Bryn Mawr Farmerettes in the Woman’s Land Army

Posted January 20th, 2009 at 2:27 pm.

Time: Tuesday, January 27, 7:30 pm

Place: Ely Room, Wyndham

The Hepburn Center, the Department of History, and Gender and Sexuality Studies are delighted to co-sponsor a lecture by Elaine F. Weiss entitled Bryn Mawr Farmerettes in the Woman’s Land Army. Elaine Weiss will give a public lecture about her recently published book, Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army of America in the Great War, which is the first full chronicle of this woman-powered movement to put women on the land and save American agriculture during the First World War. Scores of Bryn Mawr students served as Land Army “farmerettes,” President M.Carey Thomas was an avid supporter and organizer of the Land Army, and Dean of the College Helen Taft (Manning) not only worked as a farmerette, but wrote articles about it for national magazines and went on a national recruiting tour on its behalf. From 1917 to 1920 the Woman’s Land Army 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 “mens’ 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. The Woman’s Land Army was embraced by suffragists as a pioneering role for women in wartime—and as a novel way to advance suffrage legislation and referenda. It also had deep roots in trade unionism, rural reform efforts, and other important political movements of the period

Elaine F. Weiss is a journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Christian Science Monitor, and on National Public Radio.

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