March is Women’s History Month, so this month’s A Book Worth Reading selection is Mary Walker Wears the Pants by Cheryl Harness.
Mary Walker was not like most women of her time. Raised by her parents to think for herself, Mary wore pants, campaigned for equal rights, and in 1855, she became one of the first female physicians. Mary was also against slavery, so when the Civil War broke out in 1861, she went to Washington to see how she could help. She wanted to join the army as a surgeon, but that wasn’t allowed, so Dr. Walker worked as an unpaid volunteer at the hospital doing every kind of job from changing bandages to raising money. Eventually, she decided to go to the battlefield anyway, and worked her hardest to give the wounded soldiers the best care she could. In 1863, her persistence paid off, and she was finally officially named an assistant surgeon for the US Army, a first for both the army and women! No matter what side the soldiers were fighting for, Mary was willing to help them, and it has been speculated that she may have been a spy. In 1864, Mary was held as a prisoner of war and eventually exchanged for a Confederate officer. After the war, Dr. Mary Walker was given the Medal of Honor for her service to her country during the war.
Mary Walker’s story is a great example for readers of all ages of someone who followed their convictions, even when it was difficult. Many people laughed at her and she was even arrested, but she fought for her beliefs. At great risk to herself, she was willing to tend to all of the soldiers on the battlefield, even when her help wasn’t appreciated or condoned by those in charge. Mary Walker Wears the Pants will help your kids realize that some of the things we consider completely normal–wearing pants or going to a female doctor, for instance–are things that others had to work hard to make happen. Cheryl Harness has made Dr. Walker’s story easy to enjoy and appreciate and follows it up with an Author’s Note that tells about the rest of her life. If you’re looking for a good story about a strong woman, check out Mary Walker Wears the Pants!