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.
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.
The Farm in St Mary Magdalene Parish – Census 1901: Scarne
John head frmr 65 Poundstock
Mary wife 71 St Gennys
Thomas son 31 “
Rich Grace daughter W 44 “
Hicks Thomas visitor indept 65 “
Newspaper Reports: January 1st, 1916: Cornish & Devon Post.
WAR WORK FOR WOMEN: DISCUSSION AT LAUNCESTON.
At a meeting of the Launceston, Camelford and Stratton District War Agricultural Committee, held at Launceston on Tuesday, 29th December 1915, there was a long discussion on the question regarding female labour. Mr J Parnell (St Gennys) presided, and on his having to leave the meeting, his place was occupied by Mr TB Hender, JP., CA. Mr Parnell returned thanks for his election as chairman, and said he took the formation of such committee as a warning practically to the people of the country of what necessities might arise in the future. Many of them had not yet realised what the deficiencies in labour might be, and he took it that the Agricultural Committee had given the warning that they must make an effort to prepare for possibilities that might arise. He felt that the assistance of women on the farm would become a vital necessity. It would be advisable to ask the Board of Agriculture to issue posters in regard to the importance of female labour being utilized to a greater extent.
It was reported that replies had been received from the canvassers and the Honorary Secretary (Mr WH Walters) said that although there was an improvement in regard to the number who were willing to work, it was not very general yet. The largest number of definite promises for any one parish was five. Mr F Horne, commissioner representing the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, was present and was of opinion that the condition under which women had been canvassed was not quite satisfactory, as there was nothing definite as to wages. He recommended that the committee should formulate suggestions as to the payment of women who take the place of men. The best method was to arrange for payment per hour for labour, so that a woman who had her daily work in the home could work a short time in the morning or afternoon. As regards piece work, the rates, provided the work was done satisfactorily, should be the same as paid to men. In milking he recommended what was being done in Somerset, by paying so much per cow.
Mr Kittow thought it would be difficult to arrange the pay, as some women would be better adapted than others. Mr Walters said he could not help thinking that up to the present there had been no encouragement from the farmers; they were not willing to go out of their way to receive women.
Mr H Paynter, Week St Mary, differed from these remarks. There were plenty of farmers, he said, who would be glad of the help of women, but they had not yet seen the necessity of it, and if they were asked they only got insult or a sharp reply. In answer to Mr Horne, Mr Paynter said the farmers would offer instruction to the women if needed.
Mr Horne said if they did not get the women from patriotic reasons they would not get them at all, as he did not think that the extra few shillings they would earn would appeal to them. Mrs Williams remarked that if women found there was a shortage of men they would do the work.
Mr Horne said that instruction should be given before the men left, for the women would be of little use for a month after they started. Mr TB Hender said he was convinced that women were not alive to the seriousness of the position; if they did not come forward he candidly believed they would have to fall on the children. Mr Horne thought it would be rather a disgrace if the women put the work on the children. He could not believe that English women would refuse to help if the necessity was known, and that necessity had got to be brought before them. Mr Wade said the season of the year was very much against women working on farms, and he should not know what to put them to do. They had not yet felt the need of labour, but as the spring came on they would want more labour than they would be able to get. Mr Horne said their was a suspicion among some of the women that farmers wanted cheap labour to take the place of men. They would have to be generous, and farmers should simply appeal to the women to work with them in the national cause.
Mr J Parnell, Camelford, said in continental countries women were better versed in farm work, as the men were conscripts. Mr WJ Graver, Bude, thought the first thing to be impressed was the necessity of such work. He suggested each farmer should be appealed to send in the number of men on his farm who had been attested, say up to group twelve, and when they had got these statistics they could go to the women and tell them the necessity of their help. Mr Kittow suggested that the country should be circularised with rousing posters calling upon women to show their patriotism and that their help was really necessary. As regards a minimum wage, he did not believe farmers would give very high wages to start with. Mrs Williams seconded the suggestion of having posters.
