Women & War: The Strange Career of Union Spy Elizabeth Van Lew

Elizabeth Varon speaking at the Senior Center in Charlottesville.

On Thursday, April 11, 2013, Elizabeth Varon presented the sixth and final lecture in our Thursday series entitled The Civil War Through Different Lenses (2013).

Ms. Varon’s presentation begins with the interesting story of how many women, disguised as men, served in both the northern and southern armies during the American Civil War and their fate if caught.

Varon then moved on to the remarkable story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a southerner, who became the Postmaster at Richmond, VA, and a Union spy.

Elizabeth Varon is the Langbourne M. Williams Professor in American History at the University of Virginia. She received her masters degree from Swarthmore College and her PHD from Yale. She has held key positions at Wesley College and Temple University and is a specialist in the Civil War era of the 19th century American south. Ms. Varon is the author of We Mean to Be Counted: White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia and Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy. She was won the Lillian Smith Book Award of the Southern Regional Council, The People’s Choice Award from the Library of Virginia, and the Richard Slatten Award from the Virginia Historical Society. Her newest book is Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859.

The lecture series was organized by award-winning historian and Charlottesville-based author, lecturer, and cartographer Rick Britton in conjunction with the Senior Center in Charlottesville.

Click here listen all six parts of this series.