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Mata Hari, first world war spy.
Arts & Culture Series: Research Spotlight

Lecturer to give talk on research into WWI spy Mata Hari

Dr Julie Wheelwright will explore Mata Hari’s life in a National Army Museum lecture

by Ed Grover (Senior Communications Officer)

Dr Julie WheelwrightA creative writing lecturer from City will discuss her research into the First World War spy Mata Hari in a talk at the National Army Museum.

Dr Julie Wheelwright will explore the life of Mata Hari – a Dutch women executed for espionage by the French in 1917 – at the event on Monday 20th February 2017.

The author, who is Programme Director of the Creative Writing (Non-Fiction) MA, will unpick myths surrounding Mata Hari and discuss why she came to be portrayed as an immoral women who traded sex for classified intelligence.

Dr Wheelwright has been researching Mata Hari (the stage name of Margaretha Zelle) and the role of women in military intelligence for more than 25 years, first writing about the exotic dancer and courtesan in the 1992 biography The Fatal Lover: Mata Hari and the Myth of Women in Espionage.

She said: “Mata Hari is an iconic figure of the twentieth century and remains synonymous with female sexual betrayal. This is based on a myth about her activities as a spy and a need to denigrate women who appear as sexually autonomous.

“The recently published letters from her life before she became famous also reveal her poignant attempts to keep her daughter and her limited choices. Even a century after her execution, she continues to fascinate us.”

Most recently, Dr Wheelwright published a chapter in the book Languages and the First World War: Representation and Memory, which analysed Mata Hari’s story and examined post-war narratives about women using erotic powers to extract information from men.

As described in an article for the Guardian, Dr Wheelwright believes Mata Hari has not been accurately portrayed and was used as a scapegoat by France when it faced a difficult period during the First World War.

The free National Army Museum talk, called Revamping the Vamp: Mata Hari Myths and Realities, will take place from 12.30pm at the Royal Marsden Education and Conference Centre.

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