for Dear Ellen Bee by Mary E. Lyons
In a fictional format that recalls the scrapbooks kept by women in the nineteenth century, Mary E. Lyons and Muriel M. Branch piece together the true story of Ellen Bee -- the code name used by two extraordinary women who courageously undermined the highest level of the Confederacy.
Elizabeth Van Lew -- Miss Bet -- was a wealthy white woman at the pinnacle of Richmond society, different from her socialite friends only in her deep abhorrence of slavery. Mary Elizabeth Bowser -- Liza -- was the daughter of two of the Van Lew family's freed slaves who had decided to stay on at the Church Hill mansion as paid and respected servants. As the strong-willed Liza matured, she grew to resent Miss Bet's well-intended "plans" for her life. The two constantly chafed as the Civil War flared around Richmond and Miss Bet was driven deeper into efforts to help the Union cause. Soon she found herself called upon to enlist the help of her beloved Liza when she saw an opportunity to plant a spy in the heart of the Confederate camp. And with Liza willing to risk the dangers of posing as a slave, so began a chain of communication that supplied the Union generals with vital information in their conduct of war.