Monday, February 27, 2012
Dr. Mary Walker was the first female doctor in the US Army. She served in the battles of Bull Run, Chickamauga, and Atlanta, and served for four months as a prisoner of war in Richmond. For her endless treatment of wounded and ill soldiers, "to the detriment of her own health", she received the Congressional Medal of Honor on November 11, 1865, the only woman ever to do so. After the war was over, she was a proponent of women's suffrage and advocated a change in the way women dressed. She argued that women's clothing were unduly expensive (to both them, and their potential future husbands) and did not offer protection from the weather; she herself had been arrested several times for dressing like a man. In 1917, Congress decided that it had issued too many Medals of Honor and rescinded hers along with 910 others; she refused to give it up, and was buried with it clutched in her hands in 1919. Ultimately, President Carter reinstated her Medal of Honor, and the Post Office issued a stamp bearing her likeness.
Links and Sources:
National Library of Medicine biography
Congressional Medal of Honor society
Hit, by Dr. Mary E. Walker, MD, The American News Company, New York, 1871.
Photo courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.