Dr. Mary Edwards Walker (November 26, 1832 – February 21, 1919) was an American feminist, abolitionist, prohibitionist, alleged spy, prisoner of war and surgeon. She is currently the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor.
Prior to the American Civil War she earned her medical degree, married and started a medical practice. The practice didn’t do well and she volunteered with the Union Army at the outbreak of the American Civil War and served as a surgeon. She was captured by Confederate forces after crossing enemy lines to treat wounded civilians and arrested as a spy. She was sent as a prisoner of war to Richmond, Virginia until released in a prisoner exchange.
After the war, she became a writer and lecturer, supporting such issues as health care, temperance, women’s rights and dress reform for women. She was frequently arrested for wearing masculine styled clothing and insisted on her right to wear clothing that she thought appropriate. She wrote two books that discussed women’s rights and dress. She participated for several years with other leaders in the women’s suffrage movement, including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.