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 responsibilities. Her mother also wanted her to fulfill womanly responsibilities like helping with her siblings. She did not fit into the gender form of female because she had to help her father on the farm. To better comprehend this she is perceived as a tomboy.
She did not fit the social norm of a woman for that time. She was strong and willing to do manual labor. This seemed to be a strain on the family dynamic. The strain on the family can be shown...
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... a man. In her letters home and her descriptions of work experience it is clear that her male counterparts were not concerned with her sex. Through Wakeman’s ability not to be exposed she in turn was successful in her performance as passing as a man. She was successful in gaining male supporters that did not feel the need to expose her sex, such as her cousins and friends from her home in New York that were soldiers. Wakeman’s look as well as her work ethic made her an effective representation of a man.
It was not only her ability to perform the tasks of a man that made her successful in her portrayal of a man, but it was also the era that she was in. It made it much easier for her to hide her female identity simply by her appearance. It would not be as easy to do in our generation, as appearance does not identify your sex as easily as it did during the civil war.
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