Women, this blog is a celebration of our collective history through the ages and throughout the world. Amazing stories that have been buried in dusty corners away from the light. Help us to shed light on all these amazing stories. Read our blog and then visit us at the Women's Mercury to learn about our ongoing projects.


To challenge women in the local, national and international communities to find their voices, share their stories, and pass them to the next generation of women through participation in the arts.

Click here to visit us!

"Someone, I say will remember us in the future."

Monday, July 17, 2006

Gertrude of Arabia Part II

Gertrude Bell (1868 - 1926)

From http://www.gerty.ncl.ac.uk/
The University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne Library is organizing the papers, letters, and photos of Gertrude Bell. Their website (incomplete, but still voluminous) is fascinating and worth a visit.

was born in Washington, in what was then Co. Durham, but, when she was very young, she moved with her family to Redcar. She was educated first of all at home, and then at school in London; finally, in a time when it was not at all usual for a woman to have a university education, she went to Oxford to read history, and, at the age of twenty and after only two years study, she left with a first-class degree. In the years immediately following, she spent time on the social round in London and Yorkshire, she travelled extensively in Europe, and visited Persia. Her travels continued with two round the world trips, in 1897-1898 and in 1902-1903.

But from the turn of the century onwards, her life was governed by a love of the Arab peoples, inspired, it seems, by a visit to friends in Jerusalem in 1899-1900. She learned their language, investigated their archaeological sites, and travelled deep into the desert, accompanied only by male guides. Her knowledge of the country and its tribes thereby gained made her a prime target for recruitment by British Intelligence during the First World War, later, as a Political Officer, and then as Oriental Secretary to the High Commissioner in Baghdad, she became a king-maker in the new state of Iraq, which she had helped to create. Her first love, however, was always for archaeology, and, as Honorary Director of Antiquities in Iraq, she established in Baghdad the Iraq Museum.

Her diaries (and more particularly, her letters) reveal how fascinated Gertrude was with the customs, the geography, and the social structures of the region. Is anyone as intimately acquainted with the people of the region today do you suppose? The word "listening" comes up a good deal, I've noticed. Her story puts me in mind of Eric Overmeyer's wonderful play On The Verge.