Mr Paynter said there were many men connected with the Post Office who could be transferred to the farms, and their places taken by women. Mr Horne did not think it would be very difficult to arrange. Mr Graver proposed that the committee should give authority to someone in each section to call a meeting or to act in any way they thought best to get all the parishes into line and report at the next meeting. – This was carried and the following were appointed:
Stratton section – Mrs Thynne; Camelford – Mrs Seccombe; Launceston – Mrs Williams. Werrington.
As regards the posters, Mr Horne was quite agreeable and said he would report the matter.
MR MARTIN’S CHALLENGE. HIGH HANDED PROCEEDINGS. ANOTHER FIXTURE? Generous Offer of Three Prizes. Miss Vivian Lobb’s appeal for support against Mr Martin’s challenge has elicited a gratifying response. The following ladies have announced their willingness to enter the field with Miss Lobb:
May Billing, of Exwell, Linkinhorne. MS Dinnis, Trecarrell, Lezant. Louise Thomas, Warbstow Cross. Harriett Baker, Meadwell, Kelly. Mary and Alberta Wood, Sellick, Clawton. Maude Annie Mason, Little Athill, St Stephens. C Reddicliffe, Hill Cottage, Stowford, Lewdown.
Miss Billing’s offer was published last week along with a letter from Miss Lobb. This week the Editor has received the following communications from other of the ladies.*
Editorial: This week the Editor has received the following communications from other of the ladies.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR. Dear Sir: I am prepared to join Miss Lobb in the effort to win £5 for the Red Cross and bind 12 faggots. Yours Truly: (Miss) MS Dinnis, Trecarrell, Lezant, Launceston. Dec 27. 1915
Sir: Writing in answer to advertisement in ‘C and D Post,’ a challenge re wooding, offered by Mr Martin in aid of the Red Cross, I will accompany Miss Lobb as one in the trial taking place on the 4th January,
Yours respectively, Louisa Thomas, Warbstow Cross, Egloskerry, RSO. Dec 27. 1915.
Sir, I shall be pleased to join with other women in a challenge to Mr Martin to bind my part of the 60 faggots of wood, and I sincerely hope there are others who are ready to come forward that we may show the grit we are made of; also to benefit the Red Cross Society. I am, Sir, yours truly Harriett Baker, Meadwell, Kelly, Lifton. Dec 27.
Dear Sir. My sister Alberta and I are prepared to join Miss Lobb and the other ladies in binding 12 faggots each to win £5 for the Red Cross. Yours truly, Mary and Alberta Wood, Sellick, Clawton. Dec 28.
Dear Sir. I will join Miss Lobb in the effort to win £5 for the Red Cross and bind twelve faggots of wood. Yours truly, Miss Maude Annie Mason, Little Athill, St Stephens, Launceston. Dec 29.
Editorial: During the week the Editor received the following letter from Miss Lobb: Dear Sir, I have received several more offers of help besides those mentioned in your last issue. But I certainly shall have nothing to do with the advertisement of Mr Martin’s in your last. Does he mean it as another offer to ladies in aid of the Red Cross in a wood binding competition? He is advertising ‘judges’ and ‘4th January,’ much as is done in ploughing and milking competitions; with the exception that these latter always give longer notice for practice and preparation.
I am writing in reference to the “sporting offer to women’ reported in your paper “to bind 60 faggots of wood in one day, and come to his place to do it”! Now my ladies and myself are prepared to do this according to the Editor’s idea that he should hold the stakes and make arrangements as to the details – and like the Editor, I understood that so long as 60 faggots were bound in one day by women, it was all that was necessary.
Like Epicticus and the sheep – one day the master came to see the sheep, and the shepherd would keep telling him how much the sheep have eaten; said the master, “I am not interested in what the sheep have eaten, but in what the result is”. Also, it is a well known fact that ‘wooding’, particularly faggoting, cannot be done in the wet.
Does Mr Martin think that I and my helpers ‘are clothed in purple and fine linen and fare sumptuously every day?’ and that we are just pining for a job to keep our hands out of idleness? One of those who have offered is the mother of 15 children, and the rest, like myself, will have to milk 3 or 4 cows, feed poultry, and some of us humans, and some of us pigs as well, before we go and try to get £5 for the Red Cross.
