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The Spy Game
The Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2000 entry:

Mata Hari, professional name of Gertrud Margarete Zelle (1876-1917), Dutch courtesan and
alleged spy during World War I (1914-18). Born in Leeuwarden and educated in a convent,
she married Campbell MacLeod, a British-born captain of the Dutch army, when she was 18
years old. The couple lived briefly on the island of Java, in what was then the Dutch East
Indies, and were divorced a few years later. She settled in Paris, France, upon her return
to Europe and shortly after 1900 began to perform erotic dances for private gatherings,
giving herself the title of Javanese Dancer.  In 1907 she allegedly became a spy for
Germany, attending a school for espionage in Lörrach. As such, her liaisons with high-
ranking Allied officers supposedly enabled her to obtain important military information.
She was convicted of being a spy and was executed in October 1917 by the French.

"Mata Hari," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000

did she ... or
didn't she?
Not much of an encyclopaedia entry for a woman whose name has become synonymous with the idea of the beguiling female spy who, through her womanly wiles, can losen men's tongues and along with sweet nothings, get them to whisper secrets into her ear. How did she get to to point of being first a courtesan, then a spy? What circumstances drove her to this desperate lifestyle?

It's a no-brainer to say, "a man." The daughter of a well-to-do hatmaker, she was trained to be a teacher. Instead, she married the dashing MacLeod after a very brief courtship, one suspects she craved more excitement than her little Dutch hometown or the prospect of spending her life as a schoolmarm had to offer. She soon found herself on the island of Java (from 1897 to 1902) where her husband had been posted ... and was transfixed; by the people, their customs, their religion, their ceremonial dances. She studied them and began to perform them herself. Her husband has been described as a cold, cruel despot. No wonder this starry-eyed child sought solace in what she saw as a world of gentleness and beauty. Remember, a 20-year old at the beginning of the last century had very little of the worldliness of a 20-year old in our time.

This then, is when she began to call herself "Mata Hari" which means "Eye of Dawn".

Mata Hari was the mother of two children, a boy and a girl, but the boy died in childhood. Mata's worst problems began upon their return to Europe. Her husband's cruelty and abusiveness became more than she could bear; this being a time when such was considered a woman's lot, she has no recourse but to flee from her home. She was forced to leave her daughter behind, in the "care" of this monster.

She ended up in Paris, making a living with her dancing. Her beauty and charm soon opened doors into the highest society.
This page created in celebration of Women's History Month, March 2001
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