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Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy
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Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  84 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Northern sympathizer in the Confederate capital, daring spymaster, postwar politician: Elizabeth Van Lew was one of the most remarkable figures in American history, a woman who defied the conventions of the nineteenth-century South. In Southern Lady, Yankee Spy, historian Elizabeth Varon provides a gripping, richly researched account of the woman who led what one historian ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 24th 2005 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2003)
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Phil Ford
Finally! A book that does Ms. Van Lew justice. The only other stand alone book about her was called something like "Crazy Bet's Diary" and while it did just reprint her diary, and it provided some insight to who she was, it also added bits that made her appear just as a loon a lot of the time. This biography, however, is well thought out and written. One of the most famous people of the Civil War (or should be) is done justice in this thorough account of her life.
Beth Cato
A friend recommended this book to me a while back, and I'm so glad he did. It's an in-depth look at the life of Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew, but more than that, it provides insight to Richmond during the Civil War and what happened there during Reconstruction. Elizabeth not only funneled military data to the north, but she also worked hard for equality for blacks and women. For all three of these reasons, she was treated as a pariah in her beloved Richmond. Her enemies hounded her. The press des ...more
Despite a chapter or so devoted to battles and to politics, this is an excellent book on an outstanding woman. The Civil War was a time when some women began to deny male leadership and social pressures and began to develop their own political opinions. Women, for the first time were held accountable for their actions and were not excused due to gender or social class.
Van Lew ministered to Union prisoners in Richmond jails, hid escaped prisoners in her home and led her own spy ring. She used in
I got this book because I read the fictionalized account of the life of Elizabeth Van Lew in the book The Spymistress. I loved that book so much that after I finished it, I wanted to know how much of the fictional account was accurate. Since the author of the novel cited this book as one of her primary sources, I decided to read this non-fiction account. It was okay.

I found this very dense and challenging to read. Some non-fiction can be terrific, and very entertaining to read. This book wasn't
A great book about an unsung American hero!
An excellent addition to Civil War reading, Elizabeth Varon has not only documented the life of Elizabeth Van Lew, she has given us deep insight into the cultural drivers of the civil war, Richmond's experience of the war, the repression of Unionism in the South, the challenges of reconstruction, and the root of the willful embrace of the "glory of Confederacy."

Van Lew's heartwrenching moral dilemma - loving her country (which she always believed to be the Union of States), her state of Virginia
Wayland Smith
I found this a really interesting story, the moreso because it's true. An upper class woman in Confederate occupied Richmond risks her life, property, and reputation to get information to the Union forces.

I find it inspiring that she did all this simply because she believed it was right. It's a well researched book that has some great history. Strongly recommended to those interested in history, the Civil War, and/or strong female characters and real life heroes.
Dominique King
Read this after reading The Spymistress, which was based on Elizabeth Van Lew's real-life story. Interesting to see what happened after the Civil War for Van Lew (Chiaverini's book only went through the Fall of Richmond at the end of the Civil War).
Lisa Potocar
A thoroughly researched and enjoyable read about Elizabeth Van Lew, a member of the elite of Richmond, Virginia, where she was born, raised, and lived all of her life. She strongly opposed slavery and favored the preservation of the Union. As such, she organized an incredible underground network that, right under the noses of the Confederacy, labored to help Yankee prisoners to escape and provide intelligence to the United States' government that at times helped to thwart the Rebels. I highly re ...more
This book was VERY well researched and written with extreme detail. That is what made it difficult for me to get through. There is no doubt Ms. Varon took great care in bringing this book to life. The first half was more about the war than Elizabeth Van Lew. The second half was more interesting to this reader.
This is a fascinating, carefully-researched account of the life of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union agent in Richmond, Virginia during the Civil War. If I weren't such a shallow light-weight when it comes to reading non-fiction, I would have given it more stars! Don't get the wrong idea -- it's not a dry, academic history text. Miss Van Lew really came alive. I am very glad I read this book.
Jim Hale
This is an impeccably researched and very well written book about one of the lesser known stories of the Civil War. That's a shame, because this is high drama and it is so well done here by one of the finest scholars out there. EVL was a woman of tremendous courage, intelligence and faith. I hope that more Americans will learn about her sacrifices, which were large.
I thought this book was interesting, but not entertaining. I felt that the writing was bland, and at times, the book was boring. The story provides a lot of background information of other characters (in addition to Elizabeth Van Lew), who spied on the Confederate Army and provided information to the Union Army while living in Richmond, Virginia.
Aug 10, 2009 Judy is currently reading it
This is an interesting book about the time when Virginia cecedes from the Union. Elizabeth Van Lew is from a traditional, slave-holding, VA family, but her thoughtful, empathetic nature lead her to confront the issue of slavery and side with the Unionists.
Wilmina Davis

I really want to like this book, it sounds so interesting. Her story is, or should be, fascinating! But it is written more like a research paper than a story and I'm finding it very dry. At page 100 I'm giving up.
Awesome lady.
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Elizabeth Varon (PhD, Yale University) is a professor of history at Temple University. Her research and teaching interests include the Civil War and Reconstruction, History of Women and Gender, Southern History.

"Personal Statement I have sought in my work to integrate social history and women’s history with political and military history. My first book was on white women’s participat
More about Elizabeth R. Varon...
Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War We Mean to Be Counted: White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia Secession Winter: When the Union Fell Apart.

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