Any country that continues to allow the record of recipients of these two heroic medals to stand year after year after year with only one women being the recipient since day one back over 150 years or more of this history is a country that cannot possibly be using the same rules for both men and women. Period.
Todays blog is for the ladies. And for men to take notice of these wrongs.
It was back in 1978 that the folks in Sonomo California decided enough was enough and created a week of celebration for women and the tremendous roles played by the smarter sex. Three years later the week was proclaimed as one to be celebrated all, across the US. In 1987 the week became a month, and so it should be.
Womens History Month is an important month for my family. My brother and sisters and I can take immense pride in the fact that it was our mother, and two other women that began a year long campaign in Canada for a simlar month of celebration back in 1991, and the following year the federal government proclaimed that from 1992 on October would be the month of celebration for women's history in Canada.
The US Army has been around for I believe 237 years. When the men went of to fight in the Revolurtionary War, the women were there to support them. They'd be doing the cleaning and repairing of the soldiers clothing, cooking the meals and nursing the wounded and comfort the dying. In fact they would also be on the front lines.
This is Margaret Corbin. She and husband John were from Philadelphia. When the Revolutionary War started, she followed her husband into battle and fought side by side with him on Manhattan Island. His job as a maltross, was to load up the cannons. When the soldier who was firing the cannon was killed, he took over that job. And Margaret took over his as maltross. When he was killed, she took over actually firing the cannon and was so good at it, the Brits started singling her out and turning many of their cannons on her as a target. She's be wounded several times in the battle and her arm was almost severed before the battle was over. The Americans lost the battle but her cannon was the last to stop firing. Years later the Congress awarded her the first ever pension to a woman. Of course it was only half that of the men. DAHHH!
Another woman from Pennsylvania by the name of Mary Ludwig Hays MccCauley would also follow her husband off to war. At the battle of Monmouth New jersey she and other women incuding Martha Washington would help to bring water to the men at the front. In what was a scorching 100 degree heat spell at the time. She would also lend a hand were possible at the cannon batteries. When her husband, yet another loader, collapsed due to heat exposure she grabbed his very ramrod and continued his duties spounging out the barrel after each firing. Many women did this and the men would call most "Molly"... and because they were constantly hauling water the nick name Molly Pitcher soon was adopted. When the battle was over General Washington actually asked who the woman on the cannon was and would later grant her a Warrant as a Sergeant for her services.
You have heard of her. Her name is Clara Barton who at a very early age took to serving her community. She would get educated and become a teacher and worked in both Canada and the US as such before moving on to a government gob, possibly tthe first to a woman, working in the US Patent office, then Clara would get a thought that her services were better needed collecting and bring health care supplies and other products to those in the need in the military... and eventually right up at the front lines. Soon this would lead to establishing a large network doing the same and ultimately being placed in charge of many on the front line hospitals in Civil War days. Later travelling and lecturing in Europe she would become familar with the Red Cross movement and would ultimately bring it back home to the US. There is considerable reading material available on her accomplishments on the net and make for a great read.
Something Mary, pictured here would remember in her adult life. By age 19 Mary had already graduated from her formal schooling and was herself a teacher like her sisters. But bored with this and fascinated with her father's books on medicine she would enroll in the first ever medical school in the US, and within 2 yrs she would graduate... the only woman in her class... and with the credentials of a doctor... the second in the entire nation.
Within a year Mary would take a husband...a fellow doctor. And when she opened her own practice it fell apart as the men of the day decided that they could not trust a woman for medical help. That behind her, she sought a position with the Union army at the begining of the Civil War as a doctor. They had never heard of a woman doctor and would have nothing to do with the proposal so she decided she would volunteer as a nurse. Soon she found herself treating the wounded on the front lines at Bull Run and even going into the fireline to retrieve the wounded when many of the men refised to do so. Her reputation would build and soon she would be appointed a contact assistant surgeon.
Throughout her war years she would adorn men's clothing and would be constantly repudiated about this. But her attitude was to dress for the job and to be comfortable, and so she couldn't give a hoot... as taught as a child, to be held back by other opinions.
Walker's services were not well appreciated at the beginning of the war but by war's end she was a hero and had actually been wounded slightly, had been a POW , a spy, a nurse and doctor and would even be recommended by two Major Generals for the Medal of Honor. She was pushing for a brevet rank of Major but Lincoln approved the MOH. Then he was assassinated. It would fall on his successor... Johnston to follow through and he would make his own recomendation in November of 1865. On the 11th... a day to remember. She woul receive the award a few months later.
Mary Walker continued through her life dressing like a man, as she felt more comfortable than in a dress. In fact the police were so upset at her that she repeatedly was arrested for such behaviour. But finally enough was enough and at a trial she told the court to knock of the nonsense as she had a right to dress anyway she wanted to as an American cirtizen. In fact she would state that... "I could dress as I please in free America on whose tented fields I have served for four years in the cause of human freedom. The case was dismissed to the roars and cheers of most in the courtroom. The court added that the police were never to arrest her again on that charge.
Many returned their medals but just as many no doubt told them to pound salt. Mary Walker was one of later. It has been oft reported that she would wear her medal every day of her life from when first awarded until her day of death. She was a tireless worker for social reforms and was a terror at Washington were it has been said the men would, run and hide just to stay away from being on the wrong end of her latest cause.
She at one point said that if any man was brave enough to come and get her medal... let them try. None did!
Regardless of physical possession, the medal was rescinded. But many years later President Jimmy Carter reognized the gross error in the legislation and overturned the cancelling of her medal and a handful of others. Many others await the same action.
Mary Walker was a woman before her time, and today, being the first day of Womens' History Month is a great day to stop for a few minutes and recognize her accomplishments. Better yet, why not talk to some women today and tell them her story or that of the others noted here today and ask how they are celebrating their month. (in the US)
I'll leave you today with Mary Walkers words that... "Women in uniform were as directly responsible for the freedoms we enjoy as their male counterparts."
And as my late mother once said... "it is no longer time that women stood up and be heard. It is time that they sit down at the table were decisions are made and ensure they were being heard."