Did you know that there is only one woman who has ever received the Medal of Honor?
Her name was Mary Edwards Walker, and she was a surgeon, an advocate for women’s rights, and a significant influence on the history of women in medicine.
Mary was born in upstate New York in 1832. She was one of five children born to two abolitionists who encouraged her to get an education and speak her mind.
She attended a school her parents opened in order for all their children to receive an equal education. She then attended the Falley Seminary in Fulton, New York, and became a teacher after graduating.
She worked hard to save money and eventually attended medical school at Syracuse Medical College, where she became the only female doctor to graduate in her class in 1855. After graduating, she married another medical student named Albert Miller.
They attempted to open their own medical practice in Rome, New York, but it failed because people did not want to see a female doctor.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Mary traveled to Washington D.C. to serve as a surgeon in the army but was turned down because of her gender. So instead, she decided to volunteer at the U.S. Patent Office Hospital, where she worked as a surgeon for free.
She also volunteered to work near the Union front lines as a surgeon before finally becoming the first female U.S. Army surgeon in 1863.
While working during the war, Mary often wore men’s clothes to move more efficiently, which was practically unheard of at the time. During the war, she would often cross battle lines to help care for soldiers and was even captured by the Confederate army and arrested as a spy in 1864.
Mary was imprisoned at Castle Thunder in Richmond, Virginia, for four months before she was released.