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Ghazala

Gertrude Bell

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Chutist33

Just to add a little to the topic. Gertrude was an organiser for the Soldiers & Sailors Families Association in North Yorkshire on the outbreak of the Great War and organised fund raising. The family of Doughty-Whylie were also SSFA members(Now SSAFA since airmen were included). She worked in France in the "Missing & Wounded Soldiers Bureau" in the early part of the war. She could read and write Arabic - which is said Lawrence could not. She was one of the first to receive the newly created CBE in 1917. She also received the Royal Geographic Society Gold medal for her work - 'without which Lawrence would not have been successful'. However, my copy of 7 Pillars of wisdom makes no mention of her. She was a truly remarkable woman who was famous in her time, but appears to have been airbrushed from history - perhaps because of her opposition to those leading womens suffrage. As for calling her "Dirty Gerty" I wonder if those using it would have done so to her face? Somehow I doubt it. Yours aye, Jim K

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michaeldr

She also received the Royal Geographic Society Gold medal for her work - 'without which Lawrence would not have been successful'.

That's a bit vague & difficult to follow Jim; would you care to expand?

Eg: GB - what work ; TEL – which success

edit to add -

my copy of 7 Pillars of wisdom makes no mention of her

I have Jonathan Cape's 1955 edition and GB is mentioned on p.257

…................................................................................................................

Has anyone read 'The Only Woman at Gallipoli' by John Howell and can it be recommended?

Regards

Michael

Edited by michaeldr

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trajan

...As for calling her "Dirty Gerty" I wonder if those using it would have done so to her face? Somehow I doubt it. Yours aye, Jim K

Your'e probably right there... I have no idea who generated that term of affection(!) but it was in common use at Newkie Uni Archaeology Dept, when I was helping catalogue the GB Photograph Archive there in the 1970's/80's. Rather sadly, really, that while Newkie has the photographs, the diaries and notes went to the RGS...

Trajan

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Ghazala

As for calling her "Dirty Gerty" I wonder if those using it would have done so to her face? Somehow I doubt it. K

Gertrude could be a charming lady on occasions and was not without humour. I do not think she would have taken offence at being referred to as 'Dirty Gerty'. Lawrence had a good knowledge of Arabic and helped Prince Feisal eloquently present the Arab point of view at Versailles. The prince read a speech in Arabic, written by Lawrence, to the leaders of the Allied powers. Then Lawrence read it in English. And when the American President, Woodrow Wilson, noticed that some of the Europeans did not understand, Lawrence provided an impromptu translation of the speech into French.

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Ghazala

Looking again at the first post and Nicole Kidman sitting on a camel brought to mind the famous picture with Churchill in Cairo, with Gerty and TEL....

post-100478-0-49562700-1424690531_thumb.

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Ghazala

She could read and write Arabic - which is said Lawrence could not.

Before the War at Carchemish TEL taught Dahoum to read and write (in Arabic).

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Chutist33

Sorry but I no longer have the reference source, but my note quotes David Hogarth - President of the RGS - when awarding the Founders Gold Medal, as " (TE) Lawrence, relying on her reports, made signal use in the Arab campaigns of 1917 & 1918 " and " without which Lawrence would not have been successful". On whose reports Mr Hogarth relied I do not know. The intention of my adding to the topic was to point out her voluntary work helping Soldiers & Sailors Families at the beginning of the Great War, not to slight Lawrence in any way. It was with reference to the absence of any mention of 'her reports' (upon which Lawrence may or may not have relied) in the Seven Pillars that I commented. He did, of course, mention Gertrude, but simply as a 'storied traveller' amongst others who had crossed the Nefudh. I still think Lawrence of Arabia is a nicer term of affection than Dirty Gerty. Yours aye, Jim K

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Ghazala

Good to have your contributions to the forum Jim. Dear old Gerty, she had a sad end in Baghdad.. On the 12th July 1926 Gertrude took some sleeping pills and told her maid to wake her later on. Bell never awoke and was pronounced dead on the 12th July. There is much debate over whether this was a suicide or simply an accidental overdose but many feel it was an accident as Bell had asked her maid to wake her later on.

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Stoppage Drill

The prince read a speech in Arabic, written by Lawrence, to the leaders of the Allied powers. Then Lawrence read it in English. And when the American President, Woodrow Wilson, noticed that some of the Europeans did not understand, Lawrence provided an impromptu translation of the speech into French.

The scene is re-enacted in "A Dangerous Man: Lawrence after Arabia."

The assembled delegates burst into a round of applause after TEL's (Ralph Fiennes) display of trilinguistic ability. Did that really happen, do you know, Ghazala ?

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trajan

There is much debate over whether this was a suicide or simply an accidental overdose but many feel it was an accident as Bell had asked her maid to wake her later on.

My feeling always was that it was not accidental - the 'wake-me-up-later' request could easily have to be a deterrent to keep the maid away for a suitable amount of time but not too long a period given the potentiality of rapid decay in the July heat

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Ghazala

The scene is re-enacted in "A Dangerous Man: Lawrence after Arabia."

The assembled delegates burst into a round of applause after TEL's (Ralph Fiennes) display of trilinguistic ability. Did that really happen, do you know, Ghazala ?

I doubt there was applause SD but it did happen as I described above. My comments were taken from Jeremy Wilson's biography of TEL. TEL was a very clever man. Perhaps he and Gerty should have married! Robert Graves wrote that if TEL had met the right type of woman he would have married.

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Ghazala

The following is from the June 2016 issue of Military History Monthly...

 

Perhaps the most interesting and unique person in this secretive band was Gertrude Bell. In 1892, Bell escaped her restrictive Victorian upbringing to immerse herself in the Middle East, first in Persia, then Greater Syria. Like Lawrence, she travelled throughout the region, and often felt more at home there than in England, saying here I am a person.

 

She met Lawrence on one of her treks, at Carchemish in 1909, and stated that he was an interesting boy, he will make a traveller.

 

Already famous for her travels and writings, she was recruited for the Arab Bureau by Clayton and sent to Basra to collect intelligence. Although Lawrence would say she was the slave’ of whoever had the most immediate influence over her, Clayton later stated her information was crucial to the success of the Arab Revolt.

 

As part of the Paris and Cairo Conferences after the war, she, along with Lawrence, helped delineate the borders of a newly created Iraq and convinced Churchill to place Feisal on the throne. Critics today still blame her for many of the countrys current problems.

 

In 1920, she wrote the scathing Review of the Civil Administration in Mesopotamia, and later devoted her energies to creating the Iraqi National Museum. Because of her work she was often referred to as the Uncrowned Queen of the Desert. The Arabs called her simply al-Khatun, or The Lady of the Court.

 

Bell was sent to Basra to collect intelligence

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trajan
53 minutes ago, michaeldr said:

At long last GB gets the documentary she deserves ... 

 

Thanks, I missed that. BUT, this statement jarred -  "Eventually, along with Lawrence, she would help to shape the modern states we have today – especially Iraq – before moving into the field of archaeology"... She was recording things like Binbirkilise, the Tur Abdin churches, and the amazing baptistery(?) at Nusaybin - the oldest standing purpose-built Christian building - long before the Cairo Conference....

 

Julian

 

PS: I should add that I do give a class that features 'Dirty' and draws attention to the (a), Queen of the Desert accolade; ( b ), the film of the same name which I have not watched (the gloriously inaccurate advertising stills were enough to put one off); and (c), Priscilla, the REAL Queen of the Desert!

Edited by trajan
Add PS

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michaeldr
20 minutes ago, trajan said:

Thanks, I missed that. BUT, this statement jarred -  "Eventually, along with Lawrence, she would help to shape the modern states we have today – especially Iraq – before moving into the field of archaeology"... She was recording things like Binbirkilise, the Tur Abdin churches, and the amazing baptistery(?) at Nusaybin - the oldest standing purpose-built Christian building - long before the Cairo Conference....

 

I missed that first time around – it's a pity that the writer didn't check the paper's own back number which is referenced just beneath their byline

quote -
Gertrude's first love remained archaeology and, as Honorary Director of Antiquities in Iraq, she established the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. Her 1905 expedition through the Syrian Desert to Asia Minor was published as The Desert and the Sown and her study, in 1907, of Binbirkilise on the Kara Dag mountain was published as The Thousand and One Churches and remains the standard work on early Byzantine architecture in Anatolia.

 

EDIT - OOPS!

