The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Dr Mary Walker

Dr Mary Walker

A carte-de-visite portrait of Civil War surgeon Dr Mary Walker (1832-1919), the only woman to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, which she received in 1866 for ministering to sick and dying soldiers and for hardship endured as a prisoner of war when she was captured by the Confederate forces in 1864.

The medal, along with many others, was revoked in 1917, but Dr Walker refused to part with hers. She died in 1919 but it wasn’t until 1977 that President Carter officially reinstated the award.

She is seen here wearing ‘bloomers’ or a ‘reform costume’. Dr Walker was one of the few nineteenth-century American women to have worn pants her entire adult life; she actively campaigned for dress reform and the vote for women. Her refusal to bend on the issue of her attire often subjected her to ridicule by the international press, and she had constant difficulties in obtaining employment and adequate compensation for her work as a physician and surgeon.

Photographed by Elliott and Fry of 55 Baker Street, London.


Code: 122833
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© Paul Frecker 2018