Why do real-life images of camouflage-clad women soldiers or female surgeons wearing scrubs make us more uncomfortable than the highly sexualized images of fictional women warriors, like Wonder Woman? Are many of us more nervous boarding a plane that will be piloted by a woman than a man? And why hasn’t a woman been elected to the highest office of the land? Does society believe female physicians are less qualified than male physicians?
La Flesche’s motivation to pursue medicine came from a haunting experience she had as a child, watching an elderly woman die in agony awaiting the arrival of a local doctor. Despite being summoned four times, he never came. In her opinion, the doctor’s absence made one thing painfully clear: It was only an Indian. She wrote years later, “It has always been a desire of mine to study medicine ever since I was a small girl.”
Dr. Mary Edward Walker was a female physician who embodied “antagonism.” She is the only female recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor in U.S. history, cited for valor as a surgeon on the Civil War battlefield. She was also an abolitionist, prisoner of war, suffragist, writer and speaker. Two years before her death, the Army revoked her award yet she refused to comply. Her life story is inspiring.