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Gertrude Bell and IraqA life and legacy$
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Paul Collins and Charles Tripp

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266076

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266076.001.0001

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Gertrude Bell: Pioneer, Anti-Suffragist, Feminist Icon?

Gertrude Bell: Pioneer, Anti-Suffragist, Feminist Icon?

(p.127) 6 Gertrude Bell: Pioneer, Anti-Suffragist, Feminist Icon?
Gertrude Bell and Iraq

Helen Berry

, Paul Collins, Charles Tripp
British Academy

This essay explores Gertrude Bell’s life and career from the broader perspective of women’s history in Britain. It presents new research that uncovers Bell’s little-known leadership of the northern branch of the Anti-Suffrage League, in the context of recent debates surrounding the various motivations women had to become involved in the fight against political equality. Any attempt to recover Bell as a feminist icon would seem misplaced, considering her own disavowal of ‘women’s causes’. And yet, this study argues that Bell refused to be constrained by the normative expectations of the day for women of her rank. Focusing on Bell’s early life, education and pre-First World War career, the chapter proposes that the tools of gender analysis provide a useful framework for analysing three aspects of Bell’s character that she herself deployed to succeed as a woman in the ‘man’s world’ of high politics and diplomacy: her imperialist politics, her class entitlement and her forceful personality.

Keywords:   Gertrude Bell, women’s history, gender, Iraq, imperialism, anti-suffrage, North-East England

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