Her name evokes a sense of eroticism and injustice.
Here is a woman who literally rocked the beginning our 20th century.Unfortunately she has been almost forgotten, she only had one movie done about her life that I remember seeing many moons ago.However, there were 2 or 3 films done. One of them was with Greta Garbo, the others, I can't remember.This was a woman who captivated audiences and held them in awe.
From Paris to Cairo she would woe her audience as if she were making love to them personally. Her many lovers consisted of Princes to top Military Officials, not to mention a few multi millionaires who were moret han willing to indulge Mata Hari with what ever she so desired.
However; behind the image of a goddess there was a woman in pain and sorrow. With the death of her mother, a hateful, abusive husband and the death of a child, life in general almost took the life of Mata Hari before the French ever did.
Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, born on August 7, 1876 in a town called Leeuwarden, Holland, she had four brothers and was the only girl. Her parents were, Adam and Antje (van der Meulin) Zelle.
Like most kids her age she had a nickname, M'greet. Her father Adam, had his own hat business, in those days everyone wore hats. This was a very loving family. Adam and Antje were very close to M'greet.
Then disaster strikes the family. Adam lost everything in the stock market. As a result, he was forced to sell most of their belongings. Then they had to move to a poor part of town. Adam, determined to turn things around, left for Amsterdam and left Antje to care for the five children. In so doing, she became very sick and fell into a depression that took her life. M'greet was all of fifteen and soon to be orphaned. When Adam came back, he placed the children among relatives where they parted ways.
Now at fifteen years of age our M'greet was growing into a beautiful young woman. M'greet had moved to her God-father's house, who was less than willing to take her in. Soon she was off trying to land a teaching position, but did not like the politics of "the strap" and the fact that the owner had a thing for our young M'greet, she left. A few years later at the age of eighteen, M'greet answered a personal add in the paper which she would soon regret. Some army officer looking for a wife, Captain Rudolf Macleod.They were soon married, and M'greet gave birth to a son eighteen months later. Now in my opinion Rudolf was less than a dog! With the debauchery, adultry, jealousy and the physical, sexual and mental abuses, she tried to cope the best she could. A far better woman than I.
The family moves to the Island of Java.
And here is where, when you don't think that things could get worse, they do for M'greet. She is pregnant again and has a daughter in which good ol Rodulf is quite disappointed in the gender of his child. One night in the summer of 1897 calamity strikes our M'greet. Someone has poisoned her children. Their son dies, but her daughter survives. Now I have read a few accounts again that have the same theme but are different. Apparently good ol Rudolf had raped one of the servants that led to this horrible ordeal.
As the months passed the situation only got worse for M'greet. The abuse continued as well as she became very ill with typhoid. Sometime after recovering and things did not get better at the home front, M'greet seeks a divorce and to her surprise it is given to her! Free at last! As she tries to find herself with this new found freedom, she is still in dire need of a job and an income. The next little while, she scrounges up enough money to make it back to Paris. She knows there has to be something there for her. Now apparently according to some accounts, after her countless efforts at modeling, one of her friends suggested maybe she should go into dancing. She loved to dance! I would assume that living in Java she picked up the exotic moves the women had. With perfecting these moves and integrating choreography she could actually make a living. This was something she knew she could do well. And voila, Mata Hari has arrived!
She worked hard at making her own costumes and perfecting her techniques and it all paid off, her first show was a sensation! All she had to work with were veils and her "metal bra" of which she had stuffed for more cleavage. She was well aware of her one attribute or lack of, that she had to embellish. It would hardly ever come off! It is also said that she wore a body stocking to match her swarthy skin color to cover her pubic area. So I do not consider her to be the so called inventor of the "strip tease." This started a while before Mata Hari was on the scene with the world's fair of 1893 and a woman called, "Little Egypt" from the Middle Eastern exhibition, and "La Danse du Ventre" and then comes "burlesque" and that is another story.
With her first performance being a success she was now well on her way to fame, fortune and demise! Now a gentleman by the name of Emile Guimet saw a star! He immediately offered our M'greet to dance for his company called "Musee Guimet" and so on March 13, 1905 she debuted in an exotic and sensual dance before the image of the Hindu fertility God, Siva.
Apparently the audience went beserk! She had become a star!And with this new found fame came the men from every neck of the woods to offer her anything and everything.
Men came from all over the eastern continent, many of them with military and political backgrounds. As amazing as this is, our M'greet was no spring chicken she was pushing into her 40's. As dancers became younger and more bolder than ever before she was turning into a has been, a highly paid courtesan. To keep up with her expenses, it is said that she was quite the expert when it came to sex, self conscious about her breasts, she would not take her breast plates off, saying that her ex-husband had bitten off her nipples. Whoa! The early years before the cold war, our M'greet had danced her way into the hearts and souls of men from all over the world.
To make a very long story shorter, it all boils down to this. Since Mata Hari's claim to stardom and a passport to anywhere, she was free to roam around these countries freely to different functions and embassy parties. The cold war was on in Europe,
France and Germany were in "check mate" mode, and everyone's mind is thinking security and spies, everyone is suspicious. (Unfortunately we today have a taste of that.) And our high profiled Mata Hari was no exception to the rule. France knew of her sexual encounters with highly ranking German officials and assumed the worst, she had to be a spy for the enemy. The French put a tail on her and had her watched around the the clock, but to no avail. Now the Germans were no better,they felt the same way France did, and wanted her out of the way.
Oh what a tangled web we weave!
What was said or done we will never know the whole story. The French claimed they had the evidence they needed to arrest this lady we call Mata Hari and charged her with espionnage. It is said that she revealed a German spy number of H21, something only a spy would know. Then she tries toget out of the situation by stating that she would spy on the Germans for the French, which only made matters worse.There was nothing left to be done, her fate was sealed, she was put on trial and sentenced to death by a firing squad.
Photo taken after her arrest
October 15, 1917, Mata Hari awoke to the people who had entered her cell to take her to her place of execution. She refused both the blindfold and the restraints, ever proving she was "Mata Hari" brave and proud!
As with just about every story I write, I find myself once again having to say, that there are several accounts written from people who say that they were there at the execution, this is the one I prefer.The 12 men firing squad shot her dead. It is said that after the shots rang out she mustered enough energy to smile and blow them a kiss. I had read a while back, that there were some people trying to get into the original files of this case. Last I heard France still refuses to dislodge any information. Maybe the next generation will have better luck. And to add to the madness, apparently there was no one to claim her body. It is said that her remains ended up in a sort of museum, and you guessed it, they have lost her embalmed head.....uhm? Click here for more info.
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Picture postcards from
First pic of Mata Hari from
Glitter Background and Title
Brownish background from
Gold Background from