You may be a staunch fan of James Bond, but some women around the world, be it from CIA, ISI, RAW, MI6, Mossad, GRU, MSS etcetera, have proved to be far superior spies compared to men.
They have time and again proved to possess a combination of persuasiveness and sympathy with a ruthless streak.
Contrary to stereotypes, they are better in intelligence sourcing than their male counterparts. Such was the life and time of one of the world’s most famous female spies called Margaretha Geertruida Zelle Aka ‘Mata Hari’.
A mesmerizing beauty, who enticed audiences with her dancing skills, eroticism, and exoticism in the era of early 20th century; she was born in a wealthy Dutch family and had a lavish early childhood.
When she was 13, her father went bankrupt; her mother died after having divorced from her father, the trauma of which left her in dire straits.
Zelle, married to a Dutch army officer of Scottish descent, but her marriage was doomed from the beginning. After getting separated from her marital life, she began a life of travel, which quickly discarded her original identity.
In 1905, she moved to Paris with a new name Mata Hari, claiming to be an Indian origin woman, daughter of a Temple dancer. She immersed in the art of sacred Indian dance after her debut at the Oriental Studies Museum and achieved overnight fame.
After her huge success, she was feted by a number of aristocrats, high ranking military officers and powerful politicians of Paris. These liaisons compelled her to travel frequently across international borders.
During World War I, her movements and high ranking liaisons caused suspicion and she was arrested and interrogated by British, alleged of spying and passing vital information of French to the Germans under the code name ‘H21’.
After returning to Paris she was arrested by French, accused of being a double agent, causing the death of fifty thousand French soldiers. Post trial, she was declared guilty.
At the dawn on October 15, 1917, she was led out from the cell to face her death, but instead of being fearful, Mata Hari told an attendant Nun “I know how to die, so don’t be afraid sister”.
Hari refused to be blindfolded or tied and blew kisses to the priest and waved her hand at the onlookers as she was shot by twelve men firing squad.
Though her guilt has long been disputed, as one of the prosecutors after 30 years admitted that there wasn’t substantial evidence to flog a cat.
The Germans used Mata Hari as a decoy to fake out French intelligence. The French were looking for a convenient sacrificial lamb, but the story of Hari’s rise from struggling little Dutch girl to wife of a military officer to exotic dancer to courtesan to spy is quite charming and has become a legend that still piques curiosity.