British and Japanese attempt to recruit Marguerite

Marguerite Harrison said she traveled to Asia to gather material for her lectures and articles for Cosmopolitan magazine. But the reports she filed with the U.S. Army and State Department offer evidence that she was again on an intelligence mission. And this time she might have indeed played the role of Mata Hari luring unsuspecting lovers into her trap.

While in Japan Marguerite appears to have had an affair with Maj. Basil Winder, an employee of the British weapons maker Vickers Ltd. He told her the that British intended to use the Japanese as middlemen in Siberia to establish trade with Soviet Russia, which England had yet to formally recognize.  

Learning of the British plan, Marguerite sent a report to American military attaché, Lt. Col. Charles Burnett. Her original document has not been found, but in the cover letter sent to Washington with the report, Burnett wrote that Marguerite gathered the information from Winder, but asked that her name not be attached to the document. Burnett said Winder “fell head over heels in love with her and while in that state gave up the information contained in that report.” 

Burnett went on to say that Winder also offered Marguerite a position with Vickers Secret Service, presumably working in industrial espionage. Burnett said he advised her to take the job because “I think it would be well for us to know about such ambitious plans and that would seem the best way to find out.”  

Vickers wasn’t the only agency interested in employing Marguerite’s services. Burnett also said that the Japanese Foreign Office had asked her to send reports on the economic and political situation when she traveled through Siberia.  No evidence exists that Marguerite ever worked for Vickers or the Japanese, but the offers testify to the esteem with which powerful men held for her and valued her services.

No wonder Marguerite expressed admiration for the Japanese geisha.

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