I think that I had too many windows open at once there

The above quote in fact comes from http://www.gerty.ncl.ac.uk/

Nevertheless today's newspaper writer would still have benefitted from a quick read of the Guardian's older article

Edited by michaeldr

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David Filsell

It always seems a shame that she is used as some kind of prop when the Great Lawrence is mentioned. That she was such a towering and and quite unique figure in her own right.

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seaJane
2 hours ago, David Filsell said:

It always seems a shame that she is used as some kind of prop when the Great Lawrence is mentioned. That she was such a towering and and quite unique figure in her own right.

Hear! hear!

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michaeldr

Reading other people's love letters may be a little unedifying, however those written by GB to Charles Doughty-Wylie have a certain historical interest here and are worth the time spent.

See http://www.gerty.ncl.ac.uk/letter_details.php?from_to=Gertrude+Bell+to+Charles+Doughty-Wylie

eg: There is a good summary of the situation in Constantinople when the bombardment of the Straits commenced

Poignantly, GB's last letter which she was writing on 1st May 1915 ends abruptly, unfinished and unsent, presumably after she learnt of his death.

Does anyone know where CDW's letters are?

 

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Philip Wilson

Well I am sure some of you are familiar with the book 'Daughter of the Desert - The RemarkableLlife of Gertrude BELL' by Georgina HOWELL published all those years ago in 2006,  ISBN 9 781405 045872 . If not then its well worth reading - 518 pages; includes extensive supporting  notes and a good  bibliography for further reading material.  According to the book cover 'her story is vividly and impeccably researched drawing on Gertrude's own writings both published and unpublished. It is a compellling  portrait of a women who transcended the restrictions of her class and age and in so doing created a remarkable legacy.'  

Edited by Philip Wilson

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David Filsell

And of course she had the great merit of apparent honesty and modesty about her actions.

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Philip Wilson
1 minute ago, David Filsell said:

And of course she had the great merit of apparent honesty and modesty about her actions.

 

Very much so. 

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maxi

This week I listened to a discussion on the Robert Elms BBC Radio London concerning an new film on Gertrude Bell called 'Letters from Baghdad'

Here is a review.

.http://www.flickfilosopher.com/2017/04/letters-baghdad-documentary-review-gertrude-bell-original-lawrence-arabia.html

 

Maxi

 

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michaeldr

Another good review and comment

Thanks for pointing it out here Maxi

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Ghazala
On 21/04/2017 at 18:31, David Filsell said:

It always seems a shame that she is used as some kind of prop when the Great Lawrence is mentioned. That she was such a towering and and quite unique figure in her own right.

This is most probably the first time I have agreed with David......

 

Gertrude Bell probably did more for the creation of the Republic of Iraq than Lawrence did for his Arabs.  But it is Lawrence that is remembered because of that film.

 

Gertrude Bell, the only woman staff officer in the Arab Bureau in Cairo during the war, a fine writer, and like Lawrence, a ‘kingmaker’… might be viewed as an equally if not more extraordinary figure admits J C Hodson. (Hodson, Lawrence of Arabia and American Culture, p135).  Yet, to this day she remains viewed solely as a British figure.   H V F Winstone was the first biographer to tackle Bell seriously.  He laments that ‘her fame has faded with the years, it is her real work which will remain an inspiration to generations of archaeologists and other scholars, and her example will be quoted by those who seek adventure.’ (H V F Winstone, Gertrude Bell, London: Jonathan Cape, 1978, p262).

 

‘Bell still remains a British unsung heroine, in spite of some biographers best efforts to detach her from such a generalisation.’  (See Liora Lukitz, A Quest in the Middle East, Gertrude Bell and the Making of Modern Iraq – London I B Tauris, 2006, p256)

 

Tucked away in the obituary section of The Times on 13 July 1926 lies a simple tribute to Gertrude Lowthian Bell, ‘whose death we announce with great regret.   For her generation she was perhaps the most distinguished woman of our day in the field of Oriental exploration, archaeology, and literature, and in the service of the Empire in Irak.’  (Miss Gertrude Bell: Oriental Scholar and Administrator, The Times, 13 July 1926, p10).  Yet her death failed to warrant obituaries in the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.   Less than ten years later the New York Times abruptly announced on its front page the imminent death of T E Lawrence.  He was pronounced alive the following day.  ('Lawrence lingers, But Hope is Faint', New York Times, 15 May 1935, p1).     Gertrude Bell, however, is only referenced in passing, often beside TEL.  The Washington Post only mentions ‘Gertrude Bell, one of the most formidable women of the 20th century’ alongside T E Lawrence … 'the dashing archaeologist and soldier who, having participated in the Arab rebellion against the Turks, is already passing into legend as Lawrence of Arabia.’

