Among the 3,500+ Medal of Honor awards earned by multitudes of brave servicemen in the American armed forces since the Civil War, only one woman has been granted the prestigious honor: Meet Mary Edward Walker, most commonly known as Dr. Mary Walker.
A contract surgeon, Walker devoted her life to treating the wounded soldiers of the US Army throughout the Civil War and later helped define the significance of having medical professionals on the battlefield. However, she faced quite a hurdle and, for years, fought for a place in the Army as a surgeon, which, at that time, didn’t allow women.
Despite pushing through the boundaries, Walker remained steadfast in her dedication to serving her nation and paving the way for American women with the same fervor to become part of the military. Her efforts were all worth it, and in the end, despite her medal being briefly rescinded in 1917 (just two years before her death), President Jimmy Carter restored it 60 years later.
Born on 26 November 1832 to a progressive household—that encouraged independence, education, justice, and above all, women’s rights—Walker grew up in Oswego, New York, alongside her supportive parents and six older siblings. Embracing her parents’ nontraditional beliefs, she passionately pursued her education, and by 1855, Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College as a medical doctor. She was the only female in her batch to do so.