From Susan B. Anthony to Rosa Parks, women have made many positive contributions to society. These women deserve recognition for all they have accomplished during a time when society made it a challenge for women to be successful. The Museum of the Cape Fear celebrates the observance of Women’s History Month and the N.C. Civil War Sesquicentennial, with a presenta-tion about Dr. Mary E. Walker, on March 18.
The program, presented by Dr. Matt Farina, a retired physician from New York, focuses on Dr. Mary E. Walker. Farina currently resides in Southern Pines, N.C. He is a member of the Rufus Barringer Civil War Roundtable.
Lisa Greathouse, associate curator of education, said that Farina talked with her about doing this program a while ago. “He contacted me to discuss coming to the museum to speak about two years ago,” Greathouse said.
This program celebrates and acknowledges women who aided in shaping an ever-evolving and perplexing society. There was a time in history when women could not even vote, let alone have a career. Brave women fought to change the system and gain equality.
Walker is an example of a woman who brought about change and inspiration through her achievements.
“I remember after reading about Dr. Walker, I went to visit Womack Army Medical Center,” Greathouse said. “I saw her picture in the hall and it caught my eye.” Greathouse said she has been to the hospital and has walked those same halls before. But now knowing who Dr. Walker is, and her great accomplishments, her picture stands out even more. “It was the icing on the cake, very fascinating.”
Born on Nov. 26, 1832, Walker was always destined for something bigger than the typical female of her time. Working to make money for college, Walker graduated at what is now called Upstate Medical University in 1855. The only woman in her class, she received a degree as a medical doctor. She opened a joint practice with her husband, Albert Miller, in Rome, N.Y., which, sadly, did not succeed. This did not stop Walker from pushing forward, she later volunteered during the Civil War as a female surgeon. Working as an unpaid volunteer at the U.S. Patent Office Hospital in Washington, D.C., she became an unpaid field surgeon during the Battle of Fredericksburg and in Chattanooga after the Battle of Chickamauga. Walker was also captured as a prisoner of war. She was later released during a prisoner exchange.
Her dedication and talent paid off and she became the first-ever female U.S. Army Surgeon in 1863. Walker is the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor. She went on to become a lecturer and a writer, and was a true supporter of the suffrage movement. In 1919, Walker died at the age of 86.
“There is a lot of practicality behind discussing Dr. Mary Walker. Her contributions check a lot of boxes for an excellent role model,” Greathouse explains, “You will have a great educational experience.”
The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical complex is known for having many programs and features that focuses on southern North Carolina history. The museum includes exhibits that range from the Paleo-Indian period through the American Revolution, through the antebellum period, and into the first decades of the 1900s.
The Dr. Mary Walker: Union Army Physician program begins at 2 p.m. All programs at the museum are free. For more information about this program or the museum itself, contact 486-1330 or visit www.museumofthecapefear.ncdcr.gov/index.html.
Photo: Dr. Mary Walker.