Mary Edwards Walker, Civil War Doctor
First female US Army surgeon, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker.
She began as a nurse on the battlefield of the Civil War but became a (civilian) battlefield surgeon during the war. (She graduated as a medical doctor in 1855 but women weren't accepted for battlefield service - she changed that.) She was awarded the Medal of Honor for her service (the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor).
After the War, she was a supporter of such issues as health care, temperance, women's rights and dress reform for women. (Look at the photo!)
She served as a surgeon during the Civil War, was at one point captured by the Confederates and later part of a prisoner exchange back to the Union. After the war she worked as a surgeon at a woman's prison in Louisville, KY, as well as principle of a girl's school, I think in Tennessee.
She was elected President of the National Dress Reform Movement in 1866 (she was a supporter of Amelia Bloom) and wore men's clothing for the rest of her life. Although she worked for a time with Susan B. Anthony & Eliz. Cady Stanton for women's suffrage, her "unusual mannerisms and eccentricities" eventually caused her to fall out of favor with them.
She had some strange ideas about sex, claiming that men and women who engaged in oral sex were "diseasing their bodies" and a few other proclivities which I shall not mention here.
She lived with Belva Lockwood, another woman suffragist, for several years. She never remarried.
She is widely accepted by lesbians as, well, a lesbian.
There are MANY books, articles, and other published documents on this woman. From all accounts, she was a pretty strange lady as far as her dress, mannerisms (which by all accounts were mannish) and her eccentricities.
From what I gathered from my reading on this lady, it wasn't just her clothing but also her mannerisms and conduct that were identical to a man's. I deduced that she was either a lesbian or a transgendered individual. She IS widely accepted as such in lesbian writings/literature, from what I've read.
It really doesn't matter, does it? Whether she was heterosexual, lesbian or transgender, she was a very progressive woman for her time. I probably would have been intrigued by her and would like to have known her. Obviously, she cared little for what other people thought of her and just kept reinventing herself every time she was booted out of some school or organization. One has to admire her principles and perseverance.
- Album: All photos