I Could Not Do Otherwise: The Remarkable Life of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker

Zest. Oct. 2022. 208p. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781728413921.
Gr 9 Up–Latta presents a fascinating introduction to Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, the only female Medal of Honor winner, who was a doctor, feminist, suffragist, possible spy, and prisoner of war. Walker was the daughter of freethinking parents who encouraged her individuality and her need to challenge the status quo if something struck her as unfair, such as how women should not wear trousers even though it made gardening and other outside tasks much easier. While Walker was not the first American woman to attend medical school, her work during the Civil War led to her capture as an enemy combatant by the Confederacy and she spent months as a prisoner of war. Her activities during the Civil War led to her being awarded the Medal of Honor for Meritorious Service by President Andrew Johnson. Walker’s involvement in the forefront of political issues continued after the Civil War, particularly regarding suffrage and the annexation of Hawai’i against the wishes of the ruling Queen. Even toward the end of her life, Walker supported humanitarian causes with her own dwindling money, opening her home to those in need and trying to join the efforts of the Red Cross in support of American forces during the Great War. Latta utilizes primary sources, from contemporary newspaper articles to photographs, to make Walker’s remarkable life come alive for readers. The author’s note, which includes additional sources, is particularly valuable for researchers wanting to know more. Included in the back matter are endnotes, selected bibliography, index, and photo acknowledgments.
VERDICT Recommended for all readers.

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