Doubtless, Mr Martin doesn’t consider any of these jobs ‘agricultural’. Oh! I forgot, please put in a large capital ‘A’, Mr Editor, but if women absent themselves from ‘Agriculture’ for a week, like the Venizalists in the last Greek election, I think the result might prove extremely beneficial to all those blatantly unwise whose ideas coincide with Mr Martin’s on this subject. If the advertisement is a sort of ‘revised version’ of his offer, well then, Mr Editor, we read it in your paper his original offer and we are prepared, with your assistance in arranging things, to accept that original offer as reported by yours, and if Mr Martin refuses to stand by his word we shall hope that you see that he forfeits the £5 to the Red Cross Friends, and so long as those friends benefit we shall be quite satisfied as that was our only aim in accepting it, and it will further release us to continue in our own agricultural duties and those of our men folk who are at the front in undisturbed security, and as the poet Gray puts it, ‘Keep the even tenour of our way.”
Yours faithfully, Mary F Vivian Lobb, Trenault, Egloskerry.
Editorial Note: We believe there are not a few other ladies ready to take part who have not as yet sent in their name. We have heard incidentally that there would be no difficulty in raising a band of five ladies in St Gennys to show what Cornish women can do in wood cutting and binding.
Cornish & Devon Post, 8 January, 1916: Front Page Advertisement: CHALLENGE TO MR. MARTIN:
£5. Offered For The Launceston Red Cross. In view of the challenge recently given by Mr James Martin of Wrixhill, Dunterton, and what has happened in relation to it, I, Richard H Moon, of Ashwater, hereby challenge Mr Martin himself to do as much work as five ladies in one day in cutting and binding wood. I offer Five Pounds to the Launceston Red Cross Society if Mr Martin will bind 60, or as many faggots of wood as five ladies will bind in one day. R.H. Moon, Ashwater, Devon. January 3.
MR MARTIN GOING ON HIS OWN. The fair champions being forthcoming, and certain matters referred to by Miss Lobb requiring to be cleared up, the Editor wrote to Mr Martin to arrange an interview with that lady and himself to settle terms.
The interview did not come off, but instead the Editor received the following letter:
Dear Sir:- In answer to yours of the 28th inst. [re cutting and binding wood]: I have nothing to see Miss Lobb about as I am the employer, and when the work is accomplished, I shall forward with pleasure my £5 to the Tavistock Red Cross Society, my district branch. I shall adhere to the 4th January next as stated in my advt which is exactly a month from the time I made my statement, and is sufficient time for the ladies to come forward. There will be a charge of 6d each to all who come to my farm, excepting the workers. We shall cook a joint of meat and anyone who requires luncheon will be charged 2s per head.
Yours faithfully, James Martin, Wrixhill, Dunterton, Milton Abbot. Dec 26.
So Mr Martin is having it all his own way. We disclaim all responsibility in connection with this high-handed proceeding. Clearly there has not been enough time to organise the preliminaries, and not enough to give such an event the publicity it deserves. If the object is to give Cornishwomen an opportunity of testing their ability to render real service in agriculture and also to raise a substantial sum for the benefit of the Red Cross, Mr Martin is, we consider, ill-advised in rushing the effort through without proper arrangement and publicity, and as a private contract between employer and employed, instead of a public demonstration. As a respected reader recently wrote to a friend: “The 4th January is too soon. If it could be put off for a week and properly advertised and a charge of 1s each for entrance to the field made, I believe instead of the £5, more like £25 could be made; and as the object is so good, perhaps Mr Martin would agree as he may as well make up his mind that his £5 will go.” We hope that even at the last moment Mr Martin will agree to come into line with some public effort.
A NEW ARRANGEMENT. We hope the ladies who have written to us will abide faithful to Miss Lobb and reserve themselves for the public trials which steps will now be taken to arrange quite independently of Mr Martin. We propose to open a guarantee fund to provide the £5 which Mr Martin offered.
THREE PRIZES. In addition a generous reader offers three prizes for the best work done by the five women in binding twelve faggotts of wood: First prize: £1 0s. 0d. Second prize: 10s. 0d. Third prize: 5s 0.
