The Social Constructions Of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman

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A common mistake individuals make is that they describe sex and gender as one in the same. Sex is assigned at birth and is based on a person’s genital appearance. Gender is a social construction; it reflects a culture, which means it is associated with a performance of femininity or masculinity. Sarah Rosetta Wakeman was born with the sex of female, but as she grew older she would be seen associated with the gender of a male. Wakeman was a simple farm girl from central New York and was the oldest of seven children. She left home and began dressing as a man and later joined the service in the 153rd regiment for the Union. She used the alias’ Private Lyons Wakeman and Edwin R. Wakeman. Wakeman’s ability to pass as a man in the Civil War shows the flexibility of gender in the mid-nineteenth century America. Exploring this will help to understand the social constructs of this time period.

To better understand how Wakeman decided to dress as a man we must look at her upbringing. She was the oldest of seven, of which five were girls and two were boys. Her brothers were the youngest in the family. Wakeman is the oldest and it can be assumed that she had multiple responsibilities. Her family was farmers and since the boys were so young, she was asked to help her father with the farming
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She was able to obtain a job on the Chenango Canal as a boatman. The profession of a boatman was not an easy task. Even though her time was short as a boatman she performed masculinity successfully there. She had the strength to perform the manual task and did not complain or show womanly attributes. While she was a boatman she became interested in bounties offered to those who enrolled on the thirtieth of August in 1862. She then joined the 153rd regiment on the seventeenth of October and departed the next day. She was able to pass as a man to perform as a boatman and now as a

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