history meme: 01/06 woman | MATA-HARI
Mata Hari (1876-1917) was the stage name of the Dutch exotic dancer and prostitute Gertrud Margarete Zelle, who was shot by the French as a spy on 15 October 1917.
Born on 7 August 1876 in the Netherlands, daughter of a well-to-do hatter, Mata Hari attended a teachers’ college in Leiden before, in 1895, marrying Captain Campbell MacLeod (of Scottish antecedents but serving in the Dutch army). They lived together from 1897-1902 in Java and Sumatra.
Returning to Europe together they thereafter separated, and she took to dancing upon the Paris stage from 1905 under the name ‘Mata Hari’. Highly successful in Paris, Mata Hari’s attractiveness, as well as her apparent willingness to appear almost nude on the stage, made her a huge hit. She cultivated numerous lovers, including many military officers.
Still unclear today are the circumstances around her alleged spying activities. It was said that while in The Hague in 1916 she was offered cash by a German consul for information obtained on her next visit to France. Mata Hari admitted she had passed old, outdated information to a German intelligence officer when later interrogated by the French intelligence service. Mata Hari herself claimed she had been paid to act as a French spy in Belgium (then occupied by German forces), although she had neglected to inform her French spymasters of her prior arrangement with the German consul. She was, it seemed, a double agent. It appears that British intelligence picked up details of Mata Hari’s arrangements with the German consul and passed these to their French counterparts. She was consequently arrested by the French on 13 February 1917 in Paris. Following imprisonment she was tried by a military court on 24-25 July 1917 and sentenced to death by a firing squad. The sentence was carried out on 15 October 1917 in Vincennes near Paris. She was 41.
To many she remains the unfortunate victim of a hysterical section of the French press and public determined to root out evidence of a non-existent enemy within, a scapegoat attractive as much for her curious profession as for her crimes. [x]