Mata Hari (August 7, 1876 – October 15, 1917) was the stage name of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, a Dutch exotic dancer who was accused, convicted and executed as a spy during World War 1.
Mata Hari was born in Leeuwarden as a daughter to a Dutch businessman, while her mother was of Javanese descent. Around the turn of the twentieth century, after a failed attempt to become a teacher, a failed marriage, and two children, she moved to Paris. She posed as a princess from Java and became an exotic dancer, performing “Oriental-style” dances. Her stage name Mata Hari means “sun” or “eye of the dawn” in Malayan. She was also a courtesan who may have had affairs with many military officers and politicians.
In 1917 she was put on trial in France, accused of spying, as a double agent, for Germany and France and causing the deaths of thousands of soldiers in World War I. She was found guilty and executed by firing squad on . Rumor has it that during the execution, the squad members had to be blindfolded so as not to succumb to her charms. Another rumor claims she blew a kiss to her killers before the firing began.
Harlot, yes, but traitoress? Never! – attributed to Mata Hari, on trial