My work in this collection embraces the darker side of Mata Hari’s life as much as her gifts, and each uniquely handcrafted piece features elements representative of the challenges she faced as well as the light that she brought into the world. For example, the 1917 choker features bullet holes symbolic of her execution by firing squad juxtaposed to crystals used in the Courage earrings highlighting her glamorous lifestyle and joie de vivre. Lover her or hate her, Mata Hari is a woman who created her persona and for this reason, her story is inspirational. For example, the 1917 choker features bullet holes symbolic of her execution by firing squad juxtaposed to crystals used in the Courage earrings highlighting her glamorous lifestyle and joie de vivre.
Who Was Mata Hari?
Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod, who was most commonly referred to by her stage name of Mata Hari, was a Dutch exotic dancer. During World War I, she was convicted of being a spy for the Germans. Following this, she was executed by a French firing squad just outside of Paris, accused of espionage even though she claimed her innocence till the very end “Remember that all my life as a woman, I have lived as Mata Hari, that I think and act as such, that I have lost all notion of travel, distances, dangers, nothing exists for me "I have encountered in this world riff-raff and good people. I lose. I win. I defend myself when I am attacked. I take when someone has taken from me. But I beg you to believe me; I have never done an act of espionage against France. Never. Never." Mata Hari
How the Legacy of Mata Hari Can Inspire Your Life
Mata Hari is the inspiration for the Last Dance collection on our site, and she is someone that you can draw upon to empower yourself to follow your dreams. No matter what happened in Mata Hari’s life, she always followed her path no matter the outcome. Her persona was one that she created for herself, and it was in line with what she expected of herself. While your life may be very different from hers, there is still so much to take from her story. It can be hard to follow the path we originally set for ourselves, but Mata Hari is a great example of the inner strength that’s needed to succeed in achieving these goals.
Mata Hari was immediately a huge success early on in her career, offering a dance for her audiences that had never been seen before and in the traditional sense considered illegal at the time as undressing was part of her show. However, Mata Hari had marketed the dance in such a way that it was considered a ritual dance and therefore was accepted by authorities. She sidestepped the stereotypes of society and followed her vision to achieve the life she wanted, which she did. Even over 100 years after her death, you can draw inspiration from her strength and wisdom in the creation of her own persona and legacy.
Mata Hari’s Early Life
To understand more about Mata Hari, you need to head back in time to learn about her early life and upbringing. Born on 7 August 1876 in Leeuwarden, she was the oldest of four children, with three younger brothers to follow. She lived a lavish life earlier on in her childhood before her father became bankrupt in 1889. Her mother passed away two years later, and she was soon sent to live with her godfather.
From a very young age, Mata Hari knew that her sexuality was one of her strengths and passions, which empowered her throughout her life. By the mid-1890s, she responded to a newspaper ad for a bride for a military captain, Rudolf MacLeod. With a 21-year age difference, they married when Mata Hari was just about to turn 19 years old. As a married woman she lived in Java current day Indonesia where she was introduced to Javanese ritual dances which she later revised and performed as Mata Hari. Once their marriage fell apart, she moved to Paris, where as a divorcee you were frowned upon. It was difficult for her to find ways to support herself and that is when she created the persona of Mata Hari and began her performances. She also became the mistress of important diplomats and high-ranking officers.
Working as An Exotic Dancer in Paris
With Mata Hari’s exotic look and her famous empowering temple dance, she launched into the social scene as a dancer in Paris in 1905. Every moment was hers to seize. Mata Hari pretended to be a Javanese princess who performed sacred Indian dances, with veils that she would strategically drop from her body. This is the time in which her stage name was introduced, which translates to the eye of the day in Indonesian. Over the years, she had some very memorable performances, which still go down in history books today. Many of the pieces in the Last Dance collection are made with up-cycled vintage chandelier crystals which we used to commemorate this lavish life of Mata Haru as the toast of Europe.
After succeeding in Paris, she continued to move around to other cities. Reporters soon latched on to her beauty and art form, which captivated everyone in Europe like no other act they had seen before. Sadly, within a few years, the height of her popularity began to decline, as younger dancers were taking over her bookings. To increase her earnings, Mata Hari became the mistress of men in the military and government. She had no rules when it came to those she spent time with, including German officers in the lead-up to World War I. Her freedom of movement as a citizen of Holland offered her great success during this time, and she soon started to attract attention from both the Germans and French. Mata Hari was put under surveillance by both of these countries, which led to the unfortunate events that would follow.
Was Mata Hari a Spy for France?
As Mata Hari was nearing the age of 40, she fell in love with a young Russian Captain, Vladimir de Masloff. An injury rendered him blind in one eye, and so Mata Hari accepted an assignment to spy for France in turn for payment that she at the time needed. Mata Hari stated later on that she hoped to use her connections to get her way into the German high command, where she could hand their secrets over to the French. However, a German attaché named her a German spy in communications with Berlin, which the French then intercepted. There is mixed information at this point about whether she was set up, while others believed she was a German double agent. When the documents of her trial were released to the public in 2014 it also shows that she admitted to receiving money but released there was no evidence of her releasing information to either government.
Mata Hari was arrested in Paris on February 13, 1917, where she was sent to the Prison Saint-Lazare. During interrogations with Captain Pierre Bouchardon, is when she admitted to being paid once to gather intelligence by a German diplomat, however, she insisted she never went through with the work and always remained on the French side. Her passion for love and pleasure was a huge driver in her work, which is what she shared during the interrogations. Sadly, spies or alleged spies such as Mata Hari were a common scapegoat when the Allies were struggling to beat the German advances. The evidence against her was constructed in a way that made it almost impossible for her to escape the accusations.
Individuals believed that she was born to be a spy because a German officer had once paid her for sexual favors. Still, throughout all of this time, we saw Mata Hari remain strong and empowered by her past, never faltering in the face of what was to come. Mata Hari was a woman with no sexual inhibitions which made her a perfect scapegoat as her sexuality was easily used to smear her image and make her look like someone who would want to harm her country of residence. Here is another quote that sums up Mata Hari's empowering stand on her sense of self. “I am a woman who enjoys herself very much; sometimes I lose, sometimes I win.” Mata Hari
Mata Hari’s Death and Legacy
On October 15, 1917, Mata Hari was executed by the firing squad. On this day, she opted to wear a blue coat with a tri-corner hat which was her best clothing while incarcerated, escorted by a minister and two nuns as she arrived at the site, refused a blindfold, and blew a kiss to the firing squad before being killed on the spot by multiple gunshots. With an incredible life behind her, she remained empowered by her beliefs and unique character until the very end. Mata Hari is a woman who has left an incredible legacy behind her. You no doubt can find strength and determination in her story, which you can draw upon during any challenges you face in the future.
As you can see, the story of Mata Hari is one that still has many unanswered questions as with her persona the truth of her story is also veiled in mystery. While we may never truly know some of the answers about what took place during her life, we hope you can feel empowered to step into your light as Mata Hari did in the past. She is a true symbol of strength in personality and truly knowing who she is and what she stands for. Being true to who we are is an empowering lesson we can take from her story. We encourage you to take a look through our jewelry collection to find a piece to empower you to be true to your calling and desires. She followed her path no matter the outcome, and that’s something you can strive to do in your journey.