Synopses & Reviews
From 1917 to 1920 the Woman's Land Army (WLA) brought thousands of city workers, society women, artists, business professionals, and college students into rural America to take over the farm work after men were called to wartime service. These women wore military-style uniforms, lived in communal camps, and did what was considered men's work-that is, plowing fields, driving tractors, planting, harvesting, and hauling lumber. The Land Army insisted its farmerettes be paid wages equal to male farm laborers and be protected by an eight-hour workday. These farmerettes were shocking at first and encountered skeptical farmers' scorn, but as they proved themselves willing and capable, farmers began to rely upon the women workers and became their loudest champions.While the Woman's Land Army was deeply rooted in the great political and social movements of its day-suffrage, urban and rural reform, women's education, scientific management, and labor rights-it pushed into new, uncharted territory and ventured into areas considered off-limits. More than any other women's war work group of the time, the Land Army took pleasure in breaking the rules. It challenged conventional thinking on what was proper work for women to do, their role in wartime, how they should be paid, and how they should dress.The WLA's short but spirited life also foreshadowed some of the most profound and contentious social issues America would face in the twentieth century: women's changing role in society and the workplace, the problem of social class distinctions in a democracy, the mechanization and urbanization of society, the role of science and technology, and the physiological and psychological differences between men and women.
and#8220;A wealth of material that scholars and teachers of U.S. womenand#8217;s history, American agricultural history, and the American experience in World War I will want to have at their fingertips.and#8221;and#8212;American Historical Review
and#8220;Weiss effectively chronicles the birth of the WLA movement and the dedicated women behind it. Recommended for both scholarly readers and interested history buffs.and#8221;and#8212;Library Journaland#160;
and#8220;Excellent. . . . A unique look at how World War I changed society.and#8221;and#8212;Booklistand#160;
and#8220;Elaine Weiss has written an important book on an overlooked subject. . . . This engaging account makes not only good reading but also contributes to our understanding of both womenand#8217;s history and the home front during the war.and#8221;and#8212;Jean Baker, Bennett-Harwood Professor of History, Goucher Collegeand#160;
and#8220;Weiss plows through a wide variety of primary sources and produces a bumper crop of determined women, stubborn men, telling anecdotes, and rich details, all part of a surprising and surprisingly moving story of mobilization and organization, patriotism and sexism.and#8221;and#8212;Kathryn Allamong Jacob, curator of manuscripts at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University
and#8220;Bravo to Elaine Weiss! She has rescued a fascinating chapter of our history from undeserved obscurity and tells the story of the Womanand#8217;s Land Army of World War I with undeniable verve.and#8221;and#8212;Deborah Dash Moore, Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professor of History and director of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies
The women who kept the farms going while the soldiers were Over There
Imagine a more controversial Rosie the Riveter—a generation older and more outlandish for her time. She was the “farmerette” of the Womans Land Army of America (WLA), doing a mans job on the home front during World War I.
From 1917 to 1920 the WLA sent more than twenty thousand urban women into rural America to take over farm work after the men went off to war and food shortages threatened the nation. These women, from all social and economic strata, lived together in communal camps and did what was considered “mens work”: plowing fields, driving tractors, planting, harvesting, and hauling lumber. The Land Army was a civilian enterprise organized and financed by women. It insisted on fair labor practices and pay equal to male laborers wages for its workers and taught women not only agricultural skills but also leadership and management techniques. Despite their initial skepticism, farmers became the WLAs loudest champions, and the farmerette was celebrated as an icon of American womens patriotism and pluck.
The WLAs short but spirited life foreshadowed some of the most significant social issues of the twentieth century: womens changing roles, the problem of class distinctions in a democracy, and the physiological and psychological differences between men and women.
The dramatic story of the WLA is vividly retold here using long-buried archival material, allowing a fascinating chapter of Americas World War I experience to be rediscovered.
About the Author
Elaine F. Weiss is a journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times
, Atlantic Monthly
, the Boston Globe
, the Philadelphia Inquirer
, and on National Public Radio. She is a frequent correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor