On August 7, 1876, Margaretha Geertruida Zelle was born in The Netherlands. She lived a nice life economically until the divorce of her parents, then the death of her mother, and finally her father’s economic problems. Zelle was moved around to various family members as she grew up.
As a young adult, Zelle answered a letter from a captain in the Dutch Colonial Army stationed in the Dutch East Indies who wanted to find a wife. The marriage was a disaster. Then she linked up with another Dutch soldier and learned a great deal about the Indonesian culture, which included dancing. This is where was came up with her name, Mata Hari. Her name in a local Indonesian language meaning eye of the day.
Finally, Mata Hari arrived in Paris where she became an exotic dancer. For a decade, she was the crème’ de la crème of those in the exotic dance world; she was a femme fatale (fatal woman). WWI began, and she fell in love with a Russian pilot, who flew for the French. He was shot down by the Germans. In her attempt to get permission from the French military to see her love, she would have to spy for the French. The deal was for Mata Hari to seduce Crown Prince Wilhelm to glean German military plans.
However, the French were having troubles with the French military due to the Great Mutinies, and civilians were striking due to not winning the war. Therefore, many believe that they needed a scapegoat and arrested Mata Hari in February of 1917 as a double agent.
Mata Hari’s trial, as it were, took place in July. Her attorney could not cross-examine the prosecution witnesses or examine his own witness. The result was that she was found guilty and executed on October 15, 1917 at the age of 41. Most scholars believe two things about Mata Hari. The first is that she wasn’t an important spy due to her not suppling any important information. The second is that she wasn’t a double agent spying for the Germans. Even if she were a double agent, she had no information to give the Germans.
After the firing squad shot her, a soldier shot her to make sure that she was dead. Mata Hari, at the end of her life, was a femme fatale.
This is an interesting video about Mata Hari.
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