April 15, 2013

Mary Walker Wears the Pants: The True Story of the Doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero by Cheryl Harness, illustrated by Carlo Molinari

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:49 am by suebe2

Mary Walker Wears the Pants:  
The True Story of the Doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero
by Cheryl Harness,
illustrated by Carlo Molinari
Albert A. Whitman

“Scandalous!”

“Positively sinful!”

“Outrageous!”

People still make comments like this when they think someone is behaving in an unacceptable way.  When Mary Walker was a young woman in the 1800s, she earned these comments because she had the nerve to wear pants.  That wasn’t the only thing she did that bothered people.  She also campaigned to earn women the vote.  And, perhaps most scandalous of all, she went to medical school.  In 1855, Mary Walker earned her degree and became one of the first female physicians.

With the Civil War, wounded soldiers were sent back to Washington DC so that’s where Mary went.  Not that the army would hire her.  Women, like Clara Barton and Louisa May Alcott, were nurses, not doctors.  So Mary worked as a hospital volunteer, but writing letters and helping the men find checker boards wasn’t enough for Mary so she made her way to the battlefields.

In battlefield hospitals, Mary did all she could.  She showed stretcher bearers how to move men to minimize bleeding.  She tried to avoid amputation wherever possible.  She passed out medicine and bandages.

In 1863, her devotion and hard work paid off.  Major General George H. Thomas made her an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army.  Soon Mary was riding cross country in a cut down army uniform.

To learn the rest of Mary’s story, you’ll have to read Cheryl’s book.

Mary impressed me as a woman who didn’t let the opinions of others stop her.  When she wasn’t given the job she wanted, she didn’t fuss, she didn’t write angry letters (or maybe she did, but it wasn’t all she did), she used her talents to better the lives of others, pay or no pay.

Carlo Molinari’s realistic, detailed art work adds to the story by setting up a contrast.  Here is Mary.  Here is everyone else.  She was truly a singular woman.

Celebrate Mary Walker with the young reader in your life and inspire them to meet life head on.

–SueBE

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