Gertrude Bell #2

Saturday and hopefully you got to watch the documentary on the life of Gertrude Bell….a fascinating woman that the world has all but forgotten….Bell leads off this series that I have on the strong women in the early 20th century and the Middle East.

I read her biography back in college and found her to be someone that the whole world needs to get to know… I would like to help….

Gertrude Bell was a British writer, archaeologist and political officer best known for helping to establish modern Iraq after World War I.

Gertrude Bell was born on July 14, 1868, in Durham, England. She studied history at Oxford and embarked on a career as a writer, traveler and archaeologist. Fluent in Persian and Arabic, Bell worked for the British government in Cairo during World War I. She contributed to the construction of the Iraqi state in 1921, as well as the National Museum of Iraq. Bell died in Baghdad on July 12, 1926.

Once more we are confronted with the old question: What is it that turns certain specimens of the most insular people into natural internationalists? Bell was born into a family of ironmasters in the north of England, liberal and free-trade in their politics, and though the family firm had its vicissitudes, she never had to be concerned about money. Her life pre-1914 (the war is the only watershed that matters in considering her generation) was spent partly in doing things young girls don’t normally do, such as Alpine mountaineering and desert archaeology, and partly in adopting causes one might not expect, such as that of the Anti-Suffrage League. As it happened, the First World War involved so many women on the “home front” that it made the post-1918 extension of the franchise almost automatic. The war also forced Bell to realize that she would probably never lose her virginity, which she simultaneously wanted, and dreaded, to be rid of. Her beau ideal lay in a shallow grave on the Dardanelles: She had missed her opportunity and wouldn’t settle for a lesser lover. It’s usually men who volunteer to go off on a desert mission at this point, but by late 1915 Gertrude was in Cairo as the first woman officer (known as “Major Miss Bell”) ever to be employed by British military intelligence.

Further reading on the life and times of Gertrude Bell….

Many things can be said about Gertrude Bell….but the one thing that can be said that cannot be disputed….she loved the desert and its people….

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Next in the series–Jane Digby

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I Read, I Wrote, You Know

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