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Honoring a Pioneer: Peseshet

Though still a far cry from true equality, Ancient Egypt afforded women a surprisingly modern status. Compared with their counterparts in Ancient Greece, where women were considered eternal legal minors, ancient Egyptian women had a greater range of personal choices and opportunities for achievement. Although men and women had traditionally distinct powers in society, there were no insurmountable barriers for pioneers who wished to deviate from the established path. One such pioneer was Peseshet. Peseshet practiced at the time of the building of the great pyramids in Egypt, about 2500 BC, and is often credited with being the earliest known female physician in ancient Egypt. However, such a claim is inaccurate - that title in fact belongs to the female physician Merit-Ptah, a woman who practiced medicine almost 100 years earlier. Peseshet is the first recorded female physician with a directorial position. Excavation of the tomb of her son and high dignitary of Ancient Egypt, Akhet-Hetep, revealed a monument dedicated to his mother Pesehet, who is identified by many important titles including "Lady Overseer of Female Physicians." Peseshet directed over 100 qualified female physicians in Ancient Egypt, as well as training midwives at the peri-ankh (medical school) of Sais.