One Little Orchid: Mata Hari: A Marginal Voice

by Sanusri Bhattacharya

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“Her father was a subject of the Netherlands, and her mother was a Japanese. He died when she was an infant, and in order to protect her from the dangers which beset a young girl of mixed blood in the East, her mother fled from Java with her when she was three years old, and entered Burma. There, to further protect her, she pledged her to celibacy, and placed her in a Buddhist temple to learn dancing. After a dance at a great Buddhist festival in Burma, when she was almost fourteen years old, she saw a British officer and fell in love with him. It was her first love affair. She managed to escape from the temple and joined him … Finally they married. Two children, a boy and a girl, were born of their union … It is certain that she did not love her husband … The climax came when a maid whom she had beaten and discharged caused one of her gardeners to poison her infant son … She took a revolver, and, walking into the garden where the man was working, shot him dead.”
[“Dutch Dancer Spy.” The Southland Times. New Zealand. November 14, 1917.]

“Parisians have become very suspicious of late, but the surprise was general, nevertheless, when they discovered that their exotic favorite, Mata Hari, the Hindoo dancer, was a German spy. At the age of 17 she married a German who had obtained Dutch nationality in order to mask his spying work. The marriage was rather in the nature of a formal business transaction, but this did not prevent the ex-German officer from brutally ill-treating his young wife, whom he wounded on one occasion by a pistol shot. Nevertheless, she entered into the spy system with zest, became duly registered and paid, amused and delighted Paris for some years with her audacious performances, became acquainted with various highly-paid officials and politicians and found means, it is said, to make known to the Germans some of the most important French plans in the first months of the war, and subsequently informed them accurately of the departure of transports.”
[“Combing Out Hun Spies in France.” The Times. London. February 21, 1918.]

These are examples of wartime propaganda against Mata Hari that had been making the rounds in contemporary print media, which continued even after her execution. Most of these conspicuous falsities had been carefully promulgated by France in order to use her as a scapegoat during the wartime crises. In this book the author has tackled the challenge to expose the malicious intentions of the French government and also to show how Mata Hari had fallen prey to the then misogynic European society.