Mary Edwards Walker (November 26, 1832 – February 21, 1919) was an American feminist, abolitionist, prohibitionist, alleged spy, prisoner of war and surgeon. She is also the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor.
Prior to the American Civil War she earned her medical degree, married and started a medical practice. The practice didn’t do well and she volunteered with the Union Army at the outbreak of the American Civil War and served as a female surgeon. She was captured by Confederate forces after crossing enemy lines to treat wounded civilians and arrested as a spy. She was sent as a prisoner of war to Richmond, Virginia until released in a prisoner exchange.
After the war she was approved for the United States military’s highest decoration for bravery, the Medal of Honor, for her efforts during the war. She is the only woman to receive the medal and one of only eight civilians to receive it. Her medal was later rescinded based on an Army determination and then restored in 1977.