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Real Women Spies

Posted September 07, 2011 to photo album "Real Women Spies"

While most onscreen spies, from James Bond to Jason Bourne, are men, women, like the Rachel Singer in THE DEBT, are more than their equal. We remember the great role that real-life women spies have played in modern history.

Rachel Singer
Mata Hari
Denise Bloch
Mathilde Carré
Suzanne Spaak
Nancy Wake
Violette Szabo
Virginia Hall
Madeleine Damerment
Princess Stephanie Julianna von Hohenlohe
Krystyna Skarbek
Mata Hari

Mata Hari

Arguably the most famous female spy of all time, Mata Hari has left a historical record which is as mysterious and devious as she herself was in real life. Born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in the Netherlands, Mata Hari hardly seemed destined for fame. After growing up in a middle-class family, she married a man (whom she met through a newspaper advertisement) who proved to be a violent alcoholic. After divorcing him, she moved to Paris in 1905, beginning a career (under the stage name Mata Hari) as a circus performer and exotic dancer. Within a decade, she had become notorious as an erotic fixation among the rich and famous. When World War I broke out, she moved freely through Europe, since the Netherlands remained politically neutral. But the British and French suspected of her being a German agent, and on February 3, 1917, Mata Hari was arrested at her hotel in Paris. Although authorities could never find any definitive evidence against her, her reputation condemned her. She wrote, “My international connections are due of my work as a dancer, nothing else.” Nevertheless, the charges stuck and she was executed at the age of 41 on October 15, 1917. After her execution, her legend grew, as did the rumors and stories surrounding her life.