I’m avoiding the pandemic coverage. Once you understand what you can/should do, it seems needlessly depressing to continue to watch the coverage. But earlier today, I heard part of a radio interview with an epidemiologist, i.e., a person who studies disease. She said that most people in her field believe that there is a devastating pandemic about every 100 years and gave some frightening numbers that represent the worst case scenario.

She talked a little about the Spanish flu, and how the scale could be about the same with COVID-19. And it’s right on time: the Spanish Flu ravaged the earth from 1918-1920. It made me wonder about the parallels between then and now. I’d like to figure out a few categories (like socializing, working, etc.) and compare human behavior between then and now. There must be something we could reach back and seize to use today. Or some mistake that was made that we could examine and avoid.

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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.

Goodbye Gretha… Hello Mata Hari

 

Mata Hari’s daughter, Non

 

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.

Mata Hari, photo from vintag.es

 

 

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.

 

 

Next, Part III: Clandestine Operations

 

 

 

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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