Friday, 9 March 2012

Women You Should Know - Gertrude Bell

Who taught T.E. Lawrence everything he knew?

Who hosted salons that included, Jews, Muslims, and Christians?

Who warned of the situation we face in the Middle East almost 100 years ago?


Ever since reading Janet Wallach's  Desert Queen, I haven't been able to shake the notion that Gertrude Bell needs to get her due.  For years I harboured a secret ambition to make her story into a movie.  Now I'm too late.  Soon (or as these things go, not so soon) a movie about Gertrude Bell will happen - so far starring Angelina Jolie and directed by Ridley Scott.

Writer, diplomat, camel rider, negotiator, translator, cultural facilitator - Gertrude Bell was a single woman in a world overwhelmingly male.  Even today, as a woman traveling in those regions, you feel more than other - you feel invisible or you feel probed.  Yet Bell made a home here, made a space for herself, and used the outsider perspective to see things as they were and as they were going to be.

Stuck in a bureaucratic world, many of her suggestions were ignored, and sadly, some that were swept under the rug in a transition of power have come back to haunt future generations.

I think she deserves more than a movie - maybe a whole series about her exploits as an Intelligence Officer during World War 1 in the Middle East - like MI-5 - only with lots of sand and camels.

Besides Wallach's great biography, there is a newer one by Georgina Howell, of almost the same name.  

I don't want to say so much about her - I think you might just want to read one of those books about her life - which certainly flies in the face of the stereotype of the Victorian woman.  On the other hand, so did Queen Victoria's.

(If you'd like to be a guest blogger in the Women You Should Know series, contact me with your idea for who you'd like to profile!  Ground rules:  Non-living female, not a household name, no more than 500 words.)

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