The prizes we presume will be for the benefit of the public demonstration of which we hope to announce some particulars next week. The letter in which this offer of prizes is made shall be published in full next week with name and address of donor.
Cornish & Devon Post, 8 January, 1916: Liskeard and Farm Work for Women: Payment of Women Workers.
With regard to the payment of a minimum wage for women, Mr Hosken remarked that he heard half-a-crown a day mentioned. That might be a high price for unskilled work by women.
Mr W Tucket regarded it as impossible to say what an employer should pay until it was known what work the women could do.
Mr Hosken asked: ‘Would a minimum of from 1s.6d. to 2s.6d. a day meet the case?’
Miss Sobey said she knew of one woman who had received 18s. per week; the farmer was glad to have her at that wage.
The chairman suggested that payment should be by the hour. Mr Hosken proposed a minimum of 3d. per hour.
Miss Sobey reminded the committee that an employer could give more than 3d. per hour if he felt so disposed.
A minimum wage of 3d. per hour was agreed upon.
Cornish & Devon Post 22 January, 1916: War Work: Women & Children for Agriculture.
Mr W Hawk presided at a meeting of the Cornwall Agricultural Committee at Truro, Monday, and reported on the inquiry forms sent out to farmers, and said that the results were most satisfactory – a considerable proportion of the sixty replies he had seen gave reasons of employing or refusing to employ women. Here are the examples:-
‘It is quite impossible to substitute women for men.’ ‘You can’t get them. If I could get them [women], it would be only more to feed, and no good to work’. ‘No. I won’t employ them; they can’t do the work.’
‘It is utterly futile, as they are not in existence.’ ‘Women are no good on our soil.’
Against these replies, however, had to be set others of another type from farmers who had employed women:-
‘I employ from twelve to fifteen women out of doors in the summer. I employ three steady men.’
‘Yes! I am employing women; harvesting and hoeing.’ ‘Yes; I have one now; 14 shillings a week.’
‘Yes. I employ two casuals through the winter. Last spring and summer six women were employed on the farm, more especially in working horses, hoeing roots and harvesting hay and corn.’
‘Yes. I employ and pay women four pence an hour and boys 10s. a week.’
Cornish & Devon Post, 26 February, 1916: WAR WORK FOR WOMEN. THE CALL OF AGRICULTURE.
LAUNCESTON’S DEMONSTRATION, MARCH 9TH. The arrangements for the Women’s Agricultural Demonstration at Launceston, March 9th, are practically complete; and all that remains now is to urge more candidates to come forward; sell as many tea/tickets as possible, and hope for fine weather. The committee at their meeting last Saturday, at the Mayor’s, considered and passed the programme and conditions of competitions.
The results are to be seen in the announcement of particulars that appears under the Public Notices on Page one.
The Committee have appointed Mr WH Curtice, joint hon sec, to be also hon treasurer, and to him in that capacity was handed over at the meeting a cheque from Mr JH Rice, of Issacombe House, Callington, for £1 15s, donation for prizes for the wood-binding competition.
At the invitation of the Committee, Mr J Colwill, of Cookworthy, Lifton, and Mr James Moyse, employed at Oldwit, South Petherwin, have consented to act as judges for all the events. It was thought desirable that while one of the judges might be a farmer, the other should be a skilled labourer. As regards the latter no better or more popular selection could have been made than that of Mr Moyse. And as regards Mr Colwill, his knowledge and standing make him acceptable to all parties.
LADIES WILLING TO TAKE PART. We are glad to see the number of candidates increasing: here is the list to date:-
Wood Binding: 1. Harriet Baker, Meadwell, Kelly, Lifton. 2. M Billing, Exwell, Callington.
3. MS Dinnis, Trecarrell, Lezant. 4. C Reddicliffe, Hill Cottage, Stowford, Lewdown.
5. Louisa Thomas, Warbstow Cross, Egloskerry. 6. Mary E Wood, 7. Alberta A Wood, Sellick, Clawton.
8. Hedge Paring or Manure Spreading: 8. Letty Wickett, Sea View, Tresmorn, St Gennys. 9. Mrs Boney, Old Dizzard, St Gennys. 10. Mrs Hodge, St Gennys. Manure Spreading and Wood Sawing: 11. Mary Bartlett, Tamar Villa, Tavistock Road, Launceston. Wood Sawing: 12. Mary Skitch, Rosecare, St Gennys. 13. S Webber, Hill Park Cottage, North Tamerton.
