Gertrude Bell

WhereGreat Broughton Village HallType of EventTalk
WhenWednesday 18th April 2012TutorGordon Hetherington

Around 50 members turned out on a wet and windy night and were rewarded by an excellent talk by Gordon Hetherington on the life of an extraordinary Teesside woman, Gertrude Bell. A brilliant scholar, archaeologist, mountaineer and linguist, she also found time to be a leading figure for the anti Suffragette Movement (perhaps bizarrely saying if women were still interested in housework, why should they get the vote). She was born at Washington, County Durham on14 July 1868, the daughter of Thomas Hugh Bell, the Teesside Ironmaster and they subsequently lived in Coatham in a house designed by Philip Webb called Red Barns.

Initially home-schooled, she then attended school in London and graduated with a first-class degree in Modern History from Oxford University. Thereafter she travelled widely in Europe and Arabia. From the turn of the century, Gertrude developed a love of the Arab peoples – she learned their languages, investigated their archaeological sites and travelled deep into the desert. She was an advisor to Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, a confidante of sheikhs in Iraq and a close friend of Lawrence of Arabia. In Baghdad in 1921 she drew the boundaries of the country that became Iraq.

She never married or had children, but had a very close relationship with a Major Charles Doughty-Wylie, who was killed in the Great War. She was affected by this loss for the rest of her life

Gertrude returned to Teesside in 1925 but she was in ill health after suffering severe bronchitis brought on by years of heavy smoking.  She, like T.E. Lawrence, also suffered from severe bouts of depression. She returned to Baghdad but developed pleurisy and died there on July 12, 1926.

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