• Athena Ives

Medal of Honor Recipient Dr. Mary Walker


Meet Dr. Mary Walker, a former POW, spy, and the only female awarded the Medal of Honor. When the Civil War broke out, she attempted to join the Army as a surgeon but they denied her saying only women could be nurses, not surgeons. She instead volunteered for the Union Army.



Due to her job and wanting functional uniforms, she often wore male uniforms that were more functional for the work she was doing. This caused many issues and she was arrested several times for impersonating a man.

In 1864 she was captured and spent four months as a POW. On November 1865, Dr. Mary Walker was awarded the Medal of Honor. In 1910, they revised the requirements for the Medal of Honor, and because Dr. Walker was never a commissioned surgeon in the Army, her medal was stripped from her.


In 1917, Federal Marshals showed up to take Dr. Walker’s Medal. She greeted them at the door wearing the medal armed with a 12-gauge shotgun. She wore it every day until her death in 1919. In 1977 an Army board restored the award citing “distinguished gallantry, self-sacrifice, patriotism, dedication, and unflinching loyalty to her country, despite the apparent discrimination because of her sex."