Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly 33:3 (Summer 2013)
Long-established notions about life on the frontier are upended in this well-researched and finely written study of gender presentation, as the author maintains that cross-dressing was “very much a part of daily life on the frontier West.” Peter Boag recognizes the diversity and complexity of this issue, and one of the book’s strengths is that he seeks no simple answer to questions of why some women dressed as men, and some men dressed as women. Most readers will be familiar with the “progress narrative”—the story of women who passed as men in order to seek gainful employment, to serve their country in the military, or simply to travel unmolested—but Boag also includes women who continued to present themselves as men long after the need to crossdress would seem to have passed. As a parallel, he explores the gender implications of men who took the less understandable course of abandoning masculine privilege in order to embrace the more difficult frontier life of a person perceived to be a woman.