because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rosetta Wakeman

Even though Rosetta Wakeman was only five feet tall and in her late teens, with no offer of marriage and her family in poverty, she decided in 1862 that her best bet to help out was to dress like a man and take a job building a canal. It worked. She was able to take care of herself and send money home. But when she found out that men enlisting in the Union Army received a sign-on bonus of $152, she couldn't resist such a windfall. So she marched on down to her friendly neighborhood recruiter, told him her name was Lyons Wakeman and left for war.

An initial stint protecting the White House may have given Wakeman a false sense of security about surviving the situation, but in February of 1864, her regiment was shipped to Louisiana to participate in the Red River Campaign. Marching for hundreds of miles through the backwater swamps didn't kill her and neither did the battles, some of which lasted all night. But contaminated water resulted in chronic diarrhea and she died in New Orleans and was buried under the name Private Lyons Wakeman in the Chalmette National Cemetary.

We know all this today because she wrote letters to her family throughout her two years in the army. In one of them, sent from Washington, D.C., Wakeman wrote: "I don't know how long before I shall have to go into the field of battle. For my part, I don't care. I don't feel afraid to go." Said like a true in-your-face woman who's just trying to make a living.

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