Born: Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell was born on 14th July 1868 at Washington Hall in County Durham. Her father was Thomas Hugh Bell, the ironmaster, and her mother was Mary Shield of Newcastle. Gertrude’s mother died when she was three after giving birth to Gertrude’s brother. Her father married Florence Olliffe in 1876 and the couple had four children. Gertrude enjoyed a close relationship with her stepmother and all the children.
Educated: She was educated at Queen’s College, Harley Street, London and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford where she gained a first class honours degree in history in 1888.
Married: Gertrude Bell never married, although she exchanged love letters with a married man.
Family: She remained single and childless.
Home: Gertrude grew up in the family home Red Barns in Redcar.
Known for: After years of foreign travel and mountaineering she became interested the archaeology of Syria. She became a serious student of archaeology and in 1914 she published “The Palace and Mosque of Ukhaidir: a Study in Early Muhammadan Architecture”. After the First World War she played an important part in the British government’s political activities in Iraq. From 1920 she held the post of oriental secretary to the British High Commissioner in Iraq. She was involved in details of the protocol of 1923 that fixed Iraq’s borders with its neighbouring countries. She was largely responsible for the creation of the national museum in Baghdad.
Died: Gertrude Bell died in her sleep during the night of 11/12th July 1926 having taken too many sleeping pills. She was buried in the British military cemetery in Baghdad.
Further Information: “Gertrude Bell and Iraq: A Life and Legacy” Paul Collins and Charles Tripp (2017): Dictionary of National Biography