mata hari (indonesian for ‘sun’: ‘eye of the day’), was the stage name of margaretha geertruida zelle (7 august 1876: the netherlands ~ 15 october 1917: france). she moved to paris in 1903 and by 1905 began to win fame as an exotic dancer. her style and free-willed attitude made her very popular.
she was a courtesan to many high-ranking allied military officers during this time. on one occasion, when interviewed by british intelligence officers, she admitted to working as an agent for french military intelligence, although the latter would not confirm her story.
on 13 february 1917, mata hari was arrested in her room at the hotel plaza athénée in
paris, accused of spying for germany. she was found guilty and was executed by firing
squad on 15 october 1917.
in 1985, biographer russell warren howe convinced the french minister of national
defense to open mata hari’s file; it was revealed she was innocent of espionage