Two Unlikely Spies: Mary Bowser and Elizabeth Van Lew: Background information when reading The Secrets of Mary Bowser

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

by Lois Leveen

The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback:
    May 2012, 496 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Two Unlikely Spies: Mary Bowser and Elizabeth Van Lew

Lois Leveen's debut novel, The Secrets of Mary Bowser, is based on the real-life story of Mary Bowser, a woman born into slavery in 1839 in Richmond, Virginia to John Van Lew, a merchant. After Van Lew passed away, his daughter, Elizabeth Van Lew, freed his slaves and paid for Mary Bowser to get an education. She also helped procure a servant job for Mary in President Jefferson Davis's Confederate White House.

Mary Bowser According to NPR's article entitled, "The Spy Who Served Me," when the two women spent time together, they weren't simply "exchanging recipes." They were, in fact, spies:

"Crazy Bet" was the spymaster and Mary Bowser was one of her best agents - part of a spy ring - white, black, slave and free - made up of servants, farmers, seamstresses, storekeepers, undercover Scottish abolitionists - working in plain sight in the South for the North.

Elizabeth Van Lew As the educated Mary Bowser dusted and served in the Confederate White House, she used her photographic memory to ...

Members Only

BookBrowse's reviews and backstories are a members-only benefit. Full information is available on books for a limited time when they are featured as "Editor's Choices" - but that time has now elapsed for this book.

Join Today


Member Login


Library Patrons

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    All Tomorrow's Parties
    by Rob Spillman
    In this absorbing memoir, co-founder of Tin House magazine, Rob Spillman, recalls his artistic ...
  • Book Jacket: Strangers in Their Own Land
    Strangers in Their Own Land
    by Arlie Russell Hochschild
    Arlie Russell Hochschild's dive into the heart of Tea Party America is as good a glimpse of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    After receiving a letter from his childhood friend's father, Aaron Falk, a Melbourne police officer ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Victoria
by Daisy Goodwin

"A hit…The research is impeccable, the attention to detail, perfect." - The Sunday Mirror (UK)

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    I See You
    by Clare Mackintosh

    A dark and compelling thriller about an everyday woman trapped in the confines of her everyday world.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Home Sweet Home
    by April Smith

    From the widely praised author of the FBI Special Agent Ana Grey series, a stunning novel set in the McCarthy era.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

When all think alike, no one thinks very much

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

K Your F C

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.