Tag Archives: Soldier

SWHM Mary Bowser: Former Slave, Union Spy

Hi Ladies! So as a surprise to everyone… it’s just me today! [So … are we surprised this is coming in late? 😛 Not my fault though. Ahem.] Anyway, since it’s Women’s History Month, and I am determined to make this shit work … I want to share some facts about a totally badass woman. Mary Bowser. I first heard about her near the end of summer last year, on NPR. Karen Abbott, the author of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy was being interviewed. (I still need/want to read the book. Has anyone read it?)

Anyway … Mary Bowser.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, SpyMary Elizabeth Bowser was born in 1839. She was born in Richmond, Virginia, as a slave to John Van Lew. Mary (and all the other slaves) was ~freed upon Van Lew’s death by his daughter. Mary remained as a servant to the family, but was then sent by Elizabeth Van Lew to be educated in Philadelphia at the Quaker School for Negroes. However, almost from birth Mary was special. While it isn’t certain this was her… “on May 17, 1846, “Mary Jane, a colored child belonging to Mrs. Van Lew,” was baptized in St. John’s.” While most of the other slaves were baptized elsewhere. Incidentally, St. John’s is where Patrick Henry gave his “give me liberty, or give me death” speech. Continue reading