Wednesday, 7 August 2013
"I am a woman who enjoys herself very much; sometimes I lose, sometimes I win."
"I took the train to Paris without money and without clothes. There, as a last resort and thanks to my female charms, I was able to survive. That I slept with other men is true; that I posed for sculptures is true; that I danced in the opera at Monte Carlo is true. It would be too far beneath me and too cowardly to defend myself against such actions I have taken."
"Harlot? Yes. Traitoress? Never!"
Mata Hari was born Gertrud Margarete Zelle in the Netherlands on this day in 1876. Destitute after the breakdown of her marriage to a drunken Dutch colonial military man, she gained fame, fortune and notoriety as a dancer in Paris. Her exotic and provocative nude routines brought her fame all over Europe.
She also became a celebrated courtesan, and her lovers included military and political figures from France and Germany. This ultimately led to her being charged and convicted as a spy during the Great War, although the Germans had dismissed her as an ineffective agent.
In October 1917, she was executed by firing squad for spying for Germany, but her legend lives on - on celluloid and in print - as the most notable femme fatale of the 20th century.
Mata Hari (7th August 1876 - 15th October 1917)