In 1905, Gretha began exotic dancing. It inspired her and triggered a radical reinvention of herself.
In a flash, Margaretha Geertruida Zelle MacLeod was gone forever, and in her place was a Javanese princess named Mata Hari. The name Mata Hari gave herself is Malaysian, and translates to “Eye of the Sun”. And somehow, in less than a year, the tragic Gretha disappeared, replaced by the dazzling Mata Hari.
Her divorce from MacLeod was finalized in 1906. Mata Hari was unemotional. Her ex-husband was a mere relic of a past life.
The only thing she could not let go of was her longing to see her small daughter, Non. She stayed in contact with MacLeod, occasionally pleading with him to see the child, but he never consented.
As her fame grew, photographers were eager to photograph Mata Hari. As a subject, she offered continual variety. It was part of her charm that she could change her appearance so easily with makeup, clothing, facial expressions, and demeanor. She could look matronly and Victorian one day, and classically beautiful or seductive on the next.
Paris was enthralled by her. Her fame as a dancer and a courtesan spread across Europe, and audiences in Vienna, Milan, and Berlin clamored to see her. She had numerous lovers. Throughout the 1900s and into the early 1910s, Mata Hari’s fame grew.
It was only with the advent of the Great War that Destiny again intervened in the life of Mata Hari.
For over 100 years, the name Mata Hari has been synonymous with glamour and mystery. Her life ended when she was 41 years old, but those years were crowded with adventure, tragedy, and intrigue.
The woman who would one day become famous all over the world was born into ordinary circumstances in August 1876, in Holland. She was named Margaretha Geertruida Zelle to parents in relatively prosperous circumstances.
When she was old enough, she attended a prestigious teacher’s college in Leiden. At age 16, she had an affair with the principal of the school, but little is known about that relationship. It didn’t appear to have a profound impact on Gretha, apart from giving her some insight into men.
Two years later, Gretha had forgotten the principal. She met her husband, Capt. Rudolph MacLeod, when she responded to a Lonely Hearts advertisement. When they married, she was 18 and he was 38.
Gretha and her new husband did not seem particularly well-suited.
Despite the acrimony in their marriage, Gretha gave birth to a son they named Norman, when she was 21. The MacLeods set sail shortly afterwards for the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia), where they lived in military housing in Java and Sumatra. In 1898, Gretha had another child, a daughter she named Louise Jeanne. The child was nicknamed Non.
Financially speaking, the Gretha’s family was doing well. They had enough money to employ servants. Things were not going well in their marriage, though. MacLeod was known for his heavy drinking and philandering. Gretha was also carrying on with other men. It became monotonous, as well as sordid. They accused each other of infidelity.
The continual bickering between the MacLeods came to a temporary standstill when, without warning, both of their children fell severely ill in 1900. A nanny was suspected of poisoning the children. Norman died soon after, before his third birthday. Non, no less ill than her brother, managed to pull through.
Captain MacLeod was honorably discharged from the army in 1902, and the family departed the Dutch Indies. However, the damage the MacLeod marriage sustained couldn’t be repaired. The couple separated soon after they returned to Holland. Gretha accused MacLeod of cruelty, attacking her with a knife, and giving her syphilis. Many years later, she wrote bitterly, “My own husband has given me a distaste for matters sexual such as I cannot forget.”
Gretha was initially granted custody of Non. However, MacLeod was unwilling to pay child support, and Gretha- unable to make ends meet- was forced to surrender custody of their daughter to MacLeod.
Now alone, Gretha fled to Paris in 1903. Recently discovered letters showed she missed her daughter a great deal and hoped to find enough work to enable her to support herself and Non. She accepted all types of work: tutoring German, giving piano lessons, and acting. She also worked as an artist’s model and used her first stage name, Lady MacLeod. Even with continual work, she couldn’t make enough money to meet her own needs, let alone bear the expense of raising a child.
Gretha spiraled into a severe depression and at times she contemplated suicide. By 1904, she was desperate. To earn enough to survive, she turned to prostitution, or as she called it “the road to perdition”. It seemed as though she was hurtling into an abyss from which she would never emerge.
Then, with startling rapidity, everything changed.
