Sunday, September 10, 2017

Mother, dancer, wife, spy: the real Mata Hari

As the centenary of Mata Hari’s execution approaches (15th October), there are signs of renewed interest in her story.

Here is an article by Julie Wheelwright in the Guardian:
Since her execution on the outskirts of Paris almost a century ago, the Dutch exotic dancer Margaretha “Gretha” MacLeod – universally known as Mata Hari – has been synonymous with female sexual betrayal. Convicted by the French of passing secrets to the enemy during the first world war, MacLeod’s prosecutors damned her as the “greatest woman spy of the century”, responsible for sending 20,000 Allied soldiers to their deaths. MacLeod’s status as both a foreigner and a divorcee, who was unrepentant about sleeping with officers of different nationalities, made her a perfect scapegoat in 1917.

Read more here:





Who Was Julie d’Aubigny - aka Mademoiselle Maupin?

From OZY comes this interesting post on 
How many duels do you think you could fight in a single day? A glimpse at one badass French swordswoman in action offers a possible answer: three. After attending a royal ball dressed as a man, and romancing and then kissing another woman on the dance floor, she was challenged by three men. She proceeded to take them on one by one, and to best all three.

“Most of the more astonishing events happened before she was 20.” While researching Goddess, [Kelly] Gardiner visited every known location of one of d’Aubigny’s most notorious exploits and pored over primary sources for information about her wily subject. What she found: a woman who flouted social convention, class, gender, marriage and the law.
Read more here @ Kelly Gardiner's website and also an interview here @ NPR
Read more about Julie d’Aubigny @ wikipedia

How the British treated 'hardcore' Mau Mau women

From the University of Cambridge:

New research on the treatment of 'hardcore' female Mau Mau prisoners by the British in the late 1950s sheds new light on how ideas about gender, deviancy and mental health shaped colonial practices of punishment.
The research, published in the Journal of Eastern African Studies, was conducted by Gates Cambridge Scholar Katherine Bruce-Lockhart and is the first study to make use of new material on a camp in Gitamayu used to hold "hardcore" female detainees.
Bruce-Lockhart is interested in the treatment of "hardcore" Mau Mau women in the final years of the Emergency Period, one that was marked by uncertainty, violence and an increasing reliance on ethno-psychiatry.
From 1954 to 1960, the British detained approximately 8,000 women under the Emergency Powers imposed to combat the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya. The majority of female detainees were held in Kamiti Detention Camp and its importance has been widely acknowledged by historians.

‘Merely Nuns’? Exploring Female Agency in Hospitaller Houses in the Middle Ages - Museum of the Order of St John

Blog post by Nancy Mavroudi, Museum Assistant, Museum of the Order of St John, on women in the Hospitallers:

If we were to generalise, we would probably say that Hospitaller women were primarily wealthy, noble women, from aristocratic or powerful families who, in many cases were even forced to join the Order by their families for spiritual benefits – the Order’s blessing for the family. However, although popular, such generalisations are not always accurate. To start with, there is evidence that many women joined voluntarily, simply because they so wanted. Joining a community of Sisters could bring about a change in their lives in which they themselves might have found comfort – especially given that, as discussed in further detail below, the Order could potentially be a more privileged and safe space to be.
Read more here at Museum of the Order of St John.

See also: Hospitaller Women in the Middle Ages - abstract @ Cambridge University Press