Queen of the Desert

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I just had to share this fabulous woman…In researching for the background of a (secondary) character in my WIP I stumbled onto Gertrude Bell and was gob smacked by this woman’s hootspa. She was described as an ‘outsider’, the ‘Queen of the Desert’ and ‘the most powerful woman in the British Empire in her day’. How inspirational! She was just what I was looking for. As always, it’s important to write female heroines and depict women (girls) as capable of

Bell is pictured centre at the Cairo Conference in 1921 with friend and colleague TE Lawrence, second right, and then Secretary of the Colonies Winston Churchill, where the future of the Middle East was discussed in the wake of the First World War (dailymail.com)

doing ANYTHING (and more) than their male counterparts. Thank you Wonder Woman, Senator Kamala Harris and my new favorite hero, Gertrude Bell!                                                                                                                               My protagonist grew up with a mother (1920s-30s) who traveled to Egypt and with her husband explored antiquities, pyramids and cultures of days gone by. My protagonist was a young girl when she traveled with them giving her a fascinating childhood. But then their idyllic lives were cut short when they were thrown into a concentration camp in 1939, as you can imagine. So in writing her brave mother I sought other women of that time period who traveled and explored along with their male colleagues. Why? Because the mother is the primary influence, and ultimate wound to my protagonist.

Bell (a perfect character role model) was born in County Durham in 1868, then went on to study history at Oxford. She met TE Lawrence 1909 at a dig at the ancient city of Carchemish, which would now be on the Syrian-Turkish border. Their first meeting was icy due to Victorian ‘traditions of snootiness, sexism and arrogance’ as well as Lawrence feeling ‘intimidated’ by meeting a woman who was ‘his intellectual equal’ and ‘spoke Arabic better than him’. But they became good friends. A couple years later Bell was recruited by British Intelligence during the First World War to help guide soldiers through the deserts, before being made Oriental Secretary in 1917. Even after the war she stayed on with the British Government as a diplomat helping to draw up Iraq’s borders and establish the state, and served as mediator between the Arab government in Iraq and the British officials supervising it.

Bell was far bigger than life and certainly the material of a great fiction heroin. Grateful for her journey, and grateful to have found her as my inspiration. Just had to share this remarkable woman.

You can read more about this fascinating woman here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4428004/Incredible-life-British-adventurer-Gertrude-Bell.html

In 2015 Nicole Kidman starred in a movie about her life, Queen of The Desert http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1837636/

A 2017 documentary about her life appropriately titled, Letters From Bagdad was released this year. Take a peek here http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6086614/videoplayer/vi3633887513?ref_=tt_ov_vi

I haven’t seen either of these films but plan to.

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