Elizabeth Van Lew (1818-1900 was a Richmond, Virginia abolitionist and philanthropist who built and operated an extensive spy ring for the United States during the American Civil War. She was born October 12, 1818, Richmond, Virginia  to John Van Lew and Eliza Baker, whose grandfather was  mayor of Philadelphia in  the late 1700’s. Her father owned a prosperous hardware business and several slaves. Her family sent her to Philadelphia  for her education at  a Quaker school, which reinforced her abolitionist sentiments. When her father died in 1843, Van Lew  and her mother freed all  the families slaves They also bought  some of  their    former slaves  relatives and freed  them. Upon the outbreak   of the Civil War Van Lew began working on behalf of the  Union with her mother, caring for the Union Soldiers. When Libby Prison was opened  in Richmond, Van Lew was allowed to bring food, clothing, writing paper    and

other things to the Union soldiers imprisoned  there. She aided  prisoners to escape,   passing them information of safe  houses and  getting a Union sympathizer appointed on  the prison staff. Recently captured prisoners  gave Van Lew information on Confederate  troop  levels and movements, which she was able to pass on to Union commanders, she even   helped hide  escaped Union   prisoners in her own mansion. At the end of the Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant appointed her Postmaster General  of Richmond for the next eight years because of  the merit of  her work. She died 25 September, 1900 at the age of 81 in Richmond, Virginia.

From Jauflione Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution