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Library Brings ‘Queen of the Desert’ to Riverfront Park

Karen Vuranch as Gertrude Bell

MOUNDSVILLE — Archaeologist, British Army officer, diplomat, spy and Middle East expert, Gertrude Bell, was truly a visionary in her day. And the very talented Karen Vuranch will bring this remarkable woman to life in a living history presentation courtesy of the Moundsville-Marshall County Public Library.

This in-person performance will take place at Moundsville’s Riverfront Park Shelter on Monday, Aug. 16, starting at 6 p.m. It is free and open to the public, aimed at adults and older students. Picnic table seating is located in the shelter, but people may also bring their own lawn chairs.

Born to a wealthy British family, Bell challenged the traditional role of women in Victorian England. From 1899 to 1904, she was a pioneer in the field of mountaineering, with at least 10 recorded new paths or first ascents in the Alps.

During World War I, she worked with the Red Cross in identifying wounded and missing soldiers.

But, it was her work in the Middle East during World War I that gave Gertrude accolade and fame. Her extensive knowledge and first-hand experience in the Arabian deserts lead to her induction into the British Army – she was the only female officer in the Army Intelligence in WWI. She’d also earned the respect of the people of the Middle East and came to be referred to as “Khutan,” which means “Queen of the Desert.”

Karen Vuranch brings the indomitable Bell to life in this one-woman performance. In addition to Bell, Vuranch is well-known for other portrayals of women in history. She also presents Pearl Buck, Clara Barton, Mother Jones, Mary Draper Ingles, Irish pirate Grace O’Malley, Wild West outlaw Belle Starr, beloved children’s author Laura Ingalls Wilder and novelist Edith Wharton. Vuranch has written two plays about women in history, Coal Camp Memories about life in the West Virginia coalfields and Homefront about women in World War II.

She is also an acclaimed storyteller and has performed at colleges, libraries, schools and conferences each year. Vuranch received a number of honors and awards for her work including the Tamarack Artisan Fellowship for Achievement in the Arts and the Spirit of West Virginia from the Women’s Commission of the WV Legislature.

This one-woman chautauqua-style show will offer the best in entertainment and education. The program is made possible with the generous support of the Robert Baker Family with the venue provided by the City of Moundsville.

For more information, call the Moundsville Library at 304-845-6911 or visit the library’s Facebook page or their website at moundsville.lib.wv.us. The library is located at 700 Fifth St. in Moundsville. The Riverfront Park Shelter is located off 13th Street, opposite the Moundsville-Kroger Plaza, near the Ohio River. Social distancing is recommended, with mask-wearing an individual choice as an added safeguard.

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