So here she is, in Paris. Not shy to perform very scantily clad, she is soon very popular and is performing all across Europe. But fame and fortune are fickle companions; after a few years, her popularity waning, the dancing became less of a source of income than did prostitution. A high class courtesan, mind you, but a rose by any other name...

The year is 1916, World War 1 is on, and among her lovers are many men with important military connections. A German officer offers her money to spy on the French. Desperate for cash, she agrees. Alas, she proves to be quite incompetent at this and is soon arrested by the French under suspicion of espionage. After convincing them that she merely passed on old, useless information to the German officer, she agrees to spy for them in the German-occupied territories.

On 13 February 1917, she is again arrested by the French on a tip from the British that she is a double agent (the MI5 in action!). She explains that she had been working on securing the support of Duke Ernst August von Braunschweig-Lüneburg (heir to the Duchy of Cumberland in England) for the Allies. The real circumstances are never satisfactorily explained and again she is set free.

Alas, the French get another bee in their berets about Mata Hari, again put there by the British who apparently were worried about her dealings with German officials at The Hague. She is tried for high treason by a military court, sentenced to death on 25 July 1917, and executed on the 15 October of that same year in Vincennes (near Paris).

There has never been any convincing evidence that Mata Hari did any effective spying for anybody, or passed on relevant, much less damaging, information.

To this day, the French and the Dutch refuse to open their records on Mata Hari. Therefore, the true facts regarding her espionage activities remain obscured, different sources tell different stories.

Mata Hari has been described as being quite naive, taken in by the glitz and glitter of the salons of her dancing days. It is believed that she never really understood the seriousness of her actions as she played at being a spy ... until it was too late.

Some might call it infamy, but I bet she'd truly enjoy the lasting impression she has created upon the world!

~~ continued ~~
. The great Garbo in the role of Mata Hari, in the visually stunning
  but otherwise quite ridiculous 1932, eponymously-named movie.
  Shown here with the dashing Ramon Navarro.
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Attempts at Vindication
This page created in celebration of Women's History Month, March 2001
-- by Valkyrie --