DR. MARY EDWARDS WALKER – the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor,
An American feminist, suffragist, suspected spy, prisoner of war and surgeon, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker remains the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor, which she was awarded for her service during the Civil War.
She grew up in Oswego, New York, raised by her progressive parents along with her six brothers and sisters. “Free thinkers,” they were raised to question everything. Helping on the farm, Mary often wore trousers and shirts because they were more comfortable. She was a non-comformist throughout her life.
Walker graduated with a doctor of medicine degree from Syracuse Medical College in 1855. Following her graduation, she married her fellow medical student, Albert Miller, and they set up a joint practice in Rome, New York. The practice failed, ostensibly because the public would not accept a female doctor. She refused to agree to “obey” Albert in her wedding vows, kept her last name, and wore a short skirt and trousers instead of a traditional wedding dress; they later divorced. Dr. Walker was strongly opposed to traditional women’s dress, arguing they were uncomfortable, inhibited mobility, and spread dust and dirt. FOR MORE