Mary Edwards Walker was born in 1832 to Oswego, NY. She was an ardent abolitionist, a surgeon, spy, prisoner of war, and the ONLY woman to receive the Medal of Honor. In 1855 she graduated from medical school as a doctor.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861 Walker volunteered for Union Army as a civilian, first practicing as a nurse. She served at First Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chattanooga and Chickamauga.
In September 1863 she was awarded a “Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon (civilian)” by the Army of the Cumberland. A first-ever female U.S. Army Surgeon.
Captured on April 10, 1864 as a spy, she was sent to Richmond and was exchanged four months later.
She also served in the Battle for Atlanta (1864). Walker served as a supervisor of female prison in Louisville, KY; and headed an orphanage in Tennessee.
On November 11, 1865 she was awarded the Medal of Honor – the only woman ever to have received the award.
For more information on Mary Edwards Walker:
- Civil War Doctor: The Story of Mary Walker (2007) by Carla Johnson.
- A Woman of Honor: Dr. Walker and the Civil War (2001) by Mercedes Graf.
- National Library of Medicine biography of Dr. Walker.