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The Assembly Minority Conference

Local Legend On The National Stage: Celebrating Oswego’s Mary Walker In Historic Fashion

Weekly Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

Oswego residents are intimately familiar with the history and contributions of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. Thanks to an incredible effort locally, combined with a commitment from the federal government, millions more Americans will get to know our most accomplished Oswego native a little bit better.

Last week, the United States Mint announced the 2024 honorees and designs for the American Women Quarters Program, a four-year initiative that launched in 2022 to recognize the accomplishments and historic contributions made by women in the U.S. In each year through 2025, the Mint will issue five new designs of the U.S. quarter depicting a historic woman. Mary Walker’s incredible achievements made her a deserving recipient of this prestigious designation.

Walker was born in Oswego in 1832 and graduated from Syracuse Medical College. She is recognized as the country’s first female surgeon and worked with the Union Army during the Civil War. A trailblazing advocate for women’s rights, she is the only woman in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. A statue of Mary Walker was dedicated outside Oswego Town Hall in 2012.

Without question, the list of her unparalleled achievements is worthy of national attention. But it’s important to acknowledge the local efforts over the years that have kept Mary Walker’s legacy alive and now reaching new heights. The Oswego Town Historical Society and specifically Town Historian George DeMass played a direct role in the design of the new quarter and the details of Mary Walker’s image on the coin.

With the portrait of George Washington on the “heads” side of the quarter, the reverse side of the Mary Walker coin will display her image holding her pocket surgical kit and wearing the Medal of Honor on her uniform. On the left side, the Medal of Honor is displayed in detail.

It’s difficult to overstate the significance of Mary Walker’s contributions or the recognition being bestowed on her. In an ongoing demonstration of community pride, a number of individuals and organizations around Oswego are planning celebrations around the release of the new quarter in the near future. It’s a worthwhile endeavor, to highlight an honor that means so much to our region and reminds us of Oswego’s place in the fabric of American history.