21 August 2015

Gertrude Bell, known as The Great Gertrude to her family, was born into a life of wealth and privilege in Yorkshire in 1868. She chose, however, to abandon the comforts of this upbringing to become a mountaineer, archeologist, desert explorer and spy extraordinaire.

Bell travelled throughout Arabia becoming an expert in the culture of the region and played a fundamental role in the formation of modern Iraq, rubbing shoulders, on equal terms, with sheiks, British army generals, Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia, mixing with ease in a male dominated world.

The route embroidered on this bag marks one of Gertrude Bell’s journeys. Devastated by the death of her lover at Gallipoli she set out on what was to be her most hazardous expedition at a time when it was unknown for women to travel alone in Arabia. She crossed uncharted deserts on camel and horseback facing great physical hardship and even imprisonment before succeeding where many men had failed. But, as with all her journeys she travelled with a canvas bath, linen tablecloth and silver candlesticks.

Her name amongst the tribes she came to know and love was “Daughter of the Desert”. The flower we have chosen to represent the great Gertrude is a hollyhock - symbol of ambition.