Gertrude Bell bigraphy, stories - English woman explorer of Arabia, political officer

Gertrude Bell : biography

14 July 1868 - 12 July 1926

Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, CBE (14 July 1868 – 12 July 1926) was an English writer, traveller, political officer, administrator, archaeologist and spy who explored, mapped, and became highly influential to British imperial policy-making due to her skill and contacts, built up through extensive travels in Greater Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and Arabia. Along with T. E. Lawrence, Bell helped establish the Hashemite dynasties in what is today Jordan as well as in Iraq.

She played a major role in establishing and helping administer the modern state of Iraq, utilizing her unique perspective from her travels and relations with tribal leaders throughout the Middle East. During her lifetime she was highly esteemed and trusted by British officials and given an immense amount of power for a woman at the time. She has been described as "one of the few representatives of His Majesty's Government remembered by the Arabs with anything resembling affection".Meyer, Karl E. and Shareen B. Brysac. Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2008, p. 162.

Death

Bell briefly returned to Britain in 1925, and found herself facing family problems and ill health. Her family's fortune had begun to decline due to the onset of post-World War I worker strikes in Britain and economic depression in Europe. She returned to Baghdad and soon developed pleurisy. When she recovered, she heard that her younger brother Hugo had died of typhoid. On 12 July 1926, Bell was discovered dead, of an apparent overdose of sleeping pills. There is much debate on her death, but it is unknown whether the overdose was an intentional suicide or accidental since she had asked her maid to wake her.

She never married or had children. Some say the death of Major Charles Doughty-Wylie affected her for the rest of her life and may have added to a depressive state. She was buried at the British cemetery in Baghdad's Bab al-Sharji district. Her funeral was a major event, attended by large numbers of people including her colleagues, British officials and the King of Iraq. It was said King Faisal watched the procession from his private balcony as they carried her coffin to the cemetery.Lukitz, 2006. p. 235

Early life

Bell was born in Washington Hall, County Durham, England - now known as Dame Margaret Hall - to a family whose wealth enabled her travels. She is described as having "reddish hair and piercing blue-green eyes, with her mother's bow shaped lips and rounded chin, her father’s oval face and pointed nose".Wallach, 1996, p. 6 Her personality was characterized by energy, intellect, and a thirst for adventure which shaped her path in life. Her grandfather was the ironmaster Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, an industrialist and a Liberal Member of Parliament, in Benjamin Disraeli's second term. His role in British policy-making exposed Gertrude at a young age to international matters and most likely encouraged her curiosity for the world, and her later involvement in international politics.Rosemary O'Brien, ed. Gertrude Bell: The Arabian Diaries, 1913-1914. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2000.

Bell's mother, Mary Shield Bell, died in 1871, while giving birth to a son, Maurice. Bell was just three at the time, and the death led to a lifelong close relationship with her father, Sir Hugh Bell, 2nd Baronet, who was three times mayor of Middlesbrough, High Sheriff of Durham 1895, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant of County Durham, Lord Lieutenant of the North Riding of Yorkshire. Throughout her life she consulted with him on political matters. Some biographies say the loss of her mother had caused underlying childhood trauma, revealed through periods of depression and risky behavior. At seven Bell acquired a stepmother, Florence Bell, and eventually, three half-siblings. Florence Bell was a playwright and author of children's stories, as well as the author of a study of Bell factory workers. She instilled concepts of duty and decorum in Gertrude and contributed to her intellectual and anti-feminist activities in the Anti-Suffrage League. Florence Bell's activities with the wives of Bolckow Vaughan ironworkers in Eston, near Middlesbrough, may have helped influence her step-daughter's later stance promoting education of Iraqi women.O'Brien, pp. 5-6

Living octopus

Living octopus

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