Elizabeth Van Lew

Elizabeth Van Lew was considered one of the Civil War's most successful spies.


If Northerners had set out before the war to plant a spy in the heart of the Old South, they could not have come up with a better one than Elizabeth Van Lew.

Born in Richmond in 1818, she was the daughter of a transplanted hardware merchant who prospered in Virginia. She attended a Quaker school in Philadelphia, her mother's hometown, and returned a dedicated abolitionist to a slave-owning family. Following her father's death in 1843, she freed the slaves.

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