because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lady Hester Stanhope

Lady Hester Stanhope was born to money and grew up as women born to money did in Great Britain in the late 1700's. Smart, witty, and elegant, Stanhope piddled around with the royalty and her uncle, the British Prime Minister, until he died and she got bored and sailed for the Middle East.

On her way to Cairo, a storm blew her and her shipmates ashore on the Island of Rhodes without their luggage. So Stanhope showed her true in-your-face woman colors by deciding that, rather than wear a veil the way women were expected to where she was now, she would dress like a man. Adopting the baggy trousers, vest and turban of a Tunisian male, Stanhope spent the rest of her life dressed just like that, whatever the locals might have thought of it.

Over the next three decades, her Ladyship charmed the socks off one sheikh after another, her unmitigated fearlessness leaving them breathless. When she rode into Damascus astride a horse like a man (instead of sidesaddle) and with her White Christian woman's face boldly uncovered, the highly devout Syrian Muslims were so stunned, they wound up cheering.

Then, when she subsequently decided to visit the ancient city of Palmyra, she was told the Bedouins would never let her pass safely to get there.  Undaunted, Stanhope rode out alone to talk with them in their camp and when the talk was over, she rode back out with a small herd of Bedouin bodyguards accompanying her on her journey. This time, riding into the city, the public greeting was so wildly enthusiastic, Stanhope wrote of the event: "I have been crowned Queen of the Desert...I have nothing to fear...I am the sun, the stars, the pearl, the lion, the light from heaven.” And who knows? Maybe she was. An in-your-face woman isn't hard to recognize.

No comments:

Post a Comment