FEMILIST FRIDAY: DR MARY EDWARDS WALKER
#6. Thank you to @wordytime for this recommendation! I loved researching her!
- •A veteran, feminist, and the first and only woman to be given the Medal of Honor.
- •1832 - Born in Oswego, NY to a very progressive family for the time. Her parents were abolitionists and her father felt strongly that his daughters should get equal education.
- •Mary spent a lot of her youth working for the women's rights movement, and trying to break out of the female norms for dress. She notably wore a full men's evening suit to give a lecture, and publicized the negative health impact of corsets, long full skirts, etc that women had to wear.Her clothing choices were so controversial, she was arrested on multiple occasions for "impersonating a man".
- •1855 - Graduated from Syracuse Medical College as the only woman in her class.
- •1856 - Married a fellow doctor while "wearing trousers and a man's coat and kept her own name". Had to directly quote that because it made me so happy. She was doing this in the 19th century!The couple opened a medical practice together, but it failed likely because others did not want to go to a female doctor.
- •She and her husband divorced and after the Civil War began, Mary attempted to join the Union Army but was rejected so she signed up as a volunteer instead.She started as an assistant surgeon, and was the first female surgeon in the US Army.
- •She was finally appointed in an official position and advanced within various divisions of the Army. During her service, she crossed into Confederate territory to treat civilians on multiple occasions. There is conflicting information as to whether she also acted as a spy at that time.At one point she was taken prisoner by the Confederacy for four months.
- •1865 - President Johnson presented her with the Congressional Medal of Honor for Meritorious Service.She is the only woman to ever receive one.
- •1917 - Her Medal of Honor was retracted after a rule change that required physical combat for receipt of the award.However, Mary KEPT her medal and even wore it EVERY DAY until her death in 1919.
- •Bonus pic of Mary looking GOOD with her medal & wearing whatever she wanted to later in life:
- •1977 - Her medal was posthumously restored with an acknowledgement that she was discriminated against due to being a woman.
- •SOURCES:americancivilwar.com, biography.com