Women and the Land Army

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as collected by Jim Edwards, Launceston, 1988-2011.
This is the story behind the formation of the Women’s Volunteer Force, which became the Women’s Land Army.

Mary Francis Vivian Lobb being a strong advocate for women to help out in agriculture, was keen to show that women could take their place and help the countries growing need to produce more of its food, especially with the drain on man power to the war. Lady Molesworth St Aubyn was another tireless campaigner and as early as 1916 she proposed to organised exhibitions that would show the aid women could provide to the home front. Things were coming to a head with the passing of the Military Service Act in January 1916. This imposed conscription for the first time on single men aged 18 to 41 who were outside of a protected occupation. Although agriculture was one of the protected occupations, this did not stop the taking away of key agricultural workers who would face stern challenges before respective Tribunals. Thus the requirement for extra hands was in dire need.

Letters to the editor January 1st, 1916
Letters to the editor January 1st, 1916
War work for Women article from January 1916
War work for Women article from January 1st, 1916
Woodbinding Exhibition January 15th, 1916
Woodbinding Exhibition January 15th, 1916
Launceston, Camelford, and Stratton District War Agriculture Committee meeting held on Tuesday, January 25th, 1916
Launceston, Camelford, and Stratton District War Agriculture Committee meeting held on Tuesday, January 25th, 1916
Woodbinding February 1916
Woodbinding February 1916
Woodbinding Competition Article February 5th, 1916
Woodbinding Competition Article February 5th, 1916

At the Launceston, Camelford, and Stratton District War Agriculture Committee meeting held on Tuesday, January 25th, 1916, the recent survey of parishes where women were willing to work on the land showed a surprising number that had put themselves forward. However, there was some dissenting voices. At the Chemical Co. annual manure audit held at Homelands, Lezant, Mr Dymond of Stoke Climsland, said he thought the ladies could do more good in looking after the household. “It was not what a man got, but what a woman saved, that made the difference” he said. “How could they keep the house going and be out on the land?” he asked. In the discussion which followed it became quite evident that the majority of farmers present were not in favour of employing woman on farms.

Woodbinding Article February 1916
Woodbinding Article February 1916

 

Women and Farm Work

War Work for Women February 26th, 1916
War Work for Women February 26th, 1916
War Work for Women March 4th, 1916
War Work for Women March 4th, 1916

THE FIRST STAGES OF THE WOMEN’S LAND ARMY.
Scarne Farm, at the southern end of Hurdon Way estate, is described as one of the oldest farms in the district.
The family of Hicks farmed it for about a century before Mr Cecil Hicks, son of Mr Thomas Hicks of St Gennys, retired. During Mr Thomas Hicks’ ownership, in late 1915 and early 1916, due to the loss of lives in the Great War and the Government’s idea that farm labourers were expendable, most farms were so short of manpower they could no longer be properly farmed. It was suggested that Postmen be used, but it was pointed out that most of the remaining postal workers were too old for soldiering; requests were to be made to the government for the release of farm workers from the Army to help feed the near starving population, but these were far too important to the Army. Next it was suggested, at a meeting of the Launceston District War Agricultural Committee meeting, held in the town in December 1915, that women be used as farm labourers, but the idea was scoffed at, and it was said by some (men) that women were too weak in the head and in the body, and other derogatory remarks were made, and the idea was apparently dropped.
A letter appeared in the Cornish & Devon Post, written by a woman, which stated that women could easily do the job – if not in the same time, they could still accomplish everything a man could do. Wagers were made, land was offered for women to prove themselves, arguments arose. Finally Mr Hicks offered some of his land for a series of competitions to be held upon to settle the argument that women could, or not, do the work. Women did do the jobs set for them, many of them more quickly and efficiently than the men had been doing, and from then onwards many more such competitions were held in the South-West, the women proving their worth many times over. With the organisation of Lady Molesworth St Aubyn, an exhibition showing the aid women could provide to the home front, took place at Thomas Hicks’s farm at Scarne Farm on March 9th, 1916. Those that took part are: Mary Francis Vivian Lobb, Treguddick, South Petherwin: May Billing, Exwell, Linkinhorne: Miss MS Dinnis, Trecarell: Louisa Thomas, Warbstow Cross: Harriett Baker, Meadwell, Kelly: Mary E & Alberta A Wood, Sellick, Clawton: C Reddicliffe, Hill Cottage, Stowford: Letty Wood, Sea View, Tresmorn, St Gennys: Emma Butler, Tatson, Pyworthy: Mrs Burgoyne, Pendowrie, St Gennys: Mrs Hodge, St Gennys: Mary Bartlett, Tamar Villa, Tavistock Rd: Mrs Jury, Northgate St: Edith Mary Hancock, Newham, Otterham: Emily Gay, Well, North Tamerton: Mary Pearse, Higher Dizzard: Mrs Bailey, Grinnacombe, Broadwood: Mary Skitch, Rosecare: S Webber, Hill Park Cottage, North Tamerton: Mrs Toll, Grinnacombe: Beatrice Evely, Down House, Kelly.

1915 Land Army demonstrations at Scarne  1915 Land Army demonstrations at Scarne

1915 Land Army demonstrations at Scarne   1915 Land Army demonstrations at Scarne

These four images were taken at the 1916 Scarne Farm demonstrations held on Thursday, March 9th, organised to show the skills of female labour and how they could aid the war effort.

Scarne Demonstration Article March 11th, 1916
Scarne Demonstration Article March 11th, 1916
Launceston War Agricultural Committee Report April 4th, 1916
Launceston War Agricultural Committee Report April 4th, 1916
Women and Farm Work April 1916
Women and Farm Work April 1916
Women and Farm Work April 15th, 1916
Women and Farm Work April 15th, 1916
Women Labour Meeting September 30th, 1916
Women Labour Meeting September 30th, 1916
Women at Work December 22nd, 1916
Women at Work December 22nd, 1916
Women on the Land March 24th, 1917
Women on the Land March 24th, 1917
War Work for Women April 21st, 1917
War Work for Women April 21st, 1917

Women at Work May, 1917

Women at Work April 28th, 1917

Votes for Women Article from June 23rd, 1917
Votes for Women Article from June 23rd, 1917
Miss Francis Vivian-Lobb September 1917
Miss Francis Vivian-Lobb September 1917
Cornwall's Women Land Workers April, 1918
Cornwall’s Women Land Workers April, 1918
Cornish Women Land Workers Artcile, April 20th, 1918
Cornish Women Land Workers Article, April 20th, 1918
Women and Tractors, May, 1918.
Women and Tractors, May, 1918.
Womens Land Army, May 18th, 1918
Women’s Land Army, May 18th, 1918
Women's land army May 25th, 1918
Women’s land army May 25th, 1918.
Women War Workers Meeting, July 27th, 1918.
Women War Workers Meeting, July 27th, 1918.
Womens Land Army, August 4th, 1918
Women’s Land Army, August 4th, 1918

The King’s very own farm at Stoke Climsland was at the fore front of hiring women to fulfill the role left by the men departing to the front.

Miss C. Matheson at work for the Womens Volunteer Land Army at Home Farm, Stoke Climsland in 1917
Miss C. Matheson at work for the Womens Volunteer Land Army at Home Farm, Stoke Climsland in 1917

 

 

 

 

 

 

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