Civil War Surgeon and Spy, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, CMOH, Cabinet Photograph (Cowan’s Auction)
The cabinet photograph realized $840.00 at auction.
Cabinet card by C.M. Bell, Washington, showing Walker wearing men’s clothing and her Medal of Honor.
Mary Edwards Walker (1832-1919) is the only woman ever awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. She had earned a medical degree in 1855 but could not sustain a practice due to a lack of public trust in female doctors, so she volunteered her services to the Union Army. She initially served as a nurse, but in September 1863 was appointed Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon (civilian) in the Army of the Cumberland, becoming the first female surgeon in the history of the US Military. Walker was captured on suspicion of being a spy while crossing lines to assist a Confederate surgeon and served time in Castle Thunder until an exchange, after which she rejoined the Army for Sherman’s Atlanta campaign and served as supervisor of the female prison at Louisville, KY. Sherman and Gen. George Henry Thomas recommended her for the Medal of Honor, which President Johnson approved on November 11, 1865. To date, she is the only female to receive the medal, and one of only eight civilians. After the war she campaigned for women’s suffrage and equal rights, and was perhaps most famous for her refusal to wear traditional women’s clothing, for which she was arrested several times.