The Dastardly Past: Mata Hari.
On August 7, 1876, a baby girl called Margaretha Geertruida Zelle entered the world in the Netherlands. Forty years later she would be executed as a German spy in France under the name of Mata Hari. The details of her life read like something from the tabloids including, as they did, an affluent childhood, a bankrupt father, a wicked step-mother, a mail-order husband who turned alcoholic and abusive, a sojurn in the Dutch East Indies, bouts with syphilis that would claim the lives of her two children, work with a dance troupe, a circus, and as an artist’s model, and much more. Openly promiscuous, she wound up an exotic dancer and “courtesan,” who mingled in high society and slept with Europe’s important politicians and high-ranking military officers. The ease and frequency with which she crossed national borders made her an ideal candidate for espionage in World War I. Whether Mata Hari actually passed along information or was merely set up by those wanting to rid themselves of her, her name has become synonymous with femmes fatale since her death by firing squad in 1917.