Spies, Soldiers, Couriers, & Saboteurs: Women of the American Revolution
Young Adult, 240 pages
Published 2019 by Orange Hat Publishing, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Reviewed by: Kerri Lukasavitz, www.kerrilukasavitz.com
Are you familiar with Emily Geiger, Anna Maria Lane, or Mary Ludwig Hays? Probably not. But what about George Washington, Patrick Henry, or Alexander Hamilton? These men are easily recognized as prominent figures committed to the success of the American Revolutionary War, but the three women previously listed also played key roles in helping to win the war for freedom from British rule in the late eighteenth century. In Spies, Soldiers, Couriers, & Saboteurs: Women of the American Revolution, author K.M. Waldvogel crafts a compelling look at the uncertain fate and perilous times in our nation’s history through the stories of 14 remarkable and often under-represented women, each one with acts of bravery equal to and occasionally surpassing their male counterparts.
What is truly amazing is the way K.M. Waldvogel invites the reader to get a sense of what each woman might have thought, felt, or experienced during her act of heroism with descriptive scenes, believable dialog, and entertaining characters that reads more like a short story collection than a dusty history book. For example, young Emily Geiger volunteers to take a message from General Nathaniel Greene of the Continental Army to General Sumter to surprise attack British officer Lord Francis Rawdon and his soldiers as they returned from Fort Granby to Charleston, South Carolina (this attack would become one of the last major battles of the war) but is briefly held captive on her dangerous journey:
. . . Emily paced the room. What should she do? How could she protect the letter? The room was small, barren. No cubbies, no loose floorboards. Nowhere to hide it. She feared discovery. Her mind raced. Think, Emily. There has to be something you can do. They can’t find the message. Think.
Suddenly, she knew. Retrieving the note, she memorized each word. When she could repeat it exactly, she ripped the letter into small bits. Shoving the shredded paper into her mouth, she put her plan into motion. The dry paper stuck in her throat. She chewed and swallowed piece after piece, gagging down every morsel. Her heart felt lighter with each swallow.
Several minutes later, the British brought in an older Tory woman to search Emily. When finished, she went into the hallway to report to Rawdon, leaving the door ajar. Emily listened, anxious to hear her fate . . .
Although intended for a younger audience, Spies, Soldiers, Couriers, & Saboteurs: Women of the American Revolution will appeal to adult readers as well due to K.M. Waldvogel’s creative approach to history telling--the women’s stories are lively, well-researched, and beautifully written.
Reviewer Kerri Lukasavitz has a BFA from MIAD and an MA in English from Mount Mary College. She is the recipient of a 2020 residency at Write On, Door County, 2019 Hal Prize winner for Nonfiction, her debut middle-grade novel, Mystery Horse at Oak Lane Stable, was a 2018 Royal Dragonfly Book Award winner, and published two articles—Dispelling the Myth of the Starving Artist and Messengers in the Night: Dream Interpretation Benefits Life—in Arches newspaper.