A Frisian cultural centre in Leeuwarden has acquired 48 letters by and about the dancer and alleged spy Mata Hari, who was born Margaretha Zelle in the northern city.
The letters, and 14 previously unpublished photographs, were given to the Tresaor centre by family of Mata Hari’s ex husband and have now been turned into a book.
The centre describes the letters as a ‘spectacular find’ which cover the period ‘Margaretha Zelle changed from being a housewife into Mata Hari’.
The letters date from 1904 and 1905 and focus on the aftermath of her unhappy marriage with the 20-year-older soldier John MacLeod. Her ex is treating in ‘in a more than scandalous manner,’ she says in one of the letters.
After the divorce, Mata Hari went to Paris in an effort to find work and make ends meet. ‘In the meantime, I have sold my bike to people I know in the Netherlands so that I can survive for a month,’ she wrote.
She applied for jobs as a companion and as a model but refused to pose naked. The letters show ‘she is well aware that her life could end up moving in the wrong direction but she does her best to do the right thing and to be reunited with her daughter,’ the centre says. ‘Eventually she gave up and moved to Paris permanently.’
Mata Hari was shot by a firing squad as a spy in October 1917 just outside Paris. Whether or not she was a spy will be revealed next year, when court documents are made public 100 years after her death, broadcaster NOS said.