Fruits of Victory: The Woman's Land Army of America in the Great War

Overview

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 ...
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Fruits of Victory: The Woman's Land Army of America in the Great War

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The most extensively researched and far-reaching examination of the Land Army to date. . . . A wealth of material that scholars and teachers of U.S. women's history, American agricultural history, and the American experience in World War I will want to have at their fingertips."

“Weiss effectively chronicles the birth of the WLA movement and the dedicated women behind it. Recommended for both scholarly readers and interested history buffs."

“Weiss’s excellent work of cross-disciplinary scholarship offers readers a unique look at how WWI changed society."

"Bravo to Elaine Weiss! She has rescued a fascinating chapter of our history from undeserved obscurity and tells the story of the Woman's Land Army of World War I with undeniable verve."

“Elaine Weiss has written an important book on an overlooked subject. Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army in the Great War covers the virtually unknown story of the “farmettes” who joined American’s land army to feed the nation during World War I. This engaging account makes not only good reading, but also contributes to our understanding of both women’s history and the home front during the war.”

“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. The army of “farmerettes,” drawn from the classrooms of the “Seven Sisters” and urban factories, who came together as “soldiers of the soil” to harvest everything from cherries in Michigan to cotton in Georgia and the women who recruited, trained, and championed them leave an indelible imprint in this well-told tale of the remarkable effort of American women to feed a nation at war.”

Library Journal

Weiss, who has written for such publications as the New York Times and Harper's, chronicles the largely forgotten history of the Woman's Land Army (WLA), a group of women in the United States who left their homes and college dorms in droves to volunteer when American involvement in World War I called young men from the fields to the trenches of Europe. Weiss shows how these "farmerettes" faced an uphill battle, as they were often met with disdain by shorthanded farmers and Washington politicians who did not feel the situation was dire enough to warrant hiring women to do men's work. WLA architects, many of whom earned their stripes in the suffrage movement, developed a blueprint for managing a group anywhere in the United States, and they were able to secure wages-and an eight-hour workday-equal to their male counterparts. The group was disbanded after the war, but the farmerettes helped pave the way for women working during World War II. Weiss effectively chronicles the birth of the WLA movement and the dedicated women behind it. Recommended for both scholarly readers and interested history buffs.
—Patti C. McCall

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597972734
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/1/2008
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Elaine F. Weiss is a journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and on National Public Radio. She is a frequent correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
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Table of Contents

Prelude: Liberty Day

Pt. 1 The Girl With a Hoe Behind the Man With a Gun

1 The Right to Serve: A British Land Army 3

2 Female Preparedness 13

3 An Agricultural Army 23

4 Suffrage Agriculture 31

5 Soil Sisters 39

6 A Feminine Invasion of the Land: The Bedford Camp 49

7 Farmerettes and Hoover Helpers: Fall 1917 57

8 Women on the Land 67

9 A Hysterical Appeal 73

10 A Fine Propaganda: The Fair Farmerette and Her Publicity Machine 79

11 Enlist Now! 93

Pt. 2 The Patriot Farmerette

11 In Bifurcated Garb of Toil: California 111

13 Hortense Powdermaker in Maryland 127

14 Cultivating the Soothing Weed: Connecticut 137

15 Libertyville: Illinois 151

16 Girls Who Thought Potatoes Grew on Trees: New England 163

17 The Farmerette in Wanamaker's Window: Selling the Land Army in New Jersey 173

18 Georgia Cotton 185

19 Harsh Terrain 193

20 Miss Diehl and the Wellesley Experiment Station 199

21 Tiller, Planter, Gleaner: New York 213

22 Marriage of Convenience 221

23 A Hungry World 231

24 Carry On 239

25 Farmerette Redux: 1919 and Beyond 257

Notes 275

Bibliography 301

Index 307

About the Author 315

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