Do you know about Tausret? She was a queen in ancient Egypt. 19th dynasty to be precise. Until a few months ago I'd never heard of her, but now I know more – thanks to a rather intriguing book: Janet Buttles' The Queens of Egypt.*
Earlier this month I was prepping for Suffrage Standup, an event I took part in at LSE Library, and researching Margaret Murray's participation in a suffrage Costume Pageant and Dinner. As Margaret Murray probably attended the dinner dressed as Tausret, I was hoping to find out a bit more about this ancient royal. And so I did, thanks to Janet Buttles.
Buttles was an American writer who was associated with American industrialist and archaeology funder/excavator Theodore Davis. Her biographical details are online courtesy of the Emma B. Andrews Diary project– a fascinating digital diary and data resource revealing early 20th century Egypt through the eyes of Emma Andrews, an educated American tourist and collector. Andrews was Buttles' aunt as well as Theodore Davis's collaborator and mistress for many years.
Queens was Buttles's attempt to do something innovative in the field of Egyptology. She pulled together in one volume all the details that were known at that time about ancient Egyptian royal women. And in doing so she articulated one of the main (and continuing) problems with making historical women more visible – missing or inaccessible historical records. In her Preface she stated:
So many of the royal women who shared the throne of the Pharaohs have left no traces on the land of their inheritance, that this attempt to tell their story results at best in only a brief outline of the prominent figures…"
The book is organised chronologically, from the 1st to 26th dynasty (omitting the Ptolomaic period, which included the reign of Cleopatra VII). Despite the sketchy details available, Buttles's description of Twosret's life is intriguingly dramatic:
This heiress of the kingdom claimed the crown of the Pharaohs as her birthright… a dominating princess who claims the right to active government; an elder brother who wrenches the sceptre from her grasp; his speedy exit by fair means or foul; the queen's restoration, and a joint rule with a second brother lasting only a few years, when they are both superseded by a fourth claimant."
Now I know about it, I'll be dipping into Buttles's book to discover more ancient historical women in influential roles. You should too!
Buttles, J. 1908. The Queens of Egypt. London: A. Constable & Co.
Cana, F. B. 1908. Where Civilization Began. Women's Franchise [British Newspaper Archive] 13 Aug: 80.
*There are many alternative spellings for Tausret's name. Between 2004 and 2016 the University of Arizona ran an excavation project at Tausret's temple in Thebes. More information and up-to-date analysis can be found here and here.