Em hotep Dr. Kara Cooney,
Just over three years ago, I became acquainted with you when your book, The Woman Who Would Be King (2015, Oneworld Publications), was released. You had my rapt attention because of your ability to weave an utterly fascinating story based on archaeological research and observations gathered from various dig sites you worked at in Egypt. You brought to life a possible timeline of events for Hatshepsut while interjecting known facts of her time, such as the life of royal children, the food that would have been served, and the religious duties of the royal family. The account was insightful, vivid, and emotional; you breathed life into an enigmatic and powerful woman in an ancient civilization firmly planted in patriarchy. If I am being honest, I was smitten and maybe just a tiny bit jealous of your writing and your skill to bridge academia and general interest so well. It is a style and tone I would like to achieve in my own writing someday.
From the dust jacket or perhaps a cursory look at your Wikipedia entry, I learned that you were a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles in addition to being an Egyptologist, archaeologist, a department chair (Department of Near Eastern Language and Cultures at UCLA), had worked at the Getty Center, taught at Stanford University, had been a curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the Tutankhamum and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibit (2005), and hosted two documentary series, Out of Egypt and Egypt’s Lost Queen, on the Discovery Channel. Somehow, you found time to work at archaeological sites and write academic articles! Thoughts of my childhood dream to become one of the three “As” in adulthood – artist, accountant, or archaeologist – came flooding back to me! But I digress. I came to admire your skills and knowledge; in you, I saw a hero.
I have wished that I could take one of your courses – who am I kidding, I want to take them all! – but I’m not a UCLA student; however, with your new book, When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt (2018, National Geographic), I thought my schedule would provide an opportunity for me to attend one of your book signings up in Los Angeles. Well, that did not happen, and I was disappointed. Fortunately, as a member of the American Research Center in Egypt (Orange County Chapter), I was thrilled when I read that you were our January guest lecturer!
Starting out the lecture with your reasons for why women matter before moving into your discussion of five ancient Egyptian women provided critical context for why history and current events are connected and significant. More importantly, you provided exceptional examples of women who made a difference and persevered despite the challenges. In addition to the history lesson I was expecting, I took away that I have value as a woman – the most important message I could walk away with that afternoon.
Thank you for being a keeper and protector of history. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and for being not just a modern-day everywoman hero, but a role model for me and for countless others!
Em hotep nefer weret!