Hometown Hero


Dr. Mary Edwards Walker energetically took up the banner for reform in education, women's fashion, women's suffrage, women's rights, and medicine. She spent the years after the Civil War lecturing at home and abroad in Great Britain. This picture from her advertising flyer, stating her credentials, shows her in her later years, dressed in pants, frock coat, and top hat.


"Dr. Mary," as she was known even to her family, was born on Bunker Hill Road on November 26, 1832. This is the earliest known image of her. Her father, Alvah, a man ahead of his time in his thinking on social issues, encouraged her to forcefully advocate for reform in all dimensions. She taught in a school in the nearby hamlet of Minetto before she entered Syracuse Medical College, where she graduated in 1855.


Dr. Walker offered her medical servicesin the Civil War. She became a contract acting assistant surgeon and often treated civilians in enemy territory as well. This image of her was taken in Oswego in 1864. Dr. Walker spoke out against the vast number of amputations performed during the war, believing many were unnecessary.


Dr. Walker is seen soon after the war wearing her surgeon's pin by her collar. She was at the First Battle of Bull Run and Fredricksburg. She was later taken prisoner and placed at Castle Thunder. Dr. Walker was the first female surgeon emplyed by the U.S. Army.


Dr. Walker poses for photographer Matthew Brady after the war, proudly wearing the Medal of Honor. Upon the recommendations of Generals William T. Sherman and George Thomas, President Andrew Johnson awarded the Medal of Honor to her on November 11, 1865. She is the only woman to receive this honor. Note her skirt worn over pants. This was her mode of dress on the battlefield.


It is said that Dr. Walker was the most photographed woman in America in the last half of the 19th-century. She was always ready for a photo op. This is a more formal pose in her later years.


This image is thought to have been captured in Dr. Walker's home on Bunker Hill in Oswego. She is in deep thought and proudly wears her medal, which she wore daily.


Dr. Walker stands in her later years wearing her fur cape. She often appeared at Congressional hearings at the US capital lobbying for her causes. She was especially vocal against the annexation of Hawaii. She later took a fall from the Capital steps, which soon led to her death in February 21, 1919, at the age of 86.