After the Book Launch

Dr. Mary Walker’s Civil War launched on June 1. Thanks again to everyone who followed along on the Walker Wednesdays and to all of you who ordered the book or plan to do so.

Dr. Walker has been in the news recently, not a typical thing for someone who died in 1919. (It’s interesting to contemplate that she lived through the 1918 pandemic.) Over the last week or so, her name came up in connection with discussions about renaming military bases. (Some are named for Confederates.) Walker is certainly a long shot, but as the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor, it’s appropriate to consider honoring her this way.

Dr. Walker (photo courtesy of Library of Congress) (Library of Congress)

I’ve been booking virtual events about Mary Walker. I add them to the News and Events section on this blog as the details are firmed up, and I post reminders on Facebook and Twitter. Hopefully, you will find something to watch and/or listen to.

If you’d like to help spread the word about the book (and please, please, please do! this is so very important!), post a review of it on any and all book sites. In terms of real oomph for boosting the book’s profile, the more reviews on Amazon and Good Reads, the better. Otherwise, Mary Walker will end up like this:

MEW freezer

(Fans of Friends will especially get this.)

Stay safe and stay well.

 

 

 

Dr. Mary Walker Wednesday: Finale

It has been wonderful spending these past Wednesdays introducing you to Mary Walker. I hope you found the teasers enticing enough to read the book.

Epilogue: The Medal of Honor Restored

A somebody in her lifetime, Mary Walker was not forgotten after she died.

Photo of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker wearing her Medal of Honor

(public domain)

Though Mary Walker was stripped of her Medal of Honor (along with many others), she refused to acknowledge that and continued to wear the decoration throughout her life. Not long after she died, a quiet campaign began to have the medal restored. In the Epilogue, I show how timing was instrumental to that success.

I’ll resume this blog feature for my forthcoming biography of Dale Evans. It will re-emerge as Queen of the West Wednesdays. (I’ll let you know when it’s time to saddle up!)

Until then, I’ll continue posting about other interesting women in American history and about my reading adventures.

Stay safe and stay well.

 

For Today’s Launch Day: Monday with Mary Walker

June 1 is launch day, which means Dr. Mary Walker’s Civil War is out in the world. For those of you who preordered the book, thank you. To those of you who haven’t, there’s always time to do so for yourself or for someone else–it would make a great graduation gift and/or Father’s Day gift, and you could ask your local library to purchase a copy. One final request. You can boost the book’s profile by recommending it to other readers either personally or by leaving a review on all of your favorite book sites.

As I mentioned last week, I’m using launch day to post the teaser for the final chapter of the book. I’ll wrap up Dr. Mary Walker Wednesdays in two days with the teaser from the epilogue.

Chapter Eleven: The Old “New Woman”

Brushing off the harsh treatment she had received from Susan B. Anthony and other delegates of the National Woman Suffrage Association, Mary Walker blazed her own women’s rights path, emphasizing dress reform while she stumped for suffrage.

Doctor Mary Walker, between 1911 and 1917. (Harris & Ewing/US Library of Congress)

(Library of Congress)

Mary Walker’s attire became more explicitly masculine as she grew older. This photo, probably taken some time between 1911 and 1917, shows the Bloomer costume of the 1800s transformed into tailored trousers and a long coat. The top hat indicates she had been out on an important errand; she dressed up for such occasions. By the 1910s, the “new women” of the early 20th century readily donned trousers for outdoor activities like riding bicycles. It took awhile, but Mary Walker’s belief about fashion finally caught on.

 

 

 

Dr. Mary Walker Wednesday #10

We’ve reached the penultimate chapter of Dr. Mary Walker’s Civil War. The book launches on Monday, June 1, and that is the day I will post the first line of the final chapter. Wednesday, June 3 will be the last Walker Wednesday, and it will cover the Epilogue.

Chapter Ten: Outcast and Erased

In the great divide of the women’s suffrage movement, Mary Walker took her own path.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony published The Revolution, a weekly women’s rights newspaper, from 1868-1872. Mary Walker did not always get along with the two women, but she certainly agreed with their paper’s slogan: “Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.”

Stay safe and stay healthy.

 

 

Guest Post: Nancy B. Kennedy on Frances Willard

I am happy to welcome author Nancy B. Kennedy to the blog today. We share an interest in the women’s suffrage movement, and Nancy recently published a book for young readers called Women Win the Vote! It focuses on nineteen people involved in the passage of the 19th Amendment, so I thought she would be the perfect person to talk to about other women’s rights supporters of Dr. Mary Walker’s time. Here’s what Nancy had to say:

Would you think it frivolous if I talked about the fashion choices of the American suffragists? Well, a hundred and more years ago, clothing wasn’t a simple matter of personal style and taste. It was serious business that proscribed much about a woman’s life.

My friend Theresa Kaminski has written a book about Dr. Mary Walker, a Civil War surgeon who had a lot to say about clothing. In my book about the suffragists, Women Win the Vote! 19 for the 19th Amendment, I also had occasion to address women’s clothing.

In the time period we write about, women’s clothing was heavy and restrictive: petticoats and corsets, multi-layered bodices with long sleeves and high collars, heavy skirts that swept down to the floors. Women couldn’t even get a break at the beach, where they had to wear woolen stockings even to dip a toe in the water.

Fierce fashion from 19th century Puerto Rico | National Museum of ...

(Smithsonian)

Theresa’s Mary Walker (1832-1919) wore men’s clothing because of its comfort and appropriateness for her work as a doctor. In her time, women could be arrested for wearing men’s clothing, yet she persisted!

From the same time period, I write about Frances Willard (1839-1898), a suffragist and president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Hearing these credentials, you might think she was a battle-axe with strict rules for women’s lives. In fact, she was one of the most relaxed and relatable suffragists I encountered.

Frances Willard at 23

(Willard at 23, FrancesWillardHouse.org)

In her memoir, Frances Willard despairs over her 16th birthday — the day she calls her martyrdom. On that day, she had to abandon her child’s loose dresses and sturdy shoes and adopt the attire of a woman. To the petticoats, corsets and long skirts, she had to add ribboned bonnets and gloves. She had to grow out and pin up her hair — it took eighteen hairpins, she tells us.

Frances bemoans the restrictions that clothing imposed on women. She lists the articles of clothing women had to don just to go for a walk — a list so onerous that women rarely bothered. Some suffragists did try the so-called “bloomer costume,” a short dress worn over loose trousers, but they were so relentlessly ridiculed that they gave it up, fearing the controversy would hurt the suffrage cause.

Kean Collection / Getty Images

(Kean Collection)

Frances not only wanted freedom of movement, but also educational and financial freedom. “Girls should definitely be set at work after their school days end, even as boys are, to learn some bread-winning employment that will give them an independent status,” she wrote. She knew that dress reform would enable women to move comfortably in a world that until then had been organized around men.

Even when talking about the vote, Frances’s thoughts went to clothing. If women had the vote, she opined, they could enter politics as men did, “clad in the garments of power!”

Willard in the 1890s

(Willard in the 1890s, FrancesWillardHouse,org)

In her 50s, Frances learned how to ride a bicycle, an activity that was thought unseemly and unhealthy for women. On a bike, she could shed some of her hated clothing and whiz through the world as never before. She wrote a book about her experience, A Wheel Within a Wheel, that became a bestseller. Clearly, many women wanted freedoms that had long been denied them.

Frances Willard riding her bicycle, Gladys

(Willard on her bicycle, Gladys; FrancesWillardHouse.org)

Now back to Dr. Mary Walker. She persisted in wearing men’s clothing, even clapping top hats on her head. Unfortunately, suffragists weren’t happy about her choices, again fearing that their cause would be hurt by the outliers. Victoria Woodhull came under the same censure — her bohemian dress and unrestrained lifestyle caused a huge rift in the suffrage movement.

But as you follow the suffrage cause into the 1900s, you see hemlines inching upward. Petticoats  and corsets disappear — at least on the younger generation — dresses become loose and flowing, and feet are shod in more comfortable shoes that allowed women to march in suffrage parades and protests. Women, and therefore their causes, became visible to the world.

So you see, clothing was more than a matter of fashion — it was no less a matter than women claiming their place in the public and political life of our country.

Thanks to Nancy for this insight on fashion and suffrage. You can find out more about Nancy and her work on her website.