Mata Hari-Spy Or Just Stripper???
external image Mata-Hari_1910.jpg

By Prashanthi Sivagurunathan

Name:Margarete Zelle who later on got the stage name of Mata Hari

Date of Birth:7 August 1876

Family background: Born in Leeuwarden Netherlands, as the second child and only girl of Adam Zelle and his wife Antje van der Meulan. Adam Zelle had a successful hat business as it was an era where no man would be seen in public without a hat. His success in the business allowed his family to live a comfortable lifestyle; however disaster struck when Adam Zelle went bankrupted and was sent to Amsterdam to try to find a job there, but in doing so he had left his wife Antje to look after the children. Antje wasn't able to take up the task, which soon left her seriously depressed then physically ill which later on resulted in her dying.

Now without a job and wife Adam felt as he wasn't fit to take the role of being a single father, so he distributed his children among them relatives, leaving Margarete to her godfather Heer Visser. It reached a certain point to when Visser did not want her in her household, and because she didn’t like being part of charity, she decided to make her way to the town of Leyde to a school for future teachers run by Heer Wybrandus Haanstra. However due to her having a romantic relationship with the head teacher Heer Wybrandus, she was forced to leave the school in disgrace. However because of this incident, at the age of 18 she learned to use her exotic look to attract the males figure.

On the 11th of July 1895, Margarete was married to 38-year-old Rudolph Macleod, who had a career in the Dutch Military that had courageously fought in combat and received an officer’s cross.
On January, 1897 Margarete gave birth to her first child, Norman John and then on May 2nd, 1898 the couple had they second baby in hope it would revitalize their marriage. However on June 27, 1899 their world came crashing down in horror, as Little Norman and his sister were both poisoned during the middle of the night, however Little Norman was dead by the time the physician arrived leaving the couple with the daughter who managed to survive the night. Unlike some couples, Rudolph and Margarete were not pulled together by their shared trauma, and with this grief, she found comfort by reading the sacred Hindu texts and this is the start of Mata Hari.

Career and occupation: Mata Hari was under the name of a bold exotic dancer debuted in the muse Guimet on March 13th 1905. Her performance to the Hindu god Lord Siva was said to be extraordinary even though her career as a dancer started when she was close 30s, but nerveless she was an overnight success that was known throughout the world as well as the way she turned her striptease into art for those to watch. Mata Hari was courted by many European venues and later on took her act to Spain, Monte Carlo and Germany where she often stripped down until she was almost naked- but never quite. Her European audience were ignorant of the specifics of Indian and Southeast Asian culture, so she would tell them “My dance is a sacred poem in which each movement is a word and whose every word is underlined by music….” While being very into her career, she did still try to contact her daughter who was now living with Rudolph after they marriage ended. Mata Hari tried to keep a toehold in the world of public entertainment; on May 23, 1914 she appeared in a music hall in Germany, where she met a police officer and his superior Traugott Von Jagow, who later on became her boyfriend.

Traugott Von Jagow was in charge of German espionage and gave her orders to spy on France, which was the start of her spying day. Though we don’t have any historical accurate facts about her being a spy but we do have people biographer about Mata Hari, Erika Ostrovsky is one person who wrote a biography on Mata Hari and in her Biography it is mentioned that she had attended a spy school in Germany, however it is quite possible that Mata Hari never set foot in the famous Germany spy school. The war broke out on August 4, 1914, Mata Hari ended up being in Paris which was the capital of the country of war, and the least of her worries. Mata Hari went on living her life, and has many relationships with different men, including a German man which said that he was in Paris because he was spying for his country. It was because of this that she had a very hard time, many people had suspicion that she was a German spy, but she denied it by say “as a Dutch citizen she was neutral…” however she also got many request to help spy on the German for the French, and return she would be granted, to see her lover who was gassed during the war. So she decided to go for it, only because she knew she had too, in order to help support her and her lover.

She first started in Brussels, where she knew some men that could help her, with all these connection she had, she was sure she can get the information that was needed, but the plan was to go from Brussels, to Spain to Britain then her homeland Holland, and finally back to Belgium but things went bad for her in Britain where there was strongly suspected that she was working for the Germans, which lead her being docked, arrested and taken to Scotland yard for questioning. However this was all said to be a mistake because she wasn’t meant to be captured instead women named Clara Benedix was meant to be captured in her place. After being able to return back, she continued spying but this type she decided to use her body to get the information she needed. When she got the exciting information wrote back with the news. By this time it was time to go back to Paris, where she believed that she would be reward for her achievements in espionage but it didn’t work out as she planned, and instead went back with a new assignment without being paid.

Death:Mata Hari on February 13, 1917, was arrested by the French for her espionage. Following imprisonment she was tried by a military court on 24-25 July 1917 and sentenced to death by a firing squad. She was 41.

Why did she make History: Margarete Zelle was a woman who lost everyone she loved her whole family, throughout her life she had to be careful who she trusted and who she fell in love with. She wasn’t treated like women, and at time she was treated like an animal. She found a life in her dance where she bought out her inner-self, who was called Mata-Hari. She was also known as the Greatest Spy ever. Some says she was only known for her dancing in History, but I would say she was known as women who did what she had to, in order to live which is the real reason why she made history.

Aug. 7, 1876
Margarete Gertrud Zelle is born in Leeuwarden, Holland to a Dutch shopkeeper and a woman of Javanese descent.
She meets Rudolph MacLeod, who has just returned from the Dutch East Indies where he served as a Colonel in the Dutch Army.
June 25, 1899
Both of the children are poisoned, allegedly by a lover of the children's nurse. Norman dies and Jeanne-Louise survives.
Moves to Paris, takes on the stage name Mata Hari, and becomes a nude dancer portraying herself as a Javanese princess. Margarete made her debut as an oriental dancer in Paris.
She has an affair with Major Arnold Kalle, a German spymaster who sets her up to be discovered by the Allies as a spy, though she had not given up any sensitive information to the Germans.
Feb. 13, 1917
She is arrested at Elysees Palace Hotel in Paris by the French Secret Service on suspicion of spying for Germany against the French and British, though there is no evidence against her except for some secret ink found in her room. Under intense interrogation, she confesses to passing inconsequential information to the Germans and that she went by the pseudonym of H21.
She is put on trial in France and is accused of being a double agent for Germany and France.
Oct. 15, 1917
Mata Hari is bound to the stake to be executed by a 12-man firing squad. She refuses a blindfold and blows a kiss to the squad before they shoot her. Her ex-husband says: "Whatever she’s done in life, she did not deserve that."

Map of her Life:

3 Primary Sources:

Picture Gallery:

Recommended Reading List:
This Website here is a very good website. It gives you detail, in everything that Mata Hari did. The website isn’t that beset either, because it shows reason behind every action that was taken by her. I used this website from start to end, because it told me everything from the day she was born till the day she died and the bits in the middle like her marriage. It also told me what people around her were thinking too, so it gave me the different view in the era which gave me a wider understanding.

This website, give you a start to her world. It’s a timeline of the important events in her life, but it didn’t give much information. But it did give you the dates to the events in her life.
This website gave me my primary source. This website had pictures of Mata Hari from the time of place.