Mata Hari mä´tə hä´rē [key], 1876–1917, Dutch dancer and spy during World War I. Her real name was Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. She married (1895–1906) the Dutch captain Rudolph MacLeod, lived for a time in the Dutch East Indies, and became after their separation an exotic dancer in Paris, soon adopting the name Mata Hari. She was later a courtesan who had military officers among her many lovers. During World War I she was apparently recruited as a spy by both Germany and France. In 1917 she was arrested, convicted, and executed by the French for betraying military secrets, though it is unclear exactly what information she gave the Germans (she denied providing them with any useful intelligence).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Benelux History: Biographies