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Miss Dr. Mary E. Walker 1869


Posted By: Cheryl Locher Moonen (email)
Date: 3/1/2016 at 12:52:40


A Sketch of Her Career in
Analysis of Her Character by
An Old Acquaintance
Miss Doctor Mary E. Walker was the first seen and heard of west of the Mississippi in the spring of 1860. One morning in May, the local columns of each of the Dubuque dailies referred to the fact, with comments not very complimentary, that a young lady in bloomers had created quite a sensation upon the streets the day before.

The writer hereof, then conducting a paper in Delhi, forty miles west, gallantly came to the rescue of the then unseen and unknown bloomerite, insisting that consistency demanded of the Dubuque editors to cease sneering at her for wearing a dress unfashionably too short at the bottom, unless they likewise lashed some of their own ladies for wearing dresses fashionably too short at the top, etc.

A few days afterwards our sanctum was invaded by a young lady in bloomers, who introduced herself as the identical person in whose behalf we had written; said her name was Mary E. Walker; that she had come to Iowa to “see the west,” and by and by, perhaps work into the practice of her profession, which was that of medicine – if water can be called “medicine,” for she was of the hydropathic School.

Miss Walker was not handsome in feature; nor yet was she homely; was rather under medium size, vivacious and sprightly, sometimes almost graceful, always in buoyant spirits. Her bloomer dress was rich, neat and becoming – for she was one of the few women upon whom a bloomer dress can be made to “hang” right. We have seen bloomers on short, fat, dumpy woman, which made them look at a distance like a beer keg balanced on a couple of corks. We have seen them on tall, gaunt, rock-ribbed females, so arranged that a waist lapped over an apron, which lapped over a dress, which was lapped over itself in a tuck near the bottom, which lapped over the pantaloons, which lapped over the shoes, till the whole make-up, with its numerous overlapping’s, reminded one of the layers of bark on a “shag-bark hickory” tree. But, Miss Walker was just the size and style to look well in a bloomer dress, and had the taste to fit it to herself more becomingly than any other woman we ever saw attempt it. That was her “forte.”

Miss Walker was an incessant and endless talker. But it soon became manifest that the staple of her conversation consisted of one ever-prolific topic-herself. Her adventures had been numerous and varied- for one of her age. What her age was it was difficult to determine from her experience, or learn from her conversation. From appearance one would judge her to be between 25 to 28 years old. But in conversations-held at different times, and forgetting what she had said before-we were uniformed that at fifteen years of age she commenced to teach school, and taught common school for five years; that she was a milliner for five years; that she worked at the printer’s trade for five years; that she was for five years an associate editor of a literary magazine; that she had studied medicine, “regular school” for three years; that she was an invalid, unable to walk for more than a few feet at time, for five years; that she was treated by hydropathic treatment, which led her to investigate and adopt the (missing words because of fold in paper) which she had practiced for five years; etc., etc. Aggregating the time spent in her various occupations, she must have been close to a hundred and twenty years old, unless she-but we will not question her veracity, for she was a woman of unswerving “principal,” she said to herself repeatedly. So let us rather believe that during her residence in Florida as an amanuensis for the senator of the state, she had discovered and partaken of the “fountain of eternal youth.”

After nearly a year in Delhi, she went to Hopkinton, where she managed it one way or another, to create quite a sensation. It had been arranged that during her stay there she was to furnish “Hopkinton correspondence” for the before mentioned paper; but as she appeared to find nothing going on in that quite “burg” worth recording except her own doings, trials and triumphs, and she came near involving the paper in two or three unpleasant “muses” before we came to understand that she was using it to gratify her own vanity or spite, her communications after a season ceased to appear. Her last contribution to its columns was poetical; that we printed- and put George D. Prentices name to it; because we collected having seen it in his work, several years before.

It was something of a shock to us by, the by, after having been, at first acquaintance with the lady, informed that she had been associate editor of a leading magazine for five years, to discover, on receiving her communications for publication, how triumphantly and unconsciously she over-rode all rules of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc. On meeting her afterwards, we led the conversation to botanical and medical topics, and discovered that here, to, she differed equally widely from the commonly received authorities. We recollect, for instance, her location of the thyroid cartilage in the thigh.

About this time our editorial attention happened to rest upon a couple of our exchanges-one from an adjoining county, and one from a county in New York. The latter contained a notice that Mr. Alfred E. Miller petitioned for a divorce from his wife, Mary E. Miller; the other, a notice that Mrs. Mary E. Miller petitioned for a divorce from her husband, Mr. Alfred E. Miller, with right to resume her maiden name of Mary E. Walker. We kept our own counsel, and soon learned more about the matter than we could have discovered by any amount of questioning.

The enterprising Mary had come all the way from New York to get a divorce from her husband. She had a grievous story of persecution and maltreatment. We have no way of proving that it was largely fictitious; she, fertile in resources, had an ingenious way of proving it to be true. Her proposition to her attorney-at least, to one attorney-was, to give in the testimony of herself, as Mrs. Alfred E. Miller, against her husband; and her statement were to be confirmed by the affidavit of Miss Mollie Walker, who lived in the family home at the time Mrs. Miller was so abused. (Mollie Walker being simply Mrs. Miller under her maiden name.) This style of doing business the Delhi lawyer objected to; and the case went to an adjoining county, where the divorce was procured, we know not upon what evidence. The worst of it was, her husband forestalled her, by getting a divorce some three weeks the first. If that couple are not divorced, with the decree from the courts of two states to that effect, we don’t know how such a result could be accomplished.

About this time the war began and Mary started for the front. There was a chance to thrust herself forward into notoriety-and such chances she never let slip. During the war she was frequently heard from on both sides of the lines. When it closed she went to England, and delivered medical lectures in London. If there were any physicians in her audience, we will warrant they were astonished at her doctrine!

Now she is back in America again, and if she don’t torment the life out of Grant and all his cabinet, we don’t know Mary Walker! But we think we do. We see she has recently had a tilt (not a tilter-she don’t wear ‘em!) with Post Master General Cresswell, demanded a place in the post office department-estimating with shrewd correctness her own appropriate sphere, which is unquestionably among the mails-of any kind-as is again manifested by her demand of Secretary Fish to be made secretary of legation to Spain, under Steckles. We see Fish has left the matter to Steckles, and we presume there will be no objection on his part to her taking the position.

Miss. Dr. Mary E. Walker (the rest of the article is blotted out by ink.)


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