Elizabeth Van Lew with her nieces, brother John, and servant on main mansion grounds
@ Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York Public Library
DescriptionElizabeth L. Van Lew (1818-1900) was an American abolitionist and federal agent during the U.S. Civil War. She aided the Union cause by providing intelligence reports from Richmond, Virginia, where she lived. She helped Union prisoners escape from their captors and also was involved in the "underground railroad". After the war, President Grant appointed her Postmaster of Richmond; then in 1877 she went to Washington, D.C. to work in the U.S. Post Office Department. She returned to Richmond during the Cleveland administration and spent her remaining years working for women's rights.Collection consists of correspondence, Van Lew's personal narrative, notes, photographs, artifacts, and clippings. Correspondence, 1862-1901, contains letters to and from Van Lew as well as letters relating to her activities. Bulk of the collection is her personal narrative of the war in Richmond. Also, notes on her ancestry and spying; photographs; artifacts, such as rings and studs carved by federal prisoners and given to her in gratitude for her services in their behalf; the cipher she used to send messages to Union commanders; and newsclippings concerning her death.
Van Lew, Elizabeth L. (1818-1900)