Doctor or Doctress?

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Letter from Elizabeth Stack to Lida Poynter recalling her encounter with Mary Walker at the House of Representatives.

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“How Dr. Mary is Remarkable”: A Female Civil War Surgeon

Mary Walker was the only woman physician to serve as a government-commissioned surgeon in the American Civil War. She was appointed contract surgeon for the 52nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in March 1864.. In April 1864, Walker was captured by Confederate soldiers and held prisoner for four months in Richmond, Virginia. In recognition of her services to the Union Army, President Andrew Johnson awarded her a Medal of Honor in November 1865. After the Civil War, Walker became president of the National Dress Reform Association and was active in the Central Women’s Suffrage Bureau. She made occasional appearances at Congressional hearings and was quite well-recognized, if not well-known, in Washington, D.C. In 1882, she began working as a clerk at the Pension Office in Washington, D.C., but the job only lasted a year. She did not, however, give up offering medical help to those who were in need.

Mary Edwards Walker was well-known for receiving a Medal of Honor in the Civil War, and for her unusual style of dress; she was an advocate of women’s dress reform, and preferred pants to dresses. While many admired her service as a surgeon in the Civil War, Walker's strong personality and sometimes impolite manner made people impatient with her and hesitant to support her reformist ideas. Although many people thought her odd, she often treated people free of charge and inspired other women to work in the medical field. In this letter, Elizabeth Stack recalls the less notorious, generous side of Walker.

Creator: Stack, Elizabeth

Contributor: Poynter, Lida

Language: english

Item Number: a026_020

Size: 14 x 17.7cm

Physical Collection: Papers of Lida Poynter ca.1850-1946 (ACC-026), ACC-026

Finding Aid:

Link to OPAC Record:

Cite this source: Title of document, date. A Female Civil War Surgeon: How Dr. Mary is Remarkable. Doctor or Doctress?: Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians. The Legacy Center, Drexel University College of Medicine Archives & Special Collections. Philadelphia, PA. Date of access.

Walker, Mary Edwards, 1832-1919

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