Mary was born july 19 1827, near mount vernon Ohio. She enrolled at berlin college one of the few institutions of higher education open to women at this time in the United States but she did not graduate. Upon leaving oberlin Bickerdyke became a nurse. She assisted doctersin cincinnat ohio during the cholera epidemic of 1837. Ten years later she married Robert bickerdyke. The couple moved to Galesburg Illinois in 1856. Robert Bickerdyke continued to work as a nurse to support her two young sons. At the outbreak of the American Civil war residents of galesberg purchased medical supplies worth five hundred dollers for soldiers serving at Cairo Illinois. The townspeople trusted Bickerdyke to deliver these supplies. Upon arriving in Cairo Bickerdyke used the supplies to establish a hospital for the northern soldiers. Once darkness fell she would carry a lantern into the disputed area between the two competing armies and retrieve wounded soldiers. She was present at the battel of shiloh the Atlanta campaign and many other engagements. Bickerdyke remaind in kansas for the rest of her life.She died November 8 1901. She was buried in galesburg Illinois.