The Liz Library presents Irene Stuber's Women of Achievement - Women's History Month

Episode #WHM-11 for Day 11
 | NEXT |

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
 who is solely responsible for its content.

Contents of this article may be freely reprinted for educational and nonprofit use.
We would appreciate credit and request that the philosophy of the material not be changed.

On June 3, 1917, an Army review board revoked the Congressional Medal of Honor award claimed by Dr. Mary Edwards Walker for her Civil War treatment of the wounded in hospitals and on the battlefield.
      Walker's revocation was among more than 100 as Congress sought to upgrade the requirements for the medal. (The Kearney medal was actually the bravery medal during the Civil War.)
      Many said Walker did not deserve the high honor and further claimed that there was no existing proof that she had actually been awarded it.
      By 1917 Walker had aged into a cantankerous old woman and she refused to give up the medal. She continued to wear it in sideshows and the like until her death. Under pressure by women's groups, the Congress restored the medal on June 10, 1977.
      What is true about Mary Walker?
      According to legend, President Andrew Johnson presented Dr. Mary Edwards Walker the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor at the personal recommendation of General Sherman on 11-11-1865. The medal in those days was often given en masse to entire regiments, and many doctors received it for just being on duty at a certain place, which may how Walker got her medal. The Kearney medal was the one given for bravery during that period; the Congressional medal was for meritorious service.) Walker volunteered as a doctor to the Union Army but was refused an Army doctor's commission because of her sex.
      She DID serve officially at times as a volunteer/nurse in Sherman's army, but then she also acted as a doctor at times. Walker angered many because she insisted on wearing an Army uniform - complete with trousers.
      Walker was taken prisoner while tending civilians in the war zone and held four months by the Confederates.

    Another chapter of how life was really like in the "good old days."

          In 1619 an English sea captain advertised in London for free passage for single women wanting to go to the Virginia colonies to find husbands.
          He received 120 pounds of fine Virginia tobacco from the men who "purchased" the women upon their arrival. In a census taken six years later, only six of the 144 women were still alive.

      Her Confederate captives thought her mad for her masculine mode of dress.
      After the war she continued wearing trousers and speaking out about suffrage and dress reform. She found it difficult to make a living as she became more eccentric and finally became a sideshow attraction. She graduated from Syracuse Medical College in New York in 1855 so she was an accredited physician at the time of the war but was forbidden to act as one in the Army because of sex discrimination.
      She was married for a short period and there are records of her living with several women.

In 0001 AD: Roman historian Suetonius states that Roman women had races at the Capitoline Games which leads many of today's herstorians to disagree with the past assumptions regarding women's physical activities in Greece and Rome. The conventional theory advanced is that the women did nothing at all - of course, throughout history men didn't think keeping house, the garden, taking care of children, cooking, canning, preserving, weaving, spinning, etc., was work either... an opinion held by many even today.

© 1990-2006 Irene Stuber, Hot Springs National Park, AR 71902. Originally web-published at We are indebted to Irene Stuber for compiling this collection and for granting us permission to make it available again. The text of the documents may be freely copied for nonprofit educational use. Except as otherwise noted, all contents in this collection are © 1998-2009 the liz library.  All rights reserved. This site is hosted and maintained by the liz library.