From the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph, 3/20/1869, p. 4, c. 1
Miss Van Lew’s Appointment as Postmistress of Richmond.
The Senate yesterday confirmed the appointment of Elizabeth Van Lew as postmaster of postmistress of Richmond, Virginia. This action has a much deeper significance than the semi-endorsement it gives to women’s rights by bestowing an important office on a member of the proscribed sex. Long before the noisy modern agitation was commenced, it was not an unusual occurrence for the widows of postmasters who possessed the public confidence to retain the positions previously held by their deceased husbands. There is, therefore, no startling innovation in the late action of the President and the Senate, when viewed from this standpoint. Its true significance arises from the fact that Miss Van Lew was a staunch friend of the Union all through the war, liberally extending aid to Union prisoners, and sending her slaves through the lines with important intelligence to General Grant. While we have no disposition to rejoice over a fallen foe, or to rake up the slumbering fires of a dead past, it is a just source of congratulation that a true friend of the national cause, residing at the central point of the defunct Confederacy, is fitly rewarded; and that the haughty secesh dames and arrogant secesh braggarts who once basked in the smiles of Jefferson Davis, and who preached and practiced the doctrine that loyalty implied social degradation as well as political error, can regale themselves with the sight of a true-hearted Unionist whenever they transmit or receive a letter through the mails of the triumphant Republic. There may be well-grounded doubts of the unswerving soundness of some of the newly-fledged Southern loyalists, but the escutcheon of the woman who proved unfalteringly faithful among the faithless, and who braved all perils to mitigate the horrors of Rebel prison pens, and to guide our armies into the true point of attack, is stainless; and most fitting is it that she should be honored and rewarded.
At the outbreak of the war Miss Van Lew was one of the most wealthy residents of Richmond, owning a large amount of valuable real estate as well as a number of slaves. She lost her fortune and risked her life by her defiant and persistent devotion to the Union. She boldly furnished food to the prisoners in Libby, despite all threats and menaces. On one occasion she secreted in her parlor a number of horses, which were subsequently used to facilitate the escape of Union prisoners; and she kept Secretary Stanton advised of the Rebel movements at periods when this task was attended with the greatest difficulty and danger. After the war was over she made a short visit to this city, where she wrote a sterling letter referring to the affairs in the South, which was published in THE TELEGRAPH, and subsequently republished in many of the leading journals of the country. Her nervous system was greatly shocked by the exciting scenes through which she had passed, and after losing health, property, and social status, it is gratifying to know that her eminent services have not been forgotten.