Elizabeth Van Lew's Southern Lady, Yankee Spy

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Southern Lady, Yankee Spy is a riveting historical account of a Richmond-born aristocratic matriarch, Elizabeth Van Lew, who risked it all for her beloved country. Elizabeth R. Veron writes with the confidence of a true maestro, the fruits of a labor which undoubtedly included countless hours devoted to compiling the treasure trove of historical accuracy this novel rightfully boasts. Veron accounts with painstaking detail how Van Lew transformed then contemporary stereotypes of women into an Achilles Heel for the Confederacy through her crucial contributions as a Union spy. Southern Lady, Yankee Spy has a title which thoroughly resonates throughout the book, aptly surmising how Van Lew led a double life throughout the course of the war.…show more content…
During a time period where men went off to fight war and women remained behind to see to the house, several women challenged this notion, and arguably none had the impact which rivaled Van Lew’s. As aforementioned, in order to be a spy in the Confederate capital, it was necessary that Van Lew live two separate, but concurrent lives. She did all the things that were expected of Antebellum women; publically she displayed unrivaled compassion towards the Confederate casualties. The story could not be more different privately. Van Lew supplied financial assistances to hunted fugitives, including the one hundred and nine soldiers that escaped from Libby Prison during the chilled winter of 1864. Taking her espionage a step further, she even opened her home to both escaped Union soldiers and Confederate deserters. Her wartime contributions did not stop at aiding and abetting, however. She plotted as spymaster for Richmond’s extensive ring of sympathizers and loyalists. Her most important contribution was her reports of Confederate forces to Union commanders, which were extensively used during the 1864 Overland Campaign. Following the Burning of RIchmond, and Lee’s Surrender to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Van Lee continued to destroy gender barriers of the time frame. She was a pioneer while fighting for the education of blacks immediately following the war, during a time in which most women themselves were not allowed an education. Though she was shunned by most of white Richmond following the war, President Grant appointed her Postmaster of Richmond, a predominantly male post, in 1869. She would serve in that capacity until
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