Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mary Edwards Walker: Above and Beyond by Dale Walker

In this short biography of Mary Walker, Dale Walker gives glimpses into the history of medicine, the world of women’s fashions, prisons of the Civil War, and the beginning of the campaign for women’s vote. Mary Walker was born in 1832 in upstate New York to freethinking parents who insisted that the four girls work on the farm and wear clothing that allowed amble circulation of blood. Not only did she follow her father’s suggestions for attire, she also followed him into the medical profession and became one of the first female doctors in the Unites States. Her father was self-taught; Mary graduated from Syracuse Medical College in 1849 and began the difficult task of finding patients who would pay to see a woman doctor. What the Civil War began, she volunteered as a physician and fought hard to be paid as a physician, not a nurse. She worked to stop battlefield amputations and to incorporate sanitary practices. Known as much for her brash, unrelenting behavior as her trousers, she became fodder for Civil War tabloids. Captured as a spy, Mary spent four months in Confederate prison where she schemed for prison reforms including better food and medical care. She was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1865, had it rescinded 1917 when Congress decided that too many medals had been awarded without merit, and reinstated in 1977. Her life spanned the Civil War and beyond. She saw women’s roles changed from domestic work to physician. Just before she died in 1919, women were granted the right to vote.

Mary Walker is a terrific role model for today’s girls- feisty, responsible, hard-working and not at all concerned about the fashion police. Well worth reading.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 58
Reviewer City, State and Country: Timonium, MD US