Mary Elizabeth Bowser was born a slave on the Van Lew plantation around 1839 in Richmond Virgina.
Around the 1850′s Bowser and her family were freed.
The abolitionist family whom she served noticed her intelligence and sent her to the Quaker School for Negroes in Philadelphia.
In 1861, after graduating, she married Wilson Bowser just days before the start of the Civil War.
She worked closely with Elizabeth Van Lew and was a major part of her spy system for the Union.
During the Civil War she was hired full-time as a servant, cooking and cleaning for the in the Confederate White House.
Due to her intellect and superb acting skills she was able act uneducated while secretly interpreting important strategical conversations and reading important documents.
She used many complex strategies to get the crucial information back to General Ulysses Grant and the Union.
Bowser is one of many African American women spies who worked for the Union.
She was honored in 1995 by the U.S. Government for her excellent work in the Civil War and was inducted into the Military Corps Hall of Fame.