Baldwin as Elizabeth Van Lew
Elizabeth Van Lew, Heartland Chautauqua Lexington, Missouri

Elizabeth Van Lew

Civil War Espionage Agent

Among the many heroic tales of women from the American Civil War you will find the story of Elizabeth Van Lew (1818-1900) and her Richmond, Virginia, spy ring, asserted to be “the most productive espionage effort of the Civil War.”

The account of Van Lew’s loyalty to the North is particularly fascinating because although her family was a member of Richmond’s elite and had once held slaves, she was passionate about the preservation of the Union and the injustices of a slave society.  When the Civil War broke out, Van Lew vowed to help bring it to an end, and by the middle of the war, the spy ring she had assembled contained an interesting cast of accomplices eager to aid her in her determination to supply General Benjamin Butler and General Ulysses S. Grant with tactical and strategic information.

Van Lew’s story expands beyond the war, for when Grant became president of the United States in 1868, he appointed Van Lew Postmaster of Richmond, Virginia, for her “loyalty during the rebellion.”   It was her allegiance to a united country that resulted in Van Lew spending the rest of her life reviled by the citizens of her city.  After her death in 1900, grateful Union soldiers erected a boulder with a bronze plaque to mark her grave in Richmond.

In this 1st person history of Van Lew, audiences will be invited into the Van Lew “mansion” to hear Van Lew explain her determination to help end the war and the price she paid for her loyalty to the United States.

Primary Source research was conducted onsite at the Virginia Historical Society, Elizabeth Van Lew Papers; at the Virginia State Library, Van Lew papers and other collections pursuant to Van Lew History.  Research onsite visits in Richmond include Church Hill, the site of Elizabeth Van Lew home, Libby Prison, Museum of the Confederacy, the White House of the Confederacy, St. John’s Episcopal Church, the Capitol of Virginia, Tredegar Iron Works, Belle Isle, and Shockhoe Hill Cemetery, burial site of Elizabeth Van Lew.

Kind words about the program

Your dead-on portrayal of Elizabeth Van Lew was simply amazing! 

Women’s Club of Inverness, Illinois

Flawlessly recreated….as enjoyable as it was interesting.

George Rawlinson, The Courier News, Elgin, Illinois

A top-notch example of meticulous research and artistry.

Alice Brennan, Darien Historical Society

Annette Baldwin

 Annette Baldwin

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Complete contact information at right or call 630-279-0856

The first woman to run for United States President?  It was Victoria Claflin Woodhall, running under the Equal Rights Party in 1872.  Her opponents? Ulysses S. Grant (R) and Horace Greeley(D).

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