File photo / Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, in her top hat and coat, advocated for dress reform, noting that restrictive corsets and petticoats limited women's ability to serve equally.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center is holding a special art and essay contest to honor and celebrate Dr. Mary Edward Walker's life and legacy. Walker received the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson in November 1865 — making her the first and only women to receive the Medal of Honor.

When the American Civil War began in 1861, Walker tried to offer her services to the Union Army's medical command but she was rejected, according to Hamilton County historian Linda Moss Mines. Walker then served as an unpaid volunteer and organized the Women's Relief Organization to aid the families of the wounded. She managed to treat wounded soldiers near the front lines in Virginia and in 1863 was finally accepted as a "Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon" attached to Ohio troops, Mines said.

During the Battles for Chattanooga, Walker established her hospital near the foot of Cameron Hill — the current site of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Mines said official reports note her efforts to minister to medical needs, with little concern about her own personal safety. Her work drew the attention of several of the Union Army's leadership and subsequently, she was recommended for the Medal of Honor.

President Woodrow Wilson rescinded her medal in 1917, after new criteria required the honor only be given to those who had engaged in "actual combat with the enemy." However, she refused to surrender it and proudly wore it every day until her death in 1919. Her medal was later reinstated in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter, and to this day she remains the only woman recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Art and essay prompts: 

Grades 3-5:  Draw a picture that shows how Dr. Mary Walker contributed to the women's suffrage movement.

Grade 6-8:  Identify and discuss how Dr. Mary Walker's contributions to the women's suffrage movement demonstrated one of the following character values: patriotism, citizenship, courage, integrity, sacrifice, or commitment.

Grades 9-12:  Identify, describe and analyze Dr. Mary Walker's contributions to the women's suffrage movement, drawing upon her experiences as a battlefield surgeon and a Medal of Honor recipient. Include a connection with at least one of the identified characteristics of Medal of Honor recipients: patriotism, citizenship, courage, integrity, sacrifice, or commitment.

For prize and formatting information, visit for more information. Submissions must be emailed to by Friday, May 1, at 11:59 PM.

This art and essay contest is sponsored by Art Creations and University Surgical Associates 

In partnership with the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center

This is part of an occasional series by the Times Free Press in partnership with the Heritage Center to provide free resources for children and families during the coronavirus outbreak. View more activites and "Values Videos" on their website.