Document Type


Publication Date



Professor Jennifer McLaughlin

Course Name & Number

HI 397 IB (Independent Study) and HI 398 IB (Senior Thesis)

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.


The American Civil War is one of the most impactful events in our nation’s history. There is so much that can be analyzed within this one event, from the years leading into the war, during the war, and Reconstruction. Most historians and school history textbooks only focus on the male and battle aspects of the war. While these two topics make up a majority of Civil War history, there is another huge component that played a prominent role, and that is the women spies.

Women spies played a vital role in the Civil War. Rose O’Neal Greenhow, Belle Boyd, Sarah Emma Edmonds, and Elizabeth Van Lew are just four examples of many women who went undercover in order to serve their cause. Women who acted as spies either worked from their home or on the battlefield dressed like men. One husband and wife couple even fought in the War as their honeymoon.1 These women were looked down upon by the women in their respective societies because of their big, outgoing personalities. They did things that were not expected, or accepted, by society. Each woman acted in a unique way, and had various influences. They each had many different motivations and reasons as to why they wanted to spy, including different backgrounds, varying opinions, etc. Every action and move they made greatly impacted not only their cause, but their families and friends. Their love lives were formed through their actions, and most were only made because of what they did. Essentially, every aspect of their lives was impacted by the decisions they made to spy for their cause. Through various journals, letters, newspaper articles, and more, we are able to analyze the impact these women left in our nation’s history.



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