Mary Edwards Walker (November 26, 1832 – February 21, 1919) was an American feminist, abolitionist, prohibitionist, alleged spy, prisoner of war, and surgeon. She is currently the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor.
Prior to the American Civil War she earned her medical degree, married and started a medical practice. She volunteered with the Union Army at the outbreak of the American Civil War and served as a nurse then a surgeon. Walker was at Manassas (First Bill Run), Frederickburg, and Chickamauga. She was captured by Confederate forces after crossing enemy lines to treat wounded civilians and arrested as a spy. She served for three months as a prisoner of war in Richmond, Virginia until released in a prisoner exchange.
After the war she was approved for the highest United States Armed Forces decoration for bravery, the Medal of Honor, for her efforts during the Civil War. She is the only woman to receive the medal and one of only eight civilians to receive it. Her medal was later rescinded based on a U.S. Army determination and then restored in 1977. After the war she was a writer and lecturer supporting the women’s suffrage movement until her death in 1919.
After the war, Walker was recommended for the Medal of Honor by Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and George Henry Thomas. On November 11, 1865, President Andrew Johnson signed a bill to present her the medal. The 1917 the Army Medal of Honor Board never rescinded any medals in 1917 but instead deleted 911 names from the Army Medal of Honor Roll including that of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. Walker continued to wear her medal until her death. President Jimmy Carter restored her medal posthumously in 1977.
Tomorrow, Another Medal of Honor Award Recipient. Rita Bay