Episode 7

Published on:

3rd Mar 2020

Mata Hari: Performance Artist

“There is something I wish you to take into consideration. It is that MH and Madame Zelle Macleod are two completely different women... That which is permitted to Mata Hari - dancer - is certainly not permitted to Madame Zelle Macleod.” 

So wrote Mata Hari from prison, shortly before her execution by firing squad in October 1917. The formerly-feted ‘exotic dancer’ was, her prosecutor claimed, ‘the type of woman born to be a spy.’ She certainly met all the femme fatale touchpoints for a nation seeking a scapegoat. But was she a spy at all?

In this episode, Ash explores what happens when the license of peacetime clashes with the moralising dogma of war, the power and vulnerability of adhering to an alter ego, the Western fascination with ‘oriental’ dance, and almost inspires Sarah to launch a lesbian fete.


Craig, W.M. (2017). Mata Hari: Dancer, Courtesan, Spy. The History Press

Shipman, P. (2008). Femme Fatale: Love, Lies & The Unknown Life of Mata Hari. Harper Perennial

Wheelwright, J. (1992). The Fatal Lover: Mata Hari & The Myth of Women In Espionage. Collins & Brown.

Coulson, T. Maj. (1930). Mata Hari, Courtesan & Spy. Harper & Brothers

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About the Podcast

Demons and Dames
Demons & Dames is a tongue-in-cheek feminist history podcast. Ashley Mauritzen and Sarah Worley-Hill dive deep into the stories of notorious women who shaped history - by design or simply by being in the right (or wrong) time or place. We examine how they were viewed by their contemporaries, and how and why their stories have been interpreted, shaped and passed down. We also laugh. A lot.

About your hosts

Ashley Mauritzen

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Writer, thinker and former wild child, Ashley has a BA in English Literature from Oxford (apparently - she doesn't remember any of it) and an MA in Fashion Journalism. She does an uncanny Kate Bush impression, wears wigs on nights in, and asked for 10 metres of black velvet ribbon for Christmas when she was seven. By day, she's a commercial semiotician. It's a thing. Former alter egos include Oxford gossip column denizen 'Masher', queer comedy performance artist 'the Dreary Mademoiselle', cerebral burlesque star 'Curious Peach', and everyone's favourite Halloween mashup - 'Adam Antoinette.'

Sarah Worley-Hill

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Bibliophile, historian, and all round goof ball. Sarah has an MA Oxon from Oxford University in Ancient and Modern History, but has also taught maths at a boys' boarding school so considers herself an all-rounder. She would invite Alexander the Great, Queen Teuta of Illyria, and Wu Zetian to her ideal time-machine sponsored dinner party but would definitely need a translator. She loves her Shih Tzu, Calypso, very much and wants to get a French bulldog named Odysseus. She's terribly dyslexic and really really can't spell (or pronounce things). She has a mild tea obsession.