Monday, November 26, 2012


So, peer closely at this sweet, resolute face and imagine this little lady in life [5' tall. auburn hair, a face that'd be transformed by a smile, doncha imagine], this remarkable life which began 180 years ago today, 26 Nov. 1832, in Oswego, NY. Who is she? Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, one of the first generation of females who studied for and earned an M.D. And why is she dressed this way? I ask, rhetorically of course, because her manner of dress was a defining statement, both personal and political. At her time in the world, a woman could and would be arrested for appearing on the public streets wearing any sort of bloomers, pantaloons, or trousers, thus affronting God and decent society for daring to go about dressed as a man - though what sort of a man would run around in such a decidedly feminine getup.... oh well. another story for another day.

And the medal she's wearing? That'd be THE Medal of Honor [the only such decoration awarded to any female before or since - of course, in life the US Congress later decided to rescind hundreds of Civil War MoH's, including Mary's - 'over my dead body!' was her reply] awarded to Dr. Walker for her services tending ill & injured soldiers in the Civil War.
Probably did some spying, too, and served some time as a Union POW in the Confederates' tobacco warehouse-turned-prison down in Richmond, VA.

Anyway, this lady just knocks me out. She was noisily against all sorts of things: Women not being allowed to vote.
Smoking. Corsets. Long, heavy skirts and petticoats.
Laws that confined women in bad marriages and did them out of their property. Really, she was something of a character and a crank and must have driven her relatives nuts, but Mary was, by golly, true to her many convictions. And, not so incidentally, I wrote a book about her, which will be out next spring. And should you be a contemporary woman or girl reading this, having chosen to pull on a pair of slacks or jeans then going freely about your business, think of Mary Edwards Walker, Amelia Bloomer and every other heroine who braved the blow-back and helped to make our freedom and comfort possible.  
Dr. Mary w/her topper,  late in her adventurous life.


  1. Extremely interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks ever so much for writing, Mama H. Wasn't Mary a trip? A courageous character, no foolin'

    Happy Holidays to you!