Obituary of Dr. Mary E. Walker
Many thanks to Kathy Last for transcribing this obituary on Dr. Mary E. Walker.  It is most appreciated and welcomed.  
 
Rome Daily Sentinel
February 22, 1919
 

Oswego - Feb. 21 - Dr. Mary Walker, aged 87 years, died at the home of a neighbor on Bunker Hill near Oswego at 8 o'clock after a long illness.  She was a surgeon in the Civil War and was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor.  She was a pioneer woman suffragist and gained considerable fame by being the only woman allowed to appear in male attire by an act of Congress.

Dr. Walker was injured in a fall on the capitol steps in Washington two years ago and returned home last spring considerably weakened in health.  She declined to accept the proffered assistance of neighbors in caring for her house but later she yielded to the suggestion of the town authorities that she go to the United States General Hospital at Fort Ontario, where she remained for several weeks and was apparently much improved in health.  At her request she was permitted to leave the hospital and return home.  She died in the home of a neighbor who had been caring for her.

Dr. Walker was a resident of Rome for several years in the late fifties and early sixties, and practiced medicine here in connection with her husband, Dr. Miller, from whom she was afterward separated.  At that time she called herself Dr. Mary Miller Walker.  She and her husband had offices on the north side of Dominick Street midway between James and Washington Street.  While living in Rome she wore the bloomer costume, afterward adopting the full male attire.  Her last visit to Rome was in September, 1909 when she made an address at the Oneida County Fair.

Dr. Mary E. Walker led a picturesque career.  Four years were spent on the battlefields of the Civil War.  The remainder of her active life was spent in fighting for femine dress reform and woman's right to political suffrage, in which movements she was a pioneer.  She frequently claimed to have been the first American woman to attempt to cast a ballot in a legal election.  Her livelihood was earned during all these years by her private medical practice and by writing.

By special authorization from the federal Congress Dr. Walker adopted male attire during the Civil War and for the half century since she had continued to wear it in civil life - - the only woman in the country who ever had her rights in this respect prescribed by the national legislature.  She wore a black frock coat, trousers, and a high silk hat and carried a cane.

Dr. Walker also was distinguished as the only woman in history who, when held as a captive in war, was exchanged as a prisoner of war for a man of equal rank in the army of the foe.  She was also the first woman to be regularly enlisted in an army as a surgeon.

Born at Oswego, New York, in 1832, Miss Walker was a graduate doctor with the degree of M. D. won at Syracuse at the age of 23.  Beginning practice immediately she soon adopted masculine clothes.  She practiced in Columbus, Ohio and in this city (Rome).

Her war career began at the age of 29.  She volunteered her services, entering the Union army as an assistant surgeon, with the rank of first lieutenant.  She dressed like her brother officers having a gold stripe running down the trouser legs, wearing a felt hat with gold cord, and an officer's overcoat.  Her jacket was cut like a blouse and fitted loosely at the neck.  When I had on my overcoat, Dr. Walker declared, I looked every inch a man and I am sure I acted it.

Dr. Walker's proudest possession was the bronze medal she wore on the bosom of her frock coat.  On the back was engraved Presented by Congress of the United States to Mary E. Walker, A. A. Surgeon, U. S. Army.

She became celebrated in the United States and England as a lecturer during the half century following the civil war.

Do I ever have unkind things said to me? she once said, echoing an interviewer's question.  Yes, of course - by ill-bred people.  But they are few.  When any one does say anything unpleasant I usually have something to say in return which makes us quits.  O, I tell you, trousers are a great thing.

Occasionally a policeman failing to recognize the little, gray-haired woman, placed her under arrest.  This recently happened in Chicago.  Showing the documents which give her the right to wear masculine attire, she was released.  Her only remark regarding the guardian of the law was:  He's an old idiot.

Although a pioneer in the woman suffrage movements, Dr. Walker was out of sympathy with the methods of some of her sister-workers.  Women will get suffrage just as soon as they stop making fools of themselves, she declared recently with considerable vigor.  They've got to stop talking so much and do some work.  These everlasting amendments will never get them their rights.  They want to state what they want and stick to it.

note: Mary Walker born November 26, 1832, died February 21, 1919
        buried in Rural Cemetery, Cemetery Road, Oswego, NY
 


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