As part of the Women’s History Month celebration at Kishwaukee College, Annette Baldwin from Staging History will be on campus for a historical portrayal of Elizabeth Van Lew, Southern Lady/Yankee Spy, on Wednesday March 18 at 7:00pm in Jenkins Auditorium. This event is sponsored by the Kishwaukee College Women’s History Committee and the Continuing Education department. The performance is free and open to the public.
With the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War being celebrated this year, the story of Elizabeth Van Lew (1818-1900) and her Richmond, Virginia spy ring, which was asserted to be “the most productive espionage effort of the Civil War” is a timely presentation.
The account of Van Lew’s loyalty to the North is particularly fascinating because although her family was a member of Richmond’s elite and had once held slaves, she was passionate about the preservation of the Union and the injustices of a slave society. When the Civil War broke out, Van Lew vowed to help bring it to an end, and by the middle of the war, the spy ring she had assembled contained an interesting cast of accomplices eager to aid her in her determination to supply General Benjamin Butler and General Ulysses S. Grant with tactical and strategic information.
Van Lew’s story extends beyond the war. When Grant became president of the United States in 1868, he appointed Van Lew the Postmaster of Richmond, Virginia, for her “loyalty during the rebellion.” But it was her allegiance to a united country that resulted in Van Lew spending the rest of her life reviled by the citizens of her own city. After her death in 1900, grateful Union soldiers erected a boulder with a bronze plaque to mark her grave in Richmond.
In this first person history of Van Lew, the audience will be invited into the Van Lew “mansion” to hear Van Lew explain her determination to help end the war and the price she paid for her loyalty to the United States. Annette Baldwin thoroughly researches the historical figures she portrays and finishes each performance with a question and answer session in character.
Annette Baldwin portrayed Coco Chanel in 2014 at Kishwaukee College as part of Women’s History Month. Laura Chiavini, Chair of the Women’s History Month Committee at the College, said, “Annette’s performance last year was fantastic! It was educational and fun to learn about Chanel “from” Coco Chanel. We knew that we definitely wanted to bring her back to campus. Her Elizabeth Van Lew portrayal was one we had considered last year, and with the Civil War anniversary this year, we knew it would be a perfect choice. I hope our community members will come to campus for a truly unique and entertaining experience!”
For more information on the Elizabeth Van Lew, Southern Lady/Yankee Spy portrayal by Annette Baldwin at Kishwaukee College, contact Laura Chiavini, Chair of the Women’s History Month Committee at 815-825-2086, ext. 3100 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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