Military - Women

Mary Elizabeth Bowser
ca. 1840 to (date of death unknown)

Born a slave in Richmond, Virginia in 1840, Mary Elizabeth Bowser was owned by wealthy hardware merchant, John Van Lew. His daughter, Elizabeth Van Lew freed Mary sometime between 1843 and 1851 after John Van Lew's death.

Mary stayed with the family and continued to work as a servant until the 1850s. Elizabeth Van Lew, a Quaker and abolitionist noticed Mary’s intelligence and sent her away to a Quaker School for Negroes in Philadelphia. After graduating, she returned to Richmond. On April 16, 1861, she married William or Wilson Bowser, a free black man. They were married days after Confederates fired on Fort Sumter.

Taken by a friend of Elizabeth’s to help at functions held by Varina Davis, wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Mary proved herself and was eventually hired full-time.

Mary worked in the Confederate White House cleaning and waiting on family members and visitors almost up to the end of the war. She obtained a great deal of information by simply doing her work. Servants were taught to act invisible, to draw no attention to themselves. Davis and his wife did not know Mary was a freed woman. They assumed she was an unintelligent and illiterate slave. She proved however, to be a valuable Union spy and possessed an almost photographic memory. Mary read war dispatches and accurately remembered conversations held in the home.

Jefferson Davis later came to know of the espionage but not until late in the war did he suspect Mary. She fled from the south in January of 1865. Her last known act as a spy was an attempt to burn down the Confederate White House but she was not successful. There is no record of Mary Bowser’s life after the war. Her date of death is unknown.

 Mary Elizabeth Bowser, public domain. R: Her gravestone.

Davis, Veronica A. "Here I lay My Burdens Down." Richmond: Dietz, 2003. Print.

"Mary Elizabeth Bowser", . Web.

Site Visit
Gravesite. Woodlawn Cemetery, Richmond, VA. 


Woodlawn Cemetery, 2300 Magnolia Road, Richmond, VA 23223. Phone: 804-643-4702. Contact person Mr. Entzminger.


Brigadier General Allyson R. Solomon

Brigadier General Allyson R. Solomon is a distinguished and highly decorated member of the Maryland Air National Guard. Her achievements include:

                          - In 1979 enlisted in the Maryland Air National Guard (MDANG). Later selected to attend the Air
                            National Guard (ANG) Academy of Military Science.
                          - November 1986 commissioned as a second lieutenant.
                          - First woman and first African American to be appointed as a senior commander in the MDANG.
                          - January 2003 first woman to be promoted to Colonel in MDANG history.
                          - March 2003 promoted to Commander of the 175 Mission Support Group.
                          - 2006 selected to serve as Chief of the General Officer Management Office at the National
                            Guard Bureau (NGB) Washington DC.
                          - June 2008 appointed by the Governor of Maryland as the Assistant Adjutant General for Air.
                          - An active member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.
                          - Inducted into Maryland Women's Hall of Fame, 2009.

Brigadier General Allyson R. Solomon. 

"Brigadier General Allyson R. Solomon.", Web.

"Brigadier General Allyson R. Solomon.", Web. 

O'Malley, Martin. Maryland Women Hall of Fame. Maryland Government House, Annapolis, MD. March 18, 2010. Presentation.


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