Anarchy is a school of thought that advocates stateless societies based on voluntary associations. There are lots of sub-types of anarchism. In fact, you could almost define it by its differences as much as its similarities. A partial list includes Anarcho-Feminism, Anarcho-Collectivism, Anarcho-Communism, Anarcho-Pacifist, Green Anarchism, Individualist Anarchism, and Social Anarchism. The ideology varies widely, with some forms of anarchism advocating violent revolution, some advocating pacifism, and still others advocating reform. The one thing all forms have in common is an antipathy toward the state.
The men and women in this post were arrested and in some cases, executed, by the authorities, so it’s safe to assume most of them were on the more revolutionary side.
Anarchism was rampant in the United States, France, Russia, and Italy at the turn of the century. I recently researched Paterson, New Jersey, and learned the city was a hotbed of anarchism around 1900. Possibly it was the most well-known anarchist centers in the United States at the time.
I noticed when I read about Paterson that many of the anarchists were very young. When I researched this post, I was surprised that the majority of the anarchists I could find info about were very young – and the men were often quite attractive! It’s an interesting commonality for people who are part of a political school of thought.
François Claudius Koenigstein, known as Ravachol, was a French anarchist. He was guillotined on July 11, 1892, after being twice found guilty of complicity in bombings. The mugshot of him was taken by Alphonse Bertillon, the father of the modern mug shot.
Emma Goldman is one of the most famous and easily recognizable anarchists. This mugshot, taken in 1893, was the first I could find of hers – though it wasn’t the last! Goldman was born in 1869 in Lithuania. She grew up in Eastern Europe and Russia, and it was in St. Petersburg that she became a radical.
In 1885 she immigrated to the US. She worked in textile factories in New York and Connecticut where anarchism was increasingly popular. This mugshot was taken in New York City in 1893 for inciting a riot when amongst a group of unemployed workers.
Jeanne Malpet was 51 years old when she was arrested in Paris in 1894. She was booked as an anarchist. I couldn’t find any additional info on Jeanne.
Émile Henry was a 22-year-old French anarchist, who detonated a bomb at the Café Terminus in the Parisian Gare Saint-Lazare February 1894. The attack killed one person and wounding twenty. Henry was arrested and his mug shot was taken. He was executed soon after by French authorities.
Sante Geronimo Caserio was a 21-year-old Italian anarchist who murdered Marie François Sadi Carnot, the President of the French Third Republic. Caserio was born in Motta Visconti, Lombardy. In June 1894, he fatally stabbed President Carnot after a banquet, with speculation that he killed Carnot to avenge Émile Henry.
Annette Soubrier was 28 years old, when she was arrested in Paris, as an anarchist. I don’t have additional info about Annette.
Clotilde Adnet was just 19 in 1895 when Paris police arrested her for being an anarchist. I don’t have additional info about Clotilde.
Gaetano Bresci was an Italian immigrant, who lived and worked in Paterson, New Jersey. In 1900, he abruptly called in his debts and left town. His friends were resentful toward him until they heard that he had gone back to Italy and assassinated King Umberto in July of 1900. Bresci was immediately captured, and put on trial. He sentence called for him to be exiled to the island prison of Santo Stefano. He received a life sentence and wrote despairing letters to his wife. His sentence ended far earlier than anyone thought. He was found dead in his cell in May of 1901, under circumstances that were described as mysterious.
Miss Goldman, again.
Benito Mussolini started his life of crime early, when he stabbed a classmate at the age of 10. His philosophy continually “evolved” throughout his lifetime. In 1903, he was arrested for his advocacy of a violent strike. At the time, he was studying anarchists philosophers. Mussolini’s evolution moved through socialism, fascism, and, of course, he later evolved into a dictator.
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian immigrants and anarchists who were convicted of murdering a guard and a paymaster during an armed robbery of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in April of 1920. The case is still called out as an example of the power of establishment politicians over the poor and politically troublesome populace.
Severino Di Giovanni was born in Italy in 1901, and executed in Argentina in 1931. Di Giovanni became famous for the campaign of violence he waged in support of Sacco and Vanzetti. On 16 May 1926, several hours after Sacco and Vanzetti’s death sentence was announced, Di Giovanni bombed the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires, destroying the front of the building.
Jean Quarré was a militant anarcho-communist who was born in Paris in 1919. He was killed by firing squad in 1942 in Paris, two months after he was arrested by French authorities.
Anarchism is still in existence today, though it has a lower profile than it once did.