My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book had me turning pages like I was reading a novel, anxious to see what happened next. The untold stories of women who serve in wartime, in all capacities, are being brought to light by talented authors like Abbott.
I was especially taken by the tale of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Richmond abolitionist, and her free woman of color cohort, Mary Jane Bowser. Van Lew sent vital information to the Union, much of it gathered by Bowser. At great risk to her own life, Bowser was sent as a "slave" housemaid to the Confederate president's house, never letting on that she could not only read and write, but was gifted with an eidetic memory. As the author points out, women like Bowser were "below suspicion" as they cleaned and dusted around the papers on Jeff Davis' desk.
I had a particular interest in the story of Emma Edmonds, who served with valor and zeal in the Union army as "Frank Thompson". As readers of my books know, cross-dressing women soldiers and sailors were more common than standard histories lead us to believe. I highly recommend the Hugo-award winning essay "We Have Always Fought", by Kameron Hurley, for more on this.
Finally, the stories of Confederate spies and activists Belle Boyd and Rose Greenhow are better known to fans of history, but Abbott gives them a fresh spin and really brings these women to life, with all their virtues and flaws.
I highly recommend Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy for all readers interested in the US Civil War and in women's history and studies.
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