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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Hester Stanhope

b. 1776, Kent, England; d. 1839, Djoun, Syria

Raised by her uncle, Sir William Pitt, prime minister of Great Britain in 1783, Hester Stanhope served as his companion, advisor, and hostess until his death in 1806. In 1809, the death of her beau and her brother on the same day prompted Stanhope’s decision to leave England permanently and travel the world. En route to Cairo, her boat shipwrecked and she was washed ashore at Rhodes. Having no clothes, she adopted the Turkish men’s style of dress. She traveled all over the Middle East, and because of her nationality and her clothing, people viewed her as a queen of foreign lands. She settled in Syria in 1813, eventually moving to a remote monastery in Djoun, where she received Western visitors throughout her life.