Mary Walker was a highly unusual woman of her era. She was one of a select few of her gender who had qualified as a medical doctor, after graduating from New York’s Syracuse Medical College in 1855. But that wasn’t enough for her – she was determined to become a fully fledged army doctor after the Civil War broke out. But the obstacles in her way would be formidable.
Born in Oswego, New York, in November 1832, Mary Edwards Walker was the youngest of seven siblings, six of whom were girls. Faithful Christians, her father Alvah and her mother Vesta had unusually progressive views for the age. They brought their children up to question both authority and orthodox beliefs about society.
In particular, Vesta and Alvah had radical views about the position of women in 19th century America. The family were farmers, and the Walker parents went out of their way to ensure that both genders shared both farming and domestic tasks equally. Whether it was hard farm work or cleaning and tidying around the home, males and females both did their share.