Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 49

Mary E(dwards) Walker - Biography

medical suffrage medal reform

Physician and feminist, born in Oswego Town, New York, USA. She graduated from Syracuse Medical College (1855) and married a medical student who also became a physician. As an activist on behalf of women's dress reform, she wore ‘bloomers’ at the ceremony, omitted the word ‘obey’ from her vows, and also kept her own name. (They separated in 1859.) During the Civil War she was an assistant surgeon (1863–4), was imprisoned by the Confederates (1864), and won a Congressional Medal of Honor for Meritorious Service (1865). Afterwards she lectured on such issues as dress reform and women's suffrage, but did not support a proposed suffrage amendment, contending that the right to vote was already contained in the Constitution. The government questioned her medical credentials and withdrew her medal in 1917, but she continued to wear it, and it was posthumously restored in 1977.

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