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Mary Edwards Walker, M.D.: A feminist physician a century ahead of her time

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In her teens, Mary Edwards Walker already wore the “bloomer” outfit and began to campaign for reforming the “unhygienic” clothing of women. Assertively, she attended medical school and earned her M.D. degree. Due to prejudice, her practice did not flourish and she moved to Washington to offer her medical services to the Union as the Civil War began. Rebuffed by the male medical bureaucrats, she volunteered her services anyway. Eventually, she was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the only woman to ever gain such distinction. After the war, Walker became a journalist, an author of two sensational books, a political lobbyist, a suffrage campaigner, a professional and public lecturer, an ardent dress reformer, a peace activist, a Utopianist and a women's rights advocate. Light-years ahead of her times, Dr. Walker was an intelligent, independent, irrepressible and indefatigable proponent for a host of worthy causes.

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Thanks to the following who rendered assistance: Bill Bradley, former U.S. Senator, NJ; Bernard J. Dwyer, former U.S. Representative, Perth Amboy, NJ; Barbara D. Hall, Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE; David R. Kinneer, Army Board for Correction of Military Records, Arlington, VA; Frank R. Lautenberg, U.S. Senator, NJ; New York Academy of Medicine; Major R. Owens, U.S. Representative, Brooklyn, NY; Terry M. Prior, Oswego (NY) County Historical Society; Rutgers University, Newspaper Librarians; Patrick J. Scully, U.S. Postal Service, Northeast Region, NY; Suny, HSCB, Interlibrary Loan librarians; Jean Tucker, Library of Congress; Jo Ann Williamson, National Archives, Military Reference Branch, Washington, DC.

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Spiegel, A.D., Suskind, P.B. Mary Edwards Walker, M.D.: A feminist physician a century ahead of her time. J Community Health 21, 211–235 (1996).

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