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Dr. Mary Walker: Surgeon, Spy and Patriot



Exhibit
When
June 20, 2020 - October 19, 2020

Where
National Medal of Honor Heritage Center

Known for being a revolutionary leader on equality and women’s rights, Dr. Walker and her story on breaking through barriers and overcoming challenges is a true inspiration for today.

One of the first women to graduate from Syracuse Medical School, Dr. Walker believed that in order for women to achieve their full potential and to gain equality with men, liberation from the confining garments of the day was a necessity. At the time, women were expected to wear corsets—sometimes choosing to remove a rib to appear smaller—and up to six petticoats, which made it extremely difficult to move.

Throughout her life, she was unrelenting about her right to wear pants and was arrested multiple times for impersonating a man. A judge would eventually order the police never to arrest Dr. Walker on that charge again.

Having to endure harassment and attacks from all aspects of society due to her attire and outspoken opinions, Dr. Walker would later say she had “never seen the day when it was not a trial to me to appear in public in a reform dress. Every jeer has cut me to the quick. Many times have I gone to my room and wept after being publicly derided. No one knows, or will ever know, what it has cost me to live up to my principles, to be consistent with my convictions and declarations; but I have done it and am not sorry for it.”

In March 1864, Dr. Walker would travel to Tennessee and volunteer as an assistant surgeon for the U.S. Army in the aftermath of one of the bloodiest and most intense campaigns in the Civil War, and for a time, worked out of converted churches in and around Chattanooga. Treating the wounded meant grueling, long hours with up to 100 patients a night, and supplies were extremely limited.

Providing medical aid for civilians was sometimes a cover for her work as a Union spy, which eventually led to her arrest and imprisonment at the rat-infested Castle Thunder Prison in Richmond, Virginia.

In recognition of her courageous war efforts in late 1865, Dr. Walker was awarded the Medal of Honor. Unfortunately, in 1917, the U.S. government changed the criteria for the Medal of Honor and withdrew Walker’s medal – though she continued to wear it until her death at the age of 86. Nearly 60 years later, in 1977, her Medal of Honor was posthumously restored by President Jimmy Carter. Working in partnership with the government, Dr. Walker’s restored Medal of Honor is be the centerpiece of this new exhibit.

This exhibit, which was made possible by a generous donation from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, will run through October 19 and is included as part of a General Admission ticket.

 

Dr. Mary Walker: Surgeon, Spy and Patriot

Where
National Medal of Honor Heritage Center

When
June 20, 2020 - October 19, 2020

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Call us today and make plans to host your event at the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center!