Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

April 2010

This months News



WI Meetings

Next time you hear reports of Iraq in the news, spare a thought for Gertrude Bell, the British woman who mapped out the country’s boundaries almost 100 years ago.   She is, said Jan Long, the speaker at our March meeting, the ‘unsung heroine of the Middle East’.

Jan painted a colourful picture of an intrepid explorer who conformed to none of the stereotypical images of a Victorian lady - Gertrude climbed mountains, learned to fly an aeroplane, swigged whisky and once drew a pistol, kept tucked in her garter, to fight off bandits in the Khyber Pass.

After studying Modern History at Oxford, where she was the first woman to win a first-class degree, she travelled the world and spent time in Syria, Mesopotamia and the Arabian desert, photographing archaeological sites and local tribes.  She learned to speak Persian and Arabic and wrote about her expeditions for the Royal Geographical Society.  Her knowledge of the region led her into service with the British Intelligence during the First World War.

She may be a woman but she has the brain of a man, said Lord Hardinge, Viceroy of India, who recommended she be sent to Basra in 1916, where she helped to lay the foundations of modern Iraq.  She became a powerful force in Iraqi politics, helping Prince Faisal become king.  But her love was always archaeology and she went on to establish the Baghdad Archaeological Museum, now known as the National Museum of Iraq.

Julie Smart

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Last modified: April 30, 2010