The additions during the week are Miss Bartlett, Mrs Hodge, Miss Skitch, and Miss Webber.
Miss Webber writes for particulars, as she has a friend ‘who will probably enter for one class.’ The particulars are as given in the Public Notice on our front page. After carefully reading these particulars Miss Webber’s friend will, we hope, lose no time in sending her name along. As many brave and patriotic young ladies as possible are wanted to give a lead in this movement for promoting women’s war work, not by mere talk, but by action – by an object lesson.
In due course there will be sent to each accepted candidate two complimentary tickets, one for admission and one for the tea, which, it is hoped they will all enjoy after their patriotic labours.
Tea tickets, it may be mentioned, are on sale at the Mayor’s, and at the office of this paper.
ARMLETS FOR WOMEN: Distinction For Those Working On The Land. It is stated that women who are willing to undertake work on the farms will probably be provided with a green armlet, similar in design to the Derby armlet.
It is also stated that the Board of Agriculture are framing a great scheme, foreshadowed recently by Lord Selborne, for the employment of female labour on the land, and an active canvas may be shortly commenced. It is stated that 400,000 women will be required for agricultural pursuits to take the places of the male agriculturists who have joined the colours.
Cornish & Devon Post, 4th March, 1916: WAR WORK FOR WOMEN. Next Thursday’s Agricultural Demonstration: At Scarne Farm, Launceston. Prizes to be Distributed by Ingeborg, Lady Molesworth -St Aubyn.
We have to announce that Ingeborg Lady Molesworth-St Aubyn has kindly promised to distribute the prizes at the Women’s Agricultural Demonstration next Thursday at Scarne Farm. We believe this is the first occasion of the kind in Cornwall, and we hear that other women’s agricultural demonstrations are likely to follow in the county. We hope that next Thursday’s event will give a good send off to what we trust will be a strong movement up and down the county. These demonstrations will be as much for the conversion of farmers to the practicability of women’s patriotic aid as for the encouragement of women to render this service in the hour of their country’s need. The Launceston, Camelford, and Stratton Education Committee are to consider the question of arranging for agricultural demonstrations for women at their meeting Saturday this week.
The primary consideration for the success of an occasion of this kind is an adequate number of competent candidates; else whatever the attendance the event would be like the play of Hamlet without Hamlet. The names of the ladies who are willing to take part in this patriotic effort makes a list of gratifying length.
We are glad to see the number of competitors increasing. Here is the list up to date:
Wood Binding: 1. Harriet Baker, Meadwell, Kelly 2. M Billing, Exwell, Callington.
3. MS Dinnis, Trecarrell, Lezant. 4. C Reddicliffe, Hill Cottage, Stowford.
5. Louisa Thomas, Warbstow Cross. 6. Mary E Wood, Sellick, Clawton.
7. Alberta A Wood, Sellick, Clawton.
8. Emma Butler, Tatson, Pyworthy. Hedge Paring or Manure Spreading:
9. Letty Wickett, Sea View, Tresmorn, St Gennys.
10. Mrs Burgoyne, Pendowrie, St Gennys. 11.Mrs Hodge, St Gennys.
Manure Spreading and Wood Sawing: 12. Mary Bartlett, Tamar Villa, Tavistock Road.
13. Mrs Burgoyne, Pendowrie, 14. Mrs Jury, Northgate Street, Launceston.
Manure Spreading: 15. Edith Mary Hancock, Newham, Otterham. 16. Emily Gay, Well, North Tamerton. 17. Mary Pearse, Higher Dizzard. Hedge Paring:
18. Mrs Bailey, Grinnacombe, Broadwood. Wood Sawing: 19. Mary Skitch, Rosecare.
20. S Webber, Hill Park Cottage, North Tamerton.
21. Mrs Toll, Grinnacombe. 22 Beatrice Evely, Down House, Kelly.
There is room for more; and there is time. Names can be sent in until and including Saturday. We hope there are more to follow. The times of the competitions are in the public notice advertised on this page.
