British-born Gertrude Bell, also referred to as the female Lawrence of Arabia, was an adventurer, spy, archaeologist and powerful political force who travelled into the uncharted Arabian desert and was recruited by British Military Intelligence to help reshape the Middle East after World War I.
She drew the borders of Iraq, helped install its first king and established the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities which was infamously looted during the 2003 American invasion.
A true visionary, she advocated for Iraqi self-rule and openly criticized colonial policy.
Gertrude Bell images, courtesy of the Gertrude Bell Archives, Newcastle University
Gertrude Bell was astonishingly accomplished.
She was one of the most powerful women in the British Empire in the early twentieth century, yet she has been overlooked in much of the history written about this period.
As the first female British intelligence Officer and adviser on Arabian affairs to the British government,
Bell helped shape the geopolitical map of the world as it changed dramatically after World War I.
She was the only woman with a diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and the only woman invited by Winston Churchill to the Cairo Conference in 1921.