The reason that people came across Lawrence, and not Bell, in the first place is of paramount importance.  Gertrude Bell was undermined by gender stereotypes, receiving limited coverage in the press.   Conversely, Lawrence was artificially catapulted into a post-war public hungry for stories of adventure and bravery.         

 

The muted celebration of Gertrude Bell during the first half of the twentieth century was largely due to her reputation as a woman.    A discussion that took place at the Royal Geographic Society a year after Bell's death shows how even her fondest supporters repeatedly linked her extraordinary achievements to her sex.   D G Hogarth had written Bell’s obituary for the Geographical Journal.  He lauded Bell’s ‘sympathy, her ‘distinguished literary gift’ and ‘appreciation of human values. Those manly qualities she did possess,  a masculine vigour, hard common sense and practical efficiency, were all tempered by feminine charms and a most romantic spirit.’  (D G Hogarth – Obituary of Gertrude Lowthian Bell – Geographic Journal, Vol 68, 4 Oct 1926. P363).

For those who took an interest in Bell in the first half of the twentieth century, she was merely ‘a woman of intellect and good sense, honoured to simply be immersed as she was in important happenings.’   This impression of Bell remained intact as late as 1967, as in Dorothy Cowlin’s children’s novel A Woman in the Desert.  (Dorothy Cowlin: A Woman in the Desert: The Story of Gertrude Bell, London: Frederick Muller Press, 1967).

 

By 1930 Bell had been cast as ‘a great woman’ rather than a ‘wartime heroine.’   During the 1930s the Sheldon Press began a Pioneer Women series.   Bell was only included in a sub-section of the third edition written by M E Tabor, alongside Mrs Sherwood, Isabell Bird and Mary Kingsley.   The complex nature of Bell’s life was almost totally ignored.   Indeed as Sue Bruley has claimed ‘the notion of profound sexual difference was still dominant in the Edwardian period.   The stress on women’s role as wife and mother was reinforced by the new idea of women as ‘mothers of the race’.   Bell, the childless, husbandless, political protagonist, hardly followed the Edwardian ideal of what Lucy Bland termed ‘walking wombs.’   Perhaps it was these high ideals that Hogarth and others tried to fit Bell into and which subsequent accounts of her continued to do.   She simply could not be cast as a post-war heroine as a result, but rather an individual who displayed notable accomplishments that could be fitted into varying ideals of femininity in the first fifty years of the twentieth century.

                              

Those that have written on Bell in recent years have done so in vivacious and partly fictional style.  Richard Harwood, on reviewing Janet Wallach’s 1997 biography, claimed that ‘she could have had no idea how prophetic Gertrude Bell’s description of Iraq’s problems would be to us today.’  Georgina Howell tells the tale of a woman who ‘pit herself against appalling condition to go to places so obscure they did no feature on any contemporary map, who was devastated when her promises to the Arabs were broken, the instigator of  real democracy and constitutional government in Iraq, yet at the same time a truly English aristocrat who would wear pearls and diamonds, her beautiful hair pinned up by her maid, and wearing one of her Paris gowns.' (Georgina Howell, Gertrude, Queen of the Desert, The Sunday Times, 16 July 2006).   Janet Wallach goes even further, insinuating an unfulfilled, typical British affair with Lawrence: ‘Looking him over she saw a short fellow, strongly built, with yellow hair, intense blue eyes, a high forehead and a straight nose; both were oddities, and out of the mainstream, both were loners who felt more at ease in the empty desert than in the crowded drawing room.’ (Janet Wallach, Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell, Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia – London Phoenix 1997, pp 92, 150).   Wallach, however, despite the hyperbole, ends up portraying her 'as an unsung hero in the basement of the Iraq Museum, on a forgotten shelf -  a bronze bust of Miss Gertrude Bell waits to be dusted off.'    

 

The line between man and myth will be forever blurred with Lawrence, but the line between woman and legend will remain, for the time being, historical with Gertrude Bell.

 

 

 

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David Filsell

Thank you Mr G

Ah, I thought, into every dark a little light sometimes falls quite out of the blue!

Regards

David

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