November 27, 2011

Women Dress as Men to Accomplish Goals



QUESTION: What did the following six women have in common?

 Anne Bonney fell in love with a sailor, sailed off, then fell in love with a pirate.

          Deborah Sampson enlisted in the Continental Army in 1781.

Sarah R. Wakeman worked on a coal barg, then joined the Union Army.

          Miranda Stuart Barry graduated from collegeand joined the British army.

Dorothy Tipton was a jazz cat, whowas a night club entertainer.

         Joan of Arc led a French army to victory

Madame Rosalie de Leval purchased a Maine farm, entered its wilderness, and cleared land.

ANSWER: They each disguised themselves as men (or dressed as men) in order to succeed.




     This daughter of a big-shot South Carolina plantation owner first fell in love with a sailor. After she ran off to sea, she fell in love second with Captain John Rackham, a pirate known as Calico Jack, one of the worst known buccaneers of that day.

     Ann dressed as a man and shared Rackham’s pirating adventures.

     Then the ironic happened. Ann next became attracted to one of Calico Jack’s lieutenants…only the lieutenant turned out to be a disguised woman, Mary Read

     Both women were sentenced to death at the gallows, but were saved because they were pregnant. British law forbade the execution of a pregnant woman.


     Having a height of five feet eight inches, Deborah Sampson, who lived from 1760 to 1827, found little trouble in enlisting in the Continental Army in 1781. However, when drunk, she couldn’t keep her secret.

Undaunted, she reenlisted, using her dead brother’s name. She served with distinction for three years.

      When she was wounded she decided to remove the musket ball herself rather than jeopardizing her secret. But when she caught a fever, the doctor discovered the truth.

     She was honorably discharged. In 1792 Massachusetts paid her back wages, and in 1804 Congress awarded her a veteran’s pension.


      Sarah R. Wakeman was among the four hundred women who fought in the Civil war as men. This farmer’s daughter, who lived from 1843 to 1864, first disguised herself as a man to work on a coal barge. Next, for a $152 bounty (about a year’s wages) she joined the Union Army. Although most of her time was spent in non-combat situations, she did fight at least one battle.

     In 1864 she was stricken with dysentery, and died in a military hospital.

     Her secret wasn’t revealed for years. Her gravestone reads Private Lyons Wakeman.

     It was a century later that her letters home revealed her secret.


     In the early 19th century women couldn’t be doctors. Still, James Miranda Stuart Barry yearned to be a doctor. Her time was between 1795(?) and 1865.

     Disguised as a man, she enrolled at Edinburgh University. She graduated at the age of fifteen years old.

     She joined the British army in 1813, remaining there until her retirement in 1859. She attained the rank of senior inspector general, and had served all over the world.

     Known as a skilled surgeon and a grump, she is credited with performing the first successful caesarean section in the British Empire. She fought one duel and publicly scolded Florence Nightingale.

     Her secret stayed private until her death.


     In English known as Joan of Arc, this sixteen year old peasant girl spent years hearing voices as she tended cattle at Domremy. Sometimes she sees and recognizes the speakers: St. Michael, St. Catherine, St. Margaret.

     In the winter of 1428-1429 she receives a specific instruction: she must raise the siege of Orleans in order that the French king, Charles VII, can go to Reims to be anointed in the cathedral. If he is anointed, France will again have a king.

     Joan of Arc took on this mission. In order to reach Charles, she dressed in man’s clothing, had six male companions, and travels for eleven days to Chinon.

     Wearing armor and bearing a sword, she leads soldiers to Orleans on April 29, 1429. She was armed like a man, fought bravely like a man, and by May 8 the English was in full retreat from Orleans.

     She also dressed in men’s attire while in prison and in other circumstances where she felt her modesty might be compromised otherwise.**


     Madame Rosalie de Leval was a French émigré to the United States in 1791. She entered into land speculation in Maine with Gen. Henry Knox and his partner William Duer and his agent Gen. Henry Jackson.

     She is reputed to have traipsed through the wilderness of her farm in what is now Lamoine (then, Trenton), Maine, and cleared the wooded land along with her helpers. She allegedly wore men’s clothing while doing these activities.

     She also climbed Schoodic Mountain. Was she dressed like a man to accomplish this feat?*


 *mental_floss presents FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE, edited by Will Pearson, Mangesh Hattikuder, and Elizabeth Hunt, 2005, pp. 164-165


***Visit to learn more about Madame



MADAME ROSALIE BACLER de la VAL: A Character Sketch


If There’s a Robber in Your House Where Will You Hide?

From the Bastille to Cinderella

The French military in America during the American Revolution Part 1


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