The woodbinding starts at 1.30 pm and will last for two and a half hours. The other competitions have times set to them, but, as is explained in a footnote, these times are subject to some readjustment to meet the case of ladies who wish to take part in more than one competition.
In answer to questions, we have to say that the wood sawing will be by hand-saws, and, as will be seen stated in the advertisement, competitors are required to bring their hand-saws with them, the same conditions apply to hooks, but not to prongs. The kind of wood to be cut has not been stated.
Guarantee Fund: The following contributions have been paid or promised to our Guaranteed Fund.
Contributions paid are marked x:
The Mayor of Launceston 5/- x ‘C & D Post’ 2/6d
xJames Wooldridge, Launceston 2/6d x E Jenkin, Trekelland 2/6d
xThomas Hicks, Scarne 2/6d x Augusta Pearse, Exwell, 2/6d
xJHB Prouse, Launceston 2/6d x S Smith, Hurdon 2/6d
x M Kittow, Trossell 2/6d xS, x A, and xA, Pipers Pool 4/6d
xC Orchard Sharp 2/6d x Mrs M Skitch, Syt Gennys 6d.
xOne Interested In Red Cross 3/- x’Bournemouth’ 2/6d
x VAE 2/6d x ‘Cedars’ Canada [1 dollar] 4/-
Per Miss Billing, Exwell:- x P Peters, Callington 2/6d,
Mrs Dinnis Trehingsta 2/6d xA Vosper, Trereftera 2/6d [= 7/6d]
W Prout, Tregaddilett 2/6d H Prout, Tregaddillett 2/6d
xJ Parnell, St Gennys 2/6d Total = £3 – 2 – 0d.
We hope our readers will help to make up this find to a round figure of £5.
No time limit for receipt of contributions is imposed; but we propose to wind up the fund soon after the event and hand it over to the Mayor and Committee. It will then be included in the balance sheet of the demonstrations, whose financial result, which we hope will be a handsome sum, will go to the Red Cross.
Post & News, 11 March, 1916: War Work at Scarne. War Work for Women. Demonstration at Scarne Farm.
The Agricultural Demonstration for Women which was held at Scarne Farm, Launceston, Thursday, was, there is every reason to believe, the first event of the kind to be held in the County of Cornwall.
The movement which led up to it, had, like Topsy in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” simply “growed”. It can be traced back to a chance remark early in December last. In view of the demands made by recruiting, the question of employing women on the land was under discussion at the festive board, and a challenge to women was thrown out in the course of the proceedings. One of the party offered £5 to the Red Cross if five women would come to his farm and bind 60 faggots of wood in a day – a day’s work, he said for one man. This remark was probably regarded at the time as an after-dinner rhetorical flourish rather than as serious business. It was somewhat indefinite as to the conditions under which the work was to be done, and, more important still, as regards the time during which the challenge remained open. Hence the incident did not attract general attention.
But there is reason to know that some patriotic persons who were not going to allow this slur upon women’s capacity for work to pass without notice. The week after the publication of the report of this after dinner oratory, we published the letter in which Miss Lobb gave ‘a bit of her mind to the farmer who has disparaged the agricultural ability of her sex’. ‘I would certainly’ she wrote ‘take on his 12-faggot a day offer and sleep on quite late in the morning without being in fear of being short of time to do my job in. To give distinction to this acceptance, we publish an appeal to our lady readers to join Miss Lobb in showing what women could do in farm work and thus make an effort to win much needed money for the Red Cross.
Wood cutting and faggot binding is not perhaps an ideal work for women. There are other forms of agricultural service better suited to their capabilities. Woodbinding, in time of peace, should be done by men, and, in time of war, perhaps need not be done at all. But if it has to be done, it must be done by women. But just as the useless letter H is considered by some people as a test of culture, so would woodbinding, whether women would have to do it or not, is an excellent test of their ability to meet the most exacting requirements of farm service. If a woman can do woodbinding she is likely to be able to adapt herself to any kind of agricultural work.’.
There was a gratifying response to our appeal, and more than the required number of acceptances were forthcoming. Unfortunately, when it came to the question of taking up the challenge, and putting to the test the brave words that had been spoken, difficulties were raised. There was a departure from the terms of the original challenge. Instead of five women binding sixty faggots each, the revised version of the challenge required each of the five women to do twelve faggots. And more than that, time was refused for making the necessary arrangements and for the requisite publicity.
The acceptance of the challenge was delivered in the last week of the year. If he felt he had been too rash, it was in the power of the challenger to fix his own time, even an impossible time, if he were so minded. Well, he fixed a few days ahead – the following Tuesday. The short notice he allowed was utterly impracticable. There is no record that anything was done in connection with the challenge.
Those who were present at Thursday’s Demonstration at Scarne Farm, are in a position to form an opinion as to what chance Tavistock Red Cross had of being £5 better off if the challenge had been put to the proof. There was no reason why the trial should not have come off. There were more than enough competitors to meet the challenge, and a generous offer had been made by Mr JH Rice, of Isacombe House, Callington, of a prize fund of £1, 10/-, and 5/- for their encouragement. All that had been asked for was that the competition instead of being held at a few days notice in one week should be held in the following week, and – will it be believed! – it was on this point the challenge went by the board. Mr RH Moon’s intervention, based on the happy idea of challenging the challenger to do as well as the women he had so severely criticised failed to elicit any response, though Mr Moon gave him a chance of winning £5 for the Red Cross.
Seeing there was so much money on offer, we though it a pity not to try to get some of it for patriotic purposes. So we opened a pubic fund to take the place of the vanished challenge money and we are glad to say that there is some prospect of the fund before it is closed in a week or two’s time yielding the required amount. The fund having been started, and the ladies who had accepted the original challenge having signified their willingness to take part in any public demonstration that may be arranged we commended the scheme to some of our readers who had shown a practical interest in it: they formed a committee to arrange for an agricultural demonstration for women, and the Mayor of Launceston with the public spirit that he always displays accepted the invitation to be chairman of the committee. Thursday’s demonstration was the outcome of the work of the committee.
A NEW ARRANGEMENT.
We hope the ladies who have written to us will abide faithful to Miss Lobb and reserve themselves for the public trials which steps will now be taken to arrange quite independently of Mr Martin. We propose to open a guarantee fund to provide the £5 which Mr Martin offered.
THREE PRIZES. In addition a generous reader offers three prizes for the best work done by the five women in binding twelve faggots. First prize: £1. Second prize: 10s. 0d. Third prize: 5s. 0d.
The prizes we presume will be for the benefit of the public demonstration of which we hope to announce some particulars next week. The letter in which this offer of prizes is made shall be published in full next week with name and address of donor.
GREAT SUCCESS AT SCARNE FARM. Lovely Weather and an Attendance of over 700.
Prizes Distributed by Ingeborg Lady Molesworth-St Aubyn.
The day began with a somewhat threatening fall of snow and it looked as if wintry conditions were going to prevail at the trial of women’s patriotism at Scarne Farm. But the fates were kindly, and the sun coming out, the weather in the afternoon was that of an ideal spring day. A large attendance in such a case was expected: but the actual numbers who passed exceeded anticipation. The exact number of people that paid for admission was 728. The proceeds at the gate amounted to £18. 4s. The candidates originally 28 in number, were reduced by two who sent to say they would not be present, and two of the remaining 26 failed to appear. Of the remaining 24 candidates, those who had entered for wood-binding and manure spreading were punctually set to their tasks in the presence of expectant crowds. Manure spreading was in a three-acre field adjacent to the road, while the wood-binding was in an inner field, all the candidates being ranged under one long hedge. It was generally agreed that the ladies displayed great vigour and skill in these classes; and good critics were heard to declare that some of the wood-binding was done better than the ordinary man would have done it. The ladies under the conditions brought their own hooks with them, and in one case a hatchet as well. That lady, also, was alone in wearing leather