Lewiston’s Mary Brown is Maine’s ‘Mulan’
Everyone knows and loves the story of Mulan. The story of Mulan spans centuries but popularized in the United States because of the Disney adaptation from 1998.
Go ahead, get it out of your system. I know you want to.
Let's get down to business, (sorry, couldn't help myself) the legend of Mulan varies, but it follows a young woman named Mulan who, to protect her father from sure death in battle, disguised herself as a man to take his place in the army.
So, what does this have to do with a Mainer? Well, it has some similarities to the story of Mary Brown of Lewiston.
Back in the 1800s, women were not allowed to join the National Guard. In fact, according to the National Guard, women weren't allowed to join until 1956 and they weren't able to join the ranks as enlisted members until 1968.
Mrs. Brown wasn't having that. According to Uncounted Forces, at just 21 years of age, she ended up disguising herself as a man and joined alongside her husband the 31st Maine Volunteer Infantry just 3 years after the start of the Civil War. Not only did Mary want to be close to her husband but she also believed, "slavery was an awful thing and we were determined to fight it down." according to thefreelibrary.com.
While it appears she did clerical work as well as nursing, details regarding the battlefield aren't clear and there are records detailing her service missing, according to Uncounted Forces. However, she was quoted recalling time on the battlefield with the soldiers, "fighting my way through like the rest of them," and stated that she had carried a musket. Women weren't allowed on the frontlines so it's quite likely she disguised herself. She was even present when her husband was injured and was able to care for him.
One thing's for sure Mary Brown is an inspiration to this day. A ride or die wife, a literal fighter for human rights, a nurse, and possibly one of the first female soldiers of the United States.