Introducing the Lady Adventurers: Anna Baring
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
In the next four posts, I'll introduce the four protagonists of the Lady Adventurers Club. The first of these is Anna. Although "The Lady Adventurers Club" uses a four person POV, the book is really Anna's book. It's her story, her stomping grounds, her personal struggle and growth. And it's only fitting that Anna would be the at least ostensible leader of the Lady Adventurers Club. So please meet Anna Baring:
Anna was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1883, the year after the British occupied Egypt during the Anglo-Egyptian War. Her father is Evelyn Baring, 1st Earl of Cromer, who had just become the British Consul-General of Egypt (for his full colonial biography, check out his Wikipedia page). Her mother is his first wife, Ethel Errington. Like her father and brothers, she attended (Lady Margaret Hall at) Oxford University, where she studied Modern History. In 1905, she returned to Cairo and studied archaeology. After her father left Egypt in 1907, inspired by Gertrude Bell’s Syria: The Desert and the Sown, published that year, she joined Howard Crosby Butler of Princeton University in carrying out surveys of Byzantine Christian sites in Syria. In 1909, she joined Bell on her trip through Mesopotamia before returning to Egypt in 1910 and helping to excavate Meroe in what is today Sudan until 1914.
During WWI, she, like Bell, joined the Arab Bureau, a section of the Cairo Intelligence Department, whose purpose was the collection and dissemination of propaganda and intelligence about the Arab regions of the Middle East. After the war ended in 1918, she joined Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon working in the Valley of the Kings, and we find her working there still when "The Lady Adventurers Club" opens.
Anna is fiery, passionate, and confident. She is a charismatic, natural leader, although occasionally her ego gets in the way of her decision making. Unabashedly lesbian, her swashbuckling nature would make her popular with women if she didn't spend all her time on archaeological digs far from the rest of civilization.
The real life inspiration for Anna is Gertrude Bell, whom every armchair archaeologist, Middle Easternist, and feminist should know. The visual inspiration for Anna is Victoria Broom, an awesome lesbian actress from the UK who I aspire to have read the audiobook for "The Lady Adventurers Club."
Below is an illustration of Anna. Thanks to the lovely Nicanor Benitez, who I found on Upwork, for bringing this firebrand to life.