Who Was the Mata Hari?

International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C., October 17, 2013

International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C., October 17, 2013


“Margaretha Geertruida “M’greet” Zelle MacLeod (7 August 1876 – 15 October 1917), better known by the stage name Mata Hari, was a Dutch exotic dancer, courtesan (emphasis mine!), and convicted spy who was executed by firing squad in France under charges of espionage for Germany during World War I.” She apparently had arm around a lot of husbands in order to elicit secret information for her espionage business!  (Info per the ever-helpful Wikipedia)


Update, October 2013: From The Times of India. “World War I spy Mata Hari’s birthplace gutted by fire” in the Netherlands.  (Source:  The Times of India)

Hidden Reality and the FDR Memorial

“Designers [of the FDR Memorial] decided against plans to have FDR shown in a wheelchair. Instead, the statue depicts the president in a chair with a cloak obscuring the chair, showing him as he appeared to the public during his life. Roosevelt’s reliance on a wheelchair was not publicized during his life, as there was a stigma of weakness and instability associated with any disability.” Wikipedia (Neither were other issues published that were overlooked by the press, specifically his relationship with Lucy Mercer.)


October 17, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

fdr-bwThe National Organization on Disability, headed by the efforts of Alan Reich, raised US$1.65 million over two years to fund the addition of another statue that clearly showed the president in a wheelchair. In January 2001, the additional statue was placed near the memorial entrance showing FDR seated in a wheelchair much like the rare photograph of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his wheelchair.


Source: chrisreevehomepage.com


The David and the Prisoners, Sculptor, Michelangelo., 1501-1504

The David and the Prisoners, Sculptor, Michelangelo, 1501-1504, Florence, Italy


Michelangelo believed that it was his job to release what was trapped inside the stone. “I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” Clearly he did that with The David. The 4 unfinished Prisoners which line the walls before the tourist reaches the David, show his work in process. Years ago, waiting to see the David, I turned the corner and almost ran ran into the larger than life first Prisoner. Instantly, I burst into tears. It felt like I was watching a man in the process of fighting for his life and I could sense the power of his desperation to be free.

Martin Luther King Memorial, Sculptor, Master Lei Yixin

Martin Luther King Memorial, Sculptor, Master Lei Yixin, October 2013, Washington, D.C.

Michelangelo also said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” As I gazed at the magnificent but nearly finished image of Martin Luther King emerging from the stone, I also wept–but for a different  reason.  Dr. King didn’t seem trapped but rather completely formed and with a passion and power that surges out of his image.


Two individuals emerging from solid blocks of stone:  Michelangelo’s Prisoner in agony and trapped, desperate to get out– Martin Luther King, on the other hand, no longer trapped exploding with determination to  stand for what he believes in. It is certain that he will never give up, in spite of the formidable forces trying to hold him back. Clearly, he has unfinished business.

Two powerful images from centuries apart. I have never cried at the sight of any other statue, including The David. Thank you to Master Lei Yixin and his partners for creating this stunning, unforgettable masterpiece, called so appropriately “The Stone of Hope.”

“WHAT’S A DAGNY?” (A Birthday Tribute to My Mother)

When I introduced my mother to Ernie, a severely abused six-year old boy who resided in a treatment center where I was CEO, I told him her name was “Dagny.” (My mother’s parents were born in Norway where “Dagny” is a fairly common name.)

“Hi, Ernie,” she said. Ernie looked totally confused. “What’s a ‘dagny’?” he asked.

She laughed and said, “ I’m a Dagny. That’s my name.”

“Is that like a dingbat?” he asked with a totally serious expression.

“Well, now that I think about it,” she said, “that’s close,” trying to stifle a grin. She knelt down–and the child fell into her welcoming arms.

Today, April 8, 2012, Dagny would have celebrated her 100th birthday. It would have suited her quiet but powerful spirituality just fine that it is also Easter Sunday.

My mother was born one century ago in 1912, the same day as the Norwegian Olympic skater, Sonja Henie, and the same year the Titanic sunk. She always joked that it was an omen and that it left her somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea.

There certainly wasn’t much devil in Dagny. She was the kindest, most caring human being on the planet. She did have a devilish sense of humor but never with a mean spirit. As for the deep blue sea, I learned that wasn’t much a part of her either. I recall being with her in a YWCA swimming pool when I was about five years old. Initially anxious, I quickly felt safe and excited about swimming in Dagny’s outstretched arms. Later I pictured that scene like being with Esther Williams, the synchronized swimming movie star. (Of course, I didn’t realize until I was grown that Dagny was standing in 3 feet of water. Not until I was an adult did I learn that she was terrified of any water that was over 3 feet!)

So who was Dagny? I’m not sure I know. Does anyone ever really know his or her parents?  Probably not, but last year when I wrote a series of remembrances about Dagny on Facebook, the response from my readers, colleagues and friends who knew her was enthusiastic and touching. In fact, a cousin supplied information that corrected my knowledge about my perceptions of our grandmother! The truth is that what we know about our parents is an intriguing mixture of fact, fantasy, distortion, perception and Disneyland, so I’m not exactly certain who she was. I’m not even sure that she knew.