A suffragist who wore pants. This is just the simplest of ways Dr. Mary Walker is recognized in the fields of literature, feminist and gender studies, history, psychology, and sociology. Perhaps more telling about her life are the words of an 1866 London Anglo-American Times reporter, “Her strange adventures, thrilling experiences, important services and marvelous achievements exceed anything that modern romance or fiction has produced. . . . She has been one of the greatest benefactors of her sex and of the human race.” In this biography Sharon M. Harris steers away from a simplistic view and showcases Walker as a Medal of Honor recipient, examining her work as an activist, author, and Civil War surgeon, along with the many nineteenth-century issues she championed:political, social, medical, and legal reforms, abolition, temperance, gender equality, U.S. imperialism, and the New Woman. Rich in research and keyed to a new generation, Dr. Mary Walker captures its subject’s articulate political voice, public self, and the realities of an individual whose ardent beliefs in justice helped shape the radical politics of her time.
By Sharon M. Harris, 2009