Elizabeth Van Lew
Elizabeth Van Lew, the earliest spy on this list, worked for the Union side during the American Civil War. Living in Richmond, Virginia, she was a widowed mother who vehemently opposed slavery. She not only freed her own slaves, but used her $10,000 inheritance to purchase and free their family members. For nearly four years, she supplied information to Union officers, and gave assistance to prisoners of war. Some have called her “the most successful Federal spy of the war.” Her first “treacherous” act was becoming a nurse at the infamous Libby Prison, a choice which brought her a lot of scorn and hatred from her fellow Southerners.
Using the freed slaves that made up her household staff as couriers, Van Lew began sending messages to the Union in hollowed-out shoes and eggs. Eventually she had to resort to more covert methods of communicating with the prisoners, as the guards forbade her from talking to the prisoners. She switched to using books and a personally designed cipher. She began faking a mental disorder, talking to herself and dressing shabbily in order to throw off suspicion, and was given the nickname “Crazy Bet” by her neighbors. Her spy network continued to grow until the end of the war, resulting in some of the best Union information gathered anywhere. After the war, she was basically ostracized in Richmond, where she lived until her death.
All through our history, women have sometimes played a major part. Unfortunately they often don't get the credit that they should. This woman was willing to put her reputation, her wealth, and her life on the line for something she believed in. Takes a brave person to do that, I believe.I got this article from Listverse, where you can find some other female spies to read about !
Coffee out on the patio today, OK?