Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy (Paperback)

Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

By Karen Abbott

Harper Perennial, 9780062092908, 544pp.

Publication Date: September 8, 2015



Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and "pioneer of sizzle history" (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War.

Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women--a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow--who were spies.

After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O'Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.

Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies' descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy contains 39 black & photos and 3 maps.

Conversation Starters from

  1. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy examines how women’s roles changed when the men in their lives enlisted in the Civil War. What was the most difficult aspect of being a woman during this time? Do you think most women considered their increased responsibilities a hardship or a freedom?generic viagra price canada
  2. The women defy traditional gender roles many times. How does each character use her femininity to achieve her goals? What did President Lincoln’s advisor mean when he lamented the proliferation of “fashionable female spies?”generic viagra price canada
  3. Emma Edmonds disguised herself to enlist in the Union army. How do you think Emma (and ~400 more) pulled off this feat? What challenges come with living as imposters among men?generic viagra price canada
  4. Discuss the title. How does it apply to each character? When and how was each a liar, a temptress, a soldier, and a spy?generic viagra price canada
  5. Belle, Rose, and Elizabeth all employed servants/slaves during their espionage missions. Compare and contrast their treatment of servants/ slaves. Did any of their views evolve?generic viagra price canada
  6. Elizabeth’s servant Mary Jane Bowser is a key character. How does being African American affect her role as a spy? How did it make her job easier, or more difficult?generic viagra price canada
  7. Discuss each character’s relationships with men. How did the women use men to their advantage? Were the women ever used themselves?generic viagra price canada
  8. Belle looked up to Rose. Compare and contrast them. In your opinion, who was more successful? How did Belle’s reputation as a “fast girl” affect her work for the Confederacy?generic viagra price canada
  9. Rose’s daughter is crucial in Rose’s espionage work. Was she justified in using her daughter? Would you have done the same?generic viagra price canada
  10. Which spy did you relate to the most? Why? What motivated each woman? Had you lived during the Civil War, would you have dared to be a spy?generic viagra price canada
  11. Both North and South spoke of “atrocities” committed by the enemy. Which atrocity was the most shocking to you? Did one side exaggerate more?generic viagra price canada