This Day (Free Radicals Edition)

Published:October 15, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

Happy birthday to Elizabeth Van Lew, who was born in Richmond on this day in 1818. Despite their northern roots, her parents were slave owners and members of Richmond society. Elizabeth, however, attended a Quaker school in Philadelphia and came home with radical ideas about the rights of man. During the Civil War, she spied for the Union and after the war supported woman suffrage.

Oh, and speaking of radical ideas—on this day just one year after Van Lew’s birth, her fellow Virginian Edward Coles, having abandoned the state the previous April in order to free his inherited slaves, transferred land deeds to them in Edwardsville, Illinois.


IMAGES: An elderly Van Lew (Valentine Richmond History Center, Cook Collection); Van Lew profile by A. J. De Morat (Virginia Historical Society)


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