The incredible life of Mata Hari, the beautiful World War I-era dancer and spy, is going to be the subject of an upcoming series on Old Spirituals.

In her day, Mata Hari inspired early film stars. Since then, countless artists, actresses, and models have tried to recreate the mystique that was effortless for the Dutch dancer. She was known for many things, including her elaborate costumes and headdresses.

Countless intriguing figures peopled the 20th century, but Mata Hari still fascinates us over 100 years after her death. These photographs may give you some idea of why!




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An impertinent dignitary once suggested to President Theodore Roosevelt that he control his daughter. “I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice,” TR replied frankly. “I cannot possibly do both.”

Alice Roosevelt, the eldest child of Theodore Roosevelt, was a force of nature. She was a rebellious child, who turned into a rebellious teenager, who became a rebellious woman. Alice lived nearly a full century (1884-1980) and she was a presence in Washington, D.C. Politicians called her “the other Washington monument”, and there was something to it. Alice went to the White House during every administration after her father’s. A visit from her conferred some sort of extra legitimacy upon any politician. She was a reminder of a grander time, before World Wars, and the Great Depression.

And, she was fun. When she was a young woman and her father was the president, she carried her pet garter snake (named after her aunt) in her purse to frighten unsuspecting visitors. She smoked cigarettes and was spotted driving on occasion. Later, her acerbic wit was famous in D.C. One of her favorite sayings, which she had embroidered on a pillow for her sitting room, was:

Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s signature sentiment

Alice was unpredictable in most ways, except one: she was always on the cutting edge of fashion.

Here are a few pictures of her life through the years:

Johnston, Frances Benjamin. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, ca. 1890.


Alice (center) with her father and stepmother, Edith, in 1900 at Cambridge. 

Alice frequently rebelled against her father and step-mother. Her relationship with Edith, who never overcame her bitterness about Theodore’s first marriage, was often rocky.

Mrs. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, full-length portrait, facing left; wearing ball gown ca. 1902
Alice in January 1902, not long after Theodore Roosevelt became the president



Johnston, Frances Benjamin. Mrs. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, three-quarter length portrait, standing with right hand on hip, wearing coat and hat ca. 1902
Alice in 1904, at the White House
Alice on horseback, 1905

Alice’s wedding to Rep. Nicholas Longworth in 1906 was the event of the season. The press was fascinated with the details and “Princess Alice” photography was ubiquitous in the early months of 1906.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, three-quarter length portrait, wearing hat and muff, standing at window, facing front ca. 1906. Feb. 8.
Johnston, Frances Benjamin. Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

On the evening of the wedding, just before Alice and her new husband left, Edith Roosevelt looked at her step-daughter and said,  “I want you to know that I’m glad to see you go. You’ve never been anything but trouble.”

Alice, however, reflected later in life that she enjoyed her step-mother very much.

Alice (right) spotted leaving a Chicago hospital in 1912 after visiting her father, after a would-be assassin shot the former president.

Read about Theodore Roosevelt’s near-assassination here.


Alice Roosevelt Longworth in 1915
Alice Roosevelt Longworth, in December 1921 – she favored this style of hat for the rest of her life
Alice, on her 43rd birthday, with 2-year-old Paulina, her only child

It was rumored – and never denied by Alice – that Longworth was not Paulina’s father. The Longworths’ marriage was at times contentious, and neither troubled to hide their philandering much from one another.

Alice with her half-brother, Theodore, Jr., in 1932


87-year-old Alice, with her granddaughter, Joanna Sturm, being escorted into Tricia Nixon’s wedding in 1971

At the turn of the century, the French artist Albert Matignon (1860-1937) became fascinated with opium.

Morphine (1905)

Matignon became somewhat well-known after painting Morphine in 1905. He was one of only a few artists who were bold enough to delve into drug and alcohol-related themes.

Two women passed out in an alcove at an opium den

By 1911, he had seen the seedier side of opiates. That year he exhibited a painting of a ghostly woman smoking in an opium den and called it le vampire de l’opium. The painting captures a young woman, in the final stages of physical and mental decay, still clinging to the opium pipe that was the source of all her troubles.

Le vampire de l’opium (1911)

Joyeux Halloween!