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Members of the British Women's Land Army harvesting beetroot (circa 1942/43).

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The Women's Land Army (WLA) was a British civilian organisation created in 1917 during World War I so women could work in agriculture. It was revived from the disbanded World War One organisation in 1939 so that it could again organise women to replace workers called up to the military. Women who worked for the WLA were commonly known as Land Girls. In effect the Land Army operated to place women with farms that needed workers, the farmers being their employers. They picked crops and did all the jobs that the men had done. Notable members include Joan Quennell, later a Member of Parliament.

History[edit]

As the prospect of war became increasingly likely, the government wanted to increase the amount of food grown within Britain. To grow more food, more help was needed on the farms and so the government started the Women's Land Army in July 1939. Though under the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, it was given an honorary head – Lady Denman. At first it asked for volunteers. This was supplemented by conscription, so that by 1944 it had over 80,000 members.

Forgotten

Inez Jenkins, who had served as Lady Deman's assistant director during the establishment of the WLA served as Chief Administrative Officer until 1948. The last Chief of the WLA was Amy Curtis.[1][2] The WLA lasted until its official disbandment on 21 October 1949.

The majority of the Land Girls already lived in the countryside but more than a third came from London and the industrial cities of the north of England. A separate branch was set up in 1942 for forestry industry work, officially known as the Women's Timber Corps and with its members colloquially known as 'Lumber Jills' – this was disbanded in 1946.[3]

Recognition[edit]

Statue at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas

In December 2007, following campaigning by former Land Girl Hilda Gibson, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that the efforts of the Women's Land Army and the Women's Timber Corps would be formally recognised with the presentation of a specially designed commemorative badge to the surviving members. The badge of honour was awarded in July 2008 to over 45,000 former Land Girls.[4]

In October 2012, the Prince of Wales unveiled the first memorial to the WLA of both World Wars, on the Fochabers estate in Moray, Scotland. The sculpture was designed by Peter Naylor.[5] In October 2014, a memorial statue to the Women's Timber Corps and both incarnations of the Women's Land Army was unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, England.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

The Women's Land Army was the subject of:

  • The Land Girls (1998), a film loosely based on Angela Huth's book Land Girls (1995)[7][8]
  • The ITV sitcom Backs to the Land (1977–78)[9]
  • The BBC dramatic TV series Land Girls (2009–11)[10]
  • The Powell and Pressburger 1944 film A Canterbury Tale features as the female lead a Land Girl, portrayed by Sheila Sim.[11]

It also figured largely in:

  • Series 3, Episode 3 (2004) of the ITV detective series Foyle's War, entitled 'They Fought in the Fields'.[12]
  • In the 2002 detective novel A Presumption of Death by Jill Paton Walsh, the plot centres on Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey trying to solve the murder of a land girl in Hertfordshire.[13]
  • The Play For Today episode Rainy Day Women.
The Land Of Forgotten Girls PDF Free Download

See also[edit]

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  • Air Transport Auxiliary, civilian female pilots who flew newly built planes from the factories to airfields
  • Mechanised Transport Corps, British women's organisation that provided drivers for government departments and other agencies during WWII
  • Boatwomen's training scheme, a replacement for men conscripted from the inland waterways

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References[edit]

  1. ^'Timeline 1948 - Bedfordshire Women's Land Army - The Virtual Library'. virtual-library.culturalservices.net. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  2. ^Hawkins, Richard (2009). 'Curtis, Amy'. In McGuire, James; Quinn, James (eds.). Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^Vickers, Emma (2011). ''The Forgotten Army of the Woods': The Women's Timber Corps during the Second World War'(PDF). Agricultural History Review. British Agricultural History Society. 59 (1): 101–112.
  4. ^'Women's Land Army'. UK National Archives. Archived from the original on 23 January 2013.
  5. ^'The Prince of Wales unveils memorial to Women's Land Army'. Prince of Wales. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  6. ^'Memorial Arboretum Land Girls monument unveiled after three-year fundraising campaign'. BBC News.
  7. ^'The Land Girls (1998)'. Rotten Tomatoes.
  8. ^Smith, Julia Llewellyn (27 February 2010). 'Land girls: disquiet on the home front'. The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 10 April 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  9. ^'Backs To The Land, 1977'. britishclassiccomedy.co.uk. 25 October 2016.
  10. ^'Mobilising Land Girls'. Writers' Guild of Great Britain. 24 September 2009. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
  11. ^House, Christian (30 August 2014). 'A Canterbury Tale at 70: a ray of English sunshine'. The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 21 February 2016.
  12. ^'Foyle's War:They Fought In The Fields'. nothing-fancy.com.
  13. ^'Fiction Book Review: A PRESUMPTION OF DEATH by Jill Paton Walsh, Author, Dorothy L. Sayers, Author. St. Martin's Minotaur $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-29100-6'. Publishers Weekly.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bates, Martha. Snagging Turnips and Scaling Muck : The Women's Land Army in Westmorland Kendal Helm Press 2001 ISBN0-9531836-9-6
  • Kramer, Ann. Land Girls and their Impact, Remember When (2008), ISBN978-1-84468-029-0.
  • Rattray, Veronica. My Land Girl Years, Athena Press (2009), ISBN978-1-84748-526-7.
  • Twinch, Carol. Women on the Land: Their story during two world wars, Lutterworth Press (1990), ISBN978-0-7188-2814-1.
  • Tyrer, Nicola They Fought in the Fields: The Women's Land Army: The Story of a Forgotten Victory, Mandarin (1997), ISBN0-7493-2056-7.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to British Women's Land Army.

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