Likely born between 1839-1842 on the Van Lew plantation near Richmond, Virginia. Died sometime after 1867, manner and place unknown. Mary Bowser (neé Richards) was a member of Elizabeth Van Lew’s spy ring, which smuggled information out of Richmond to the Union army. She knew how to read, had a remarkable memory, and spent most of the war in Jefferson Davis’ home, smuggling out top-secret information. After the war, records of Union spies were destroyed to prevent reprisals from the former Confederates who might gain access to wartime files. She looms large in legend, but we have few pieces of evidence about her life.
For an interesting account her history, check out this NY Times link.