Walker, Mary E.

Walker, Mary E. (Edwards)

(1832–1919) physician, feminist; born in Oswego Town, N.Y. Graduating from Syracuse Medical College (1855), she married a medical student who also became a physician. An activist on behalf of women's dress reform, she wore "bloomers" at the ceremony; the word "obey" was omitted from her vows, and she kept her own name. (They separated in 1859.) During the Civil War she was an assistant surgeon (1863–64), was imprisoned by the Confederates (1864), and won a Congressional Medal of Honor for Meritorious Service (1865). Afterward she lectured on such issues as dress reform and women's suffrage, but did not support a proposed suffrage amendment, contending 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).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.