator to meet in advance of their appearance before the audience. At that meeting, the participants should discuss what questions the panelists can anticipate from the moderator so that they can reflect on how they will answer the questions and, if necessary, review additional documents and other materials.
8. Proceed with the panel discussion. See Evaluation, regarding a postmortem on the strengths and weaknesses of the participants.

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Play the role of the moderator yourself, controlling the difficulty and intensity of the questions you ask.

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Discussion Questions

1. Describe how the famous French Egyptologist, Champollion, figured out that Hatshepsut was a woman. Critique the claim posed by leading Egyptologists that it was Hatshepsut's consort, Senmut, who was the mastermind of her successful reign.
2. Analyze why it was necessary for Hatshepsut to represent herself in male clothing and wear a beard during ceremonies, even though her subjects knew she was female. Debate whether or not the protocol of the time permitted her to reign with the same authority as that of male Egyptian leaders. What other historical examples can you recall in which women have represented themselves as males, either to disguise themselves or in order not to break with tradition or ceremony?
3. Describe Hatshepsut's expedition to Punt. How would you go about planning such an expedition?
4. Discuss the qualities that made Hatshepsut a strong person and an outstanding pharaoh.
5. Contrast the leadership styles of Tuthmosis I with Tuthmosis II and Tuthmosis III. What were the consequences of their respective leadership styles?
6. Senmut, a commoner, was so close to Hatshepsut that he was given his own royal sarcophagus. Compare Senmut's "royal treatment" to that of Diana, Princess of Wales.

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With the students who will be in the audience for the panel discussion, consider developing an evaluation chart that they can each use to rate each participant. Qualities on which participants might be rated include the following:
  • Familiarity with details of subject's life
  • Clear, easy-to-hear speaking skills
  • Level of participation
  • Quality of questions asked
You may suggest students use symbols to indicate how a participant performs on each measure—perhaps, "+" for "good," "?" for "poor," and "*" for "excellent."
Collect the evaluation sheets. Review them, keeping your own evaluations of each student in mind. Meet with each participant individually to discuss the strengths and weaknesses.

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A Monumental Legacy
Focusing on Hatshepsut, the first woman known to have ruled a country, discuss the incredible architectural legacy that she left to the world—obelisks. These massive stone structures, the largest of them weighing three hundred tons, were each carved in a single piece from granite quarries, carefully slid onto a ramp, and pulled upright onto a base. When complete, the elegant icons were supported only by their immense weight.
Have students use the Internet to research obelisks with a goal of discovering at least 10 throughout the world. Then have them label their locations on a world map, noting also each monument's history and meaning. Have students start with obvious obelisks such as the Washington Monument, the obelisk in New York City's Central Park, the obelisk at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, and the unfinished obelisk near Aswan.

Planning for the Inevitable
Taking off from Hatshepsut and the other pharaohs, have each student design his or her own tomb. In their designs, they should include the following:
  • A site for the tomb
  • Drawings of the tomb itself—outside and inside
  • A name for the tomb
  • An obituary for the walls of the tomb, including the qualities and accomplishments of the entombed
  • A design for the coffin
  • A list of items they would like placed in the tomb


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Suggested Readings

Hatshepsut: The Female Pharaoh
John Ray. History Today , May 1994.
Provides an excellent account of how Hatshepsut staged the coup that brought her to power and a new perspective on why her reign was characterized by a marked reduction in military activity.

Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven: Women in Ancient Egypt
Anne K. Capel and Glenn E. Markoe, editors. Hudson Hills Press, 1996.
This catalog of a 1996-97 exhibit at the Cincinnati Art Museum contains essays that cover women's social, legal, and worker status in ancient Egypt, in addition to the exhibit items of everyday life.

Hatshepsut: The Female Pharaoh
Joyce A. Tyldesley. Viking, 1996.
This is the newest biography of Egypt's 18th Dynasty (ca. 1570-1320 B.C.E.), replete with color plates, illustrations, and maps.

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Women and Gender in Ancient Egypt
Here is an art and artifact exhibit on the different roles that women played in ancient Egypt. If you have any questions concerning gender in the ancient world you should definitely pay a visit to this page.

Egypt Search
From religion to science, this site makes it possible for you to find anything that you need related to Egypt—past and present. If you can't find what you're looking for here, then it probably doesn't exist!

Egypt Antiquities
Myths, rulers, history, and more. If you have questions about the ancient Egyptian life this site can help you out. And you can finish up your trip to this site by taking a virtual tour of Egyptian art.

Mark Nillmore's Ancient Egypt
If you're in search of a map of the pyramids of Egypt, or a chronology and history of the kings and queens, then you'll find this site to be very useful. You can also head to this site to learn about the ancient hieroglyphs and numerals.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    hieroglyphics
Definition: A system of writing mainly in pictorial characters.
Context: Champollion uncovered a great mystery by cracking the hieroglyphic code of the Rosetta Stone. He became the first man in 2,000 years to read Hatshepsut's name.

speaker    confederation
Definition: A group of states or nations, united for a common purpose.
Context: Tuthmosis I, Hatshepsut's father, led his troops deeper into Nubia than any other pharaoh had ever gone and defeated a confederation of Nubian tribes.

speaker    quarried
Definition: Mined or dug up.
Context: Hatshepsut was confident that the obelisk she wanted to construct could be quarried, moved, and erected.

speaker    flaunt
Definition: To make a gaudy, ostentatious, or conspicuous display.
Context: Along the Nile, the nobility constructed temples to the crocodile god. It was in these temples that the rich and famous of Egypt could flaunt their wealth.

speaker    pacifist
Definition: One who opposes violence as a means of settling disputes.
Context: Some early Egyptologists suggested that Hatshepsut's military stronghold was due to the efforts of Senmut. Some even suggested that Hatshepsut was a pacifist. But evidence to the contrary reveals that she may have led her own military expeditions.

speaker    inscribe
Definition: To write, engrave, or print characters upon.
Context: The treasurer was so impressed with what he saw of Hatshepsut in Nubia that he inscribed it on a rock.

speaker    expedition
Definition: A journey or excursion undertaken for a specific purpose.
Context: The expedition to Punt was no easy matter and only a prosperous, well-governed country could pull it off.

speaker    precinct
Definition: An enclosure bounded by the walls of a building.
Context: It was extraordinary for a commoner to have a burial within the precincts of a royal temple.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: geography
Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface.
Understands the spatial aspects of systems designed to deliver goods and services (e.g., the movement of a product from point of manufacture to point of use; imports, exports, and trading patterns of various countries; interruptions in world trade such as war, crop failures, and labor strikes).

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: geography
Understands how physical systems affect human systems.
Knows the ways in which human systems develop in response to conditions in the physical environment (e.g., patterns of land use, economic livelihoods, architectural styles of buildings, building materials, flows of traffic, recreation activities).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: world history
Understands the major characteristics of civilization and the development of civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus valley.
Understands how written codes and stories reflect social conditions in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus valley (e.g., how the code of Hammurabi illustrated the ethical values, social hierarchy, attitudes, and roles of women in Mesopotamia; how the biblical account of Genesis and the Euma Elish from Babylon reflect contrasting beliefs).

Understands influences on the social and economic framework of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus valley (e.g., the characteristics of government and military in Egypt and Mesopotamia and the ways in which central authorities commanded labor and taxes from peasant farmers; how architectural, artistic, technological, and scientific achievements of these civilizations affected the economics of daily life).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: civics and government
Understands ideas about civic life, politics, and government.
Knows formal institutions that have authority to make and implement binding decisions (e.g., tribal councils, courts, monarchies, democratic legislatures).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: geography
Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on the Earth's surface.
Understands the historical movement patterns of people and goods and their relationships to economic activity (e.g., spatial patterns of early trade routes in the era of sailing ships, land-use patterns that resulted in a system of monoculture).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: geography
Understands the physical and human characteristics of places.
Knows how social, cultural, and economic processes shape the features of places (e.g., resource use, belief systems, modes of transportation and communication; major technological changes such as the agricultural and industrial revolution; population growth and urbanization).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: art
Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.
Knows a variety of historical and cultural contexts regarding characteristics and purposes of works of art.

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Winona Morrissette-Johnson, history teacher, T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Virginia.

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