A true Civil War spy story: “The Treason of Mary Louvestre”

Deborah Mazon – WNN Reviews

Author My Haley
Author, television and screenplay writer My Haley with her first book, “The Treason of Mary Louvestre” tells the true story of a black woman slave who was a Confederate spy for the Union forces during the Civil War that almost destroyed the United States during years of death and conflict from April 12, 1861 to May 10, 1865. Image: My Haley

(WNN) San Antonio, TEXAS, AMERICAS: Myra Lewis Haley, the wife of the late Alex Haley did not immediately receive recognition for her role in the creation of the Pulitzer-Prize winning book, “Roots.” Like so many wives of famous authors she selflessly supported and aided in her husband’s pursuits. “I felt privileged and was too happy to roll up my sleeves and lend my abilities to that endeavor. I grew a smile real big as Alex later acknowledged me to others when he said, ‘I couldn’t have done it without her’,” said the the woman known today to the public as My Haley.

These days her love of history and gift of storytelling illuminates the path of her own pursuits. My Haley’s first book has been praised by peers and fans alike.

“The Treason of Mary Louvestre” is the fictional account of the life of Mary Louvestre, a seamstress slave from the ‘old south’ who spied for the Union Army during the Civil War. The story of Mary Louvestre is filled with adventure and courage outside of the confines and stereotyped roles of women, especially African-American women, during that era.

“Regal, with the look of a woman ten, maybe fifteen years younger, Mary was in a word, ‘striking’…Even with her cane-assisted gait, men, even white gentlemen, openly admired her. She was dignified, well-spoken with a deep, some would say molten, erotic voice. Her genetic cocktail of European and African traits allowed her to straddle all spheres of society,” describes My Haley in her debut novel.

Mary Louvestre reached traveled with diverse segments of society before reaching the end of her journey. The book opens as Mary composes herself on her arrival in Washington, D.C. to meet, in 1862, with the U.S. Union Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, an influence on Abraham Lincoln during the civil war. Mary’s true-to-life journey to give Welles secret military documents was her ultimate journey toward freedom.

Recently My Haley said yes to an interview with WNN – Women News Network about her first book and her life:

Deborah Mazon for WNN: You played a behind the scenes role in the development of the book ‘Roots’. I read where you recognized wives for having supported the works and dreams of their husbands. I also read that it was important to you for your main character to be “a woman of substance.”

My Haley: I have always wanted to write about a woman of substance. Growing up with women who modeled what it meant to be strong prompted an urge in me to write about women like them. They were not responsible for deeds like Mary Louvestre. Yet they demonstrated strength as I saw them gather in their walk down the long, rutted street to the bus to go to their day-work jobs dutifully every day to earn meager sums to support their families. They upheld their community letting me see, feel, and be a part of the fellowship.

Word was, there wasn’t an hour too early or a day too long to come if they were needed to help a neighbor.

“Come in and sit a spell” was the common greeting to a friend into the intimacy of a warm kitchen that never closed and the coffee pot never grew cold. The dining table groaned of a Sunday where family and friends came together and shared their lives in tales of their joys and sorrows. Education for their young people was their passion and their dream.

For me, they demonstrated that ‘Love’ was an action word. These aspects and more about these women are what I enjoy writing about. Since leaving the place of my youth, I have met many women just like them. Writing about them fills my heart and stirs my soul.”

In ‘The Treason of Mary Louvestre’, Mary is responsible for delivering tactful information in a time without faxes and instant messages. Her mission called for someone who was not allowed to freely travel or journey into a forbidden world. To accomplish this took guts and brains. Mary was an underground railroad with a different sort of cargo. She was a heroine during a time that women were looked on as the weaker sex.

Harriet Tubman
Living at the same time as slave Mary Louvestre, underground informant Harriet Tubman escaped from her own slavery in 1849 when she married a ‘free man’.  Harriet gave vital information to the Union Army while Mary gave her secret documents to the head of the U.S. Navy during the U.S. Civil War in the mid 1800s. Image: James A. Gensheimer

DM: Do you consider yourself a women’s advocate?

MH: Am I a women’s advocate? Indeed, yes, as I am an advocate for women and all people that they know fulfillment in who they are, satisfaction in what they do, and glory that they can get up and do it again every day, as my grandmother would say, “on their good foot.”

DM: You often speak of your grandmother. Was your grandmother a story teller?

MH: My grandmother was a major influence in my life, comprehensively. Her love of storytelling and especially her respect for the magic of words affected me from early on. 

DM: Did your love of history come from stories told by your grandmother?

MH: As a little one, she would sit in her wood rocker by the fireplace after the day’s work was done, put me on her lap, and rapt me with tales. Remarkably impacting me for the rest of my days, what she would do was put my little hand on her throat when she talked so I could ‘feel’ the power of words.Grandmother told me stories about life which included stories of women.

DM: We hear that you are getting ready to launch more books and projects. Are any of them focused on women?

MH: Of the many projects I have ready for launch, I am have the second book I’m finishing in the six-volume set of the Mary Louvestre stories. I have completed a one-man show based on the life of Alex Haley called “Chapters of A Life.” Two contemporary television series and two action-adventure feature films are in the mix as well as a young people’s TV series. There is a mini-series based on my family called, “The Crucible of Time,” and more.

Some of them feature women in key roles. But in the way of the troubadour, I just love to tell a good story.

We had an old gray-hair in our community who, after hearing a story that enthralled her, would jump up, grin, and strut back and forth clapping her hands with glee. “Whoo,” she’d exclaim, “Don’t nothin’ get gooder than that!”

To a died-in-the-wool storyteller like myself, it surely doesn’t.


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