Next week I expect to again fall backward to bring news not yet covered about Black History Month in February. As I see it, Canada gets a failing grade for almost a complete failure in recognizing one of our own Black history heroes during that month. Despite his being oft noted in earlier blogs here.
But today let's take a train ride back to the US deep south and stop off in Georgia, the very state who's lawmakers are taking the lead of so many others states in the midst of doing their best to restrict the vote of the Blacks.
Next Monday marks the 158th birthday.. to the day.. that events took place leading to the creation of the Medal of Honor.
Congress's first presentation of six medals would later be presented to the first group of the famous Andrews Raiders who captured a train and rode off into history. It's youngest member, Jacob Parrott, would be presented with the first ever actual Medal of Honor for his deeds, (though others with earlier deeds would also later receive the medal.) The story of the Raiders has appeared in this space in the past.
In the early days of the US Civil War, things were going bad for the North's Union army and navy. One of the ways to boost army moral was thought to be the creating of the MOH. In Feb 1862 Senator Wilson introduced a resolution that the medal be created and awarded to the MEN of the army. In June of that year the entire senate introduced a resolution that the medal be presented to selected ENLISTED MEN of the army. In July President Lincoln extended the prerequisites to include officers.
Clearly, the legislation of those early days called for awards for men, but I can find no evidence stating that these medals could also be awarded to women. Taking Mary Walker's case aside. She was promised the MOH by Lincoln, but then he was assassinated. It fell on President Andrew Johnson who awarded it on November 11 1865.
Yet another reason for some thought on November 11th each year.
From the medal's very beginning to this week, over 3,550 medals have been awarded. (These numbers do not include over 1,000 illegally purged medals. )
All but one went to men!
Is it possible that many qualified cases were overlooked because of the wording of the legislation? Did such wording give further excuse to the men of the day to preclude women from getting this most coveted award?
This concept also applied to other medals. Have a look at this...
This is a WW l certificate which accompanied the actual medal being awarded. There were over 6,300 of these certificates and accompanying medals awarded during the Great War. The above, and 25 others were quite unique. The 26 out of 6,300 plus... went to women. Not one of these women's actions, we are to assume, had been heroic enough to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
We sometimes hear the cute phrase that Heroism Knows No Gender. But the numbers seems to suggest otherwise !
During the war some 5 million men were mobalized for US military service.
At the same time over 9 MILLION WOMEN mobalized themselves for service!
Her above document is most interesting. While one of the 26 female recipients of the DCS in WW l her's was no doubt the same as the other 25. While difficult to see, the second line has the usual notation of male gender with the word...himself. It is scratched out and substituted with the word...herself.
At line five the words... his gallant....are replaced by...her gallant... and at line 6 the words awarded him, are altered to read awarded her.
Here is an unaltered certificate for a male recipient in the same war. Note the signature variations in the two documents shown here. Suggesting that in some cases the Commander in Chief may have actually signed the document in person.
But the Germans bombed the hospital anyway. There were many deaths. She would fall to what many thought was her death. But she survived, losing an eye from the shrapnel.
By war's end she would be awarded the DSC, received a Mention in Dispatches by General Haig, would get the Croix de Guerre, the Royal Red Cross, the Military Medal and would become the very first service member in the United States to be awarded the Purple Heart. Her DSC was also the first time ever in the US that the medal was awarded. Much has been written about her on this site.
Before she could be awarded the DSC, officials realized that the wording on the document needed to be changed like the one shown above. It paved the way for the rest of the female recipients.
For the next 20 years or more, one must wonder how many others women qualified for this and other medals. Decisions to deny perhaps based on male oriented wordings, rather than heroism.
But in 1943, if not earlier, things saw a change.
There is still more to come... but I shall leave that until this Sunday,