Petticoats, Patriotism & Perfidy: Female Spies during the Civil War

Elizabeth Van Lew built and ran an extensive spy operation during the Civil War. Learn more about female Civil War spies on Wednesday, March 8, at Mentor Public Library.

Elizabeth Van Lew built and ran an extensive spy operation during the Civil War. Learn more about female Civil War spies on Wednesday, March 8, at Mentor Public Library.

When we discuss the Civil War, we are often discussing men—male generals, male soldiers, even male presidents.

If a woman enters the conversation, it is typically either Harriet Tubman or Clara Barton. Both are spectacular and important people. However, there were several other women who risked life and liberty during the Civil War that often go unrecognized.

Both the Union and Confederacy employed several female spies to garner information from behind the front lines—women like Elizabeth Van Lew, an abolitionist who built and ran an extensive spy for the Union while living in Richmond, VA. There was also Sarah Emma Edmonds, a master of disguise who passed herself off as “Franklin Thompson” so she could serve in the Union.

The Confederacy also used several female spies like Belle Boyd, who garnered such nicknames as the Siren of Shenandoah and Cleopatra of the Secession, and Zora Fair who nearly exposed General William Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Learn more about the Civil War’s female spies during a talk at noon on Wednesday, March 8, at Mentor Public Library’s Main Branch. The speaker will be from the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor.

The talk is free and open to everyone. You can register to attend on our website or by calling us at (440) 255-8811.

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