Bell 1896-1960

This is one of my grandfather’s sisters, Dr. Ina Bell Auld. She was born undegreed though, in 1896, and earned her Phd from the University of Iowa until 1938. The title of her dissertation is “Women in the Renassaince: The Attitudes of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries.” Her Masters thesis, from 1922, is about the early reading habits of George Eliot. She was a flaming fleminist.

I knew her little brother Lawrence, and her twin, Miss Inez Dell Auld, and it sounds like Bell was what I like to call a difficult person, which also means I would have liked her. I think a little farm girl from southern Iowa born in 1896 who aspired to academia rather than marriage and conventionality had to be a difficult person to make it work. And she did – she was an English professor, travelled abroad, and caused anguish to her parents and siblings back home. She died in 1960.

I started this painting a couple of years ago and finished it earlier this year. I never met Bell so this image was composed in my head from photos of her and from her reputation. Yes, she’s smirking hard, and holding a book/bird/angelic being with the Congregational Church on Clinton Street in Iowa City behind her. I know from old city directories that she lived just a few blocks from there on Iowa Avenue, but I’d bet you nearly anything she was not much of a church-goer as a graduate student.

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