I've said before that we don't give the women in our early history enough credit, but this gal certainly paid her dues and is entitled, I think.
Mary E. Walker
Credit: APIC/Getty Images
On January 25, 1866, Dr. Mary Edward Walker became the first—and so far the only—woman to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, in recognition of her service as a battlefield surgeon during the Civil War. Born in 1832 in Oswego, New York, Walker worked as a schoolteacher to pay her way through medical school, graduating from Syracuse Medical College in 1855. She married one of her classmates, Albert Miller, and opened a joint practice in Rome, New York. When the Civil War broke out, Walker traveled to Washington, D.C. and attempted to enlist in the Union Army. Refused a place because of her gender, Walker persisted until she was given a series of temporary appointments as an assistant surgeon.
Attached to the 52nd Ohio Infantry, Walker was working among civilians (and possibly spying for her commander) when Confederate soldiers captured her in northern Georgia in 1864. Held captive for four months in Richmond, Virginia, Walker was released to rejoin her unit following a prisoner exchange. Lingering injuries from her imprisonment made Walker unable to practice medicine after the war. For the rest of her life she subsisted on fees as a public speaker on issues ranging from temperance to woman’s dress reform (she favored trousers). Her Medal of Honor was revoked in 1917 along with 910 others not received in uniformed combat but restored again in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter.
One of many women often overlooked when talking about strong and colorful women of that era. We should search them out and celebrate them when possible, in my opinion.
Coffee is going to be out on the patio again...OK?