Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

Photograph of Dr. Mary Walker wearing her Congressional Medal of Honor, just several years after she adopted the reform dress.

Get the story...

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

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 recognition of her services to the Union Army, President Andrew Johnson gave her a Medal of Honor in November 1865.  Dr. Walker was also a strong advocate for women’s dress reform, movement which began in the middle of the 19th century and whose goals was to change women’s clothing to be more comfortable and practical. After the Civil War  she began wearing “men’s clothing” – trousers and dinner jackets, accompanied by short hair and sometimes a top hat.

Dr. Mary Walker was proud of her Medal of Honor and wore it often.  Although she adopted reform dress during the Civil War, her transition to wearing only men’s clothing was a slow one.

Creator: Elliot and Fry

Language: english

Item Number: p2122

Pages: 1

Size: 6.3 x 10.4cm

Physical Collection: ACC-AHC1

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


Women's clothing

London (England)