Episode 249: Gertrude Bell

Gertrude, 1910 via Encyclopaedia Britannica

Gertrude Bell, a daughter of privilege took her enormous intelligence, unfathomable bravery, and an entire set of Wedgwood china into the uncharted parts of the Middle East, making maps, discoveries, and friends along the way. Her work helped pave the way for the establishment of the modern country of Iraq.

Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell was born on July 14, 1868, in County Durham, England. She was the first child and only daughter of Sir Hugh Bell and Mary Shields Bell, and, after her mother passed away, was raised since childhood by her stepmother, Florence Olliffe Bell. Gertrude grew-up in a wealthy family of fairly progressive thinkers and was educated at Queens College and Oxford University (where they had only recently begun enrolling women and still didn’t give them actual degrees.)

She did follow some convention and, after being denied marrying the man she loved for the conventional reason of him not making enough money, she did her conventional debutant time doing traditional debutant activities. But, once she had aged out of “marriageable” and became “chaperone” age, her life really got going.

Gertrude traveled extensively for most of the rest of her life. And not all posh, typical travel (although she did travel with an entourage and glamping supplies) we’re talking about activities like mountain climbing and desert wandering in the Middle East. This was her favorite area to explore and live, made easier by being fluent in Arabic and not holding back from speaking her mind.

Her adventures were numerous, at times her numerous friendships were lifesaving, and her documentation of the people she met and the lands she loved aided in the establishment of modern-day Iraq and divvying up the freshly fallen Ottoman Empire, and guiding Great Britain through WW1.

Gertrude Bell, CBE: author, adventurer, archaeologist, museum creator, unofficial but effective diplomat, political advisor, and a woman who put (parts) of convention aside to live her life by her own rules died on July 12, 1926, at her home in Baghdad. She was 57 years old.

By Janet Wallach
by Liora Lukitz
By H.V.F. Winston
By Pat Yale

An entire site dedicated to her: The Gertrude Bell Society

A timeline of her life from Women in Exploration.

Despite what appears to us as an easy yes, Gertrude was not in favor of women getting the vote, she was (as were many in her class) anti-suffrage. Find out why in this article from a Newcastle University blog, dig into their archive on her, and more about her life in another from the same school.

This is the museum that she helped establish, The Iraq Museum.

A discussion about her death from an overdose of sleeping pills.

The history of “Cook’s tour” (which isn’t about someone who cooks going on a tour.)

An explanation of the Balfour Declaration after WWI

Sigh. Watch it if you must, but it’s not a favorite over here.

Instead, watch this documentary series from PBS, Letters From Baghdad, it’s much…much better.

And if you know Greta Gerwig, maybe she should get her eyes on Gertrude’s story.

We have a Pinterest Board for every subject! Check all of them out on Pinterest!

Break music: Spy vs Spy by Sound of Seventy-Three. End music: Intrepid by Love Amplifier

(used by permission from Ilicense Music)

Episode 246: Althea Gibson, Part Two

When we left Althea in part one, she was 24 and after years of training, practice, competition, and a village of supporters working with her and behind the scenes, she was finally invited to the American Lawn Tennis Association Championship at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York in 1950! Getting to this national tournament wasn’t easy, but few things in Althea’s life are.

It wasn’t easy to get to Forest Hills, or through college, or onto a short-lived career as a college physical education teacher…it wasn’t even easy to get her application through to become a WAC, a member of the military Women’s Army Corps, a position that never fully panned out for Althea. She was floundering in her life and ready to give up tennis when she was tapped by the US State Department for a Goodwill Tour to Asia, along with three other tennis players.

This travel led Althea to travel on her own throughout Europe to play in tournaments, improve her game, and play with the best competition in the world! Soon she became that competition for others, winning her first major tournament in France then on to the oldest in the world: Wimbledon. She cracked through racial barriers, gender barriers, and economic barriers to win scores of tournaments including 11 “Grand Slam” tournaments: five singles titles, five doubles titles, and one mixed doubles title.

Althea’s first Wimbledon singles victory, Queen Elizabeth’s first Wimbledon 1957

With Darlene Hard, singles runner-up Wimbledon 1957
After Wimbledon in 1957, the first person of color to win the oldest tennis tournament in the world, NYC welcomed back their own daughter with a ticker tape parade.
Althea made two appearances on the Ed Sullivan show, this is after her historic Wimbledon win

But competitive tennis in the 1950s was for amateurs only, and Althea couldn’t support herself playing the game she loved by competition, so she retired in 1958 and crafted an interesting life recording an album, appearing twice on the Ed Sullivan Show, writing an autobiography, acting, and modeling for ads until she landed a five-year run touring with the Harlem Globetrotters to play exhibition games. When that ended, she began to hit a different type of ball when she toured with the Ladies Pro Golfer Association (LPGA.)

Her second Ed Sullivan appearance and she sings!

Althea gave tennis clinics and talks about being a Black, female athlete for the rest of her life.

The remainder of her life was full of struggles and successes…just like the years that came before. Althea Gibson died on September 28, 2003, she was 76 years old.

If you click on through to YouTube, the whole album will be waiting for you!

Biographies we liked:

By Sally Jacobs
by Ashley Brown
By Frances Clayton Gray and Yanick Rice Lamb
About Althea and Angela Buxton by Bruce Schoenfeld
First autobiography
Second autobiography

Kid books we liked:

By Sue Stauffacher and Greg Couch
By Lesa Cline-Ransome

We have a Pinterest board for every subject, it’s a glorious place to dive into some rabbit Holes! Here is Althea’s!

Alice Marble was an important figure in Althea’s story… but she was also one for Wonder Woman’s (and all women of history!)

Lady Boxing has a long history, here’s a place to start your tumble down this rabbit hole!

Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If, two lines of which are over the entrance to Centre Court at Wimbledon.

The history of “play streets” like the ones Althea learned paddle tennis on, how to visit Wimbledon

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture online exhibit about Althea, and she’s represented at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island (to access the museum’s Metaverse, go to the VISIT page and scroll down.)

Resilient Grace is an online retailer with a mission of telling the stories of historic, African American women (Susan has a few of her shirts including the Shirley Chisholm one that she wears when she votes!)

This is the kind of sports jersey we can get behind!

There are a couple documentaries out there, Althea is on Peacock, and there is an American Masters, PBS one available on AppleTV+ and Prime (and maybe other services, that’s the two we watched.)

Quick links to our coverage of two previous subjects mentioned in Althea’s story: Babe Didrikson Zaherias and Fannie Lou Hamer

Our 2024 Field Trips to Austria and Paris are both sold out, and there are just a few spaces for our New York trip in September. There, we will also have a Locals’ Meet-up Dinner Cruise that’s open for reservations now. If you’re interested in any of these, please see Like Minds Travel for information and to sign up!

Break Music: Slow Cookin’ by Joe Smith and the Spicy Pickles; End Song: Play the Game by Lilly Wolf used by permission from iLicense Music.

Episode 244: Althea Gibson, Part One

There are quite a few lines on a tennis court; sideline, baseline, service line – all of which have their functions. But beginning in 1950, a powerful and charismatic African American athlete named Althea Gibson began to smash tennis’ color lines, one after another. Althea Gibson broke new ground and changed the world’s perception of what was possible in the world of sports.

All media recommendations will be on the shownotes for Part Two.

Episode 242: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Part Two

Mrs. L in 1953 at nearly 70, via Library of Congress

On paper, Alice Roosevelt’s life reads like a typical young society woman: Debut at 17, travel, friends, parties, marriage to a wealthy and important man, and eventually, motherhood. But Alice’s life was far from typical. For starters, her travel was for official United States goodwill missions, her friends were some of the wealthiest in the world, and the parties were expensive balls where “Be Naughty” seemed to be her rule of the day. She smoked, she bet on horses, she flirted and rode around in cars with men…and America, and soon the world, LOVED her!

Alice circa 1902, Library of Congress

When it came to marriage, Alice chose Representative Nicholas Longworth from Ohio, a wealthy respected, and charming man who loved his drink and women–including ones that were not his wife. They did have a very public, Power Couple life hobbing and nobbing with influential politicians, and Alice- with her quick wit and intelligence became so important to the government- without ever holding an office- that she earned the nickname, Washington’s Other Monument.

The uuuuh happy couple and Papa? Library of Congress

In this episode, we continue with the story not only of the life of Alice, or Mrs. L as she came to be called, but also continue to take a good look at the most influential man in her life, her father, President Theodore Roosevelt. It’s really a two-fer!

Alice and baby Paulina, 1925, Library of Congress

Alice Roosevelt Longsworth died after a very long, very influential, and very unconventional life at her home in Washington, DC on February 20, 1980. She is buried with her daughter, Paulina Sturm, at Rock Creek Cemetary in Washington, D.C.

Deepest dive, by Stacy A. Cordery
Book Beckett read first, by Carol Felsenthal
The newest biography, by Shelley Fraser Mickle
Charming with lots of photos by Michael Teague
For your Eleanor Roosevelt fix by Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer
A picture book for kids, we were charmed! By Barbara Kerley and Edwin Fotheringham

If you find yourself near Long Island, NY, head on over to the Roosevelt summer estate, Sagamore Hill (the one that should have been named Leeholm until Alice’s mother died.) Tours are limited and by reservation, so plan ahead.

Read all about it! Alice Roosevelt at the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair! St. Louis Post-Dispatch

White House History post with a lot of lovely photos from her wedding to Nick Longworth as part of an online exhibit about White House Weddings and also Memoirs from Edith Roosevelt’s social secretary, Isabella Hagner, is also at White House History, and the Reagan Library has a series on White House kids, here’s Alice’s!

Read her “voice” in this interview from the Washington Post in 1974Wondering who the real source of a quote is?

The Quote Investigator may have hunted it down already!

The two podcasts that Susan mentioned were: The conversational show about Philippine history, What’s AP: Araling Panlipunan Rebooted and the scripted comedy, Edith! about Edith Wilson.

The scripted, historical drama, Crowded Hours, is an Amazon Original starring Emma Roberts as Alice! Does HBO Max still have the television series based on Alice’s life in production? We don’t know, but we are hoping really hard that it’s true!

Episode 240: La Malinche

Malinche (this artist’s guess is as good as ours) and the volcano named after her in Mexico. (photo CC license: Alyse and Remi, Flickr)

In the early 1500s in Mesoamerica, modern-day Mexico, a very young child who would come to be known as La Malinche was sold into slavery by her own family. Through a series of curious circumstances, she began working as a translator and cultural interpreter for Hernán Cortés and became one of the most famous (or infamous) characters in the story of Spain’s conquest of Mexico. For the most part, we have to look at the details of her life through the lives of the people around her, then turn our heads sideways and squint because how she is seen, depends on the angle of your, or historians, view. Even her name is shrouded in mystery: was she Malintzin, Malina, Marina, Doña Marina, or La Malinche? She was called all of those, but her true, original name is lost to history.

Time Travel With The History Chicks


By Jason Porath…we love this book for so many reasons and open it often
Biography by Camilla Townsend

Best read, part biography, part travelogue by Anna Lanyon

By Rebecca Yegar

By Buddy Levy

By Hugh Thomas

By Matthew Restall

Cortes’ letters

Bernal Diaz…if you speak Spanish, let us know how it is. All our sources cited it so we figured it was worth mentioning even if we didn’t read this one.


By Francisco Serrano, Illustrated by Pablo Serrano


The Denver Art Museum had an exhibition of Malinche’s life through art back in 2022, but since nothing dies on the internet, we can all still cyber-visit it! Traitor, Survivor, Icon: The Legacy of La Malinche

The murals at Palacio National in Mexico City: Here’s some information about Malinche’s portion and here’s a good look to grasp the size of this art!

Moving or Audible Pictures!

The Rest is History Podcast has an (entertaining and conversational as well as educational) series on the Fall of the Aztecs that goes into depth on Cortes and his conquest of Mexico (and Malinche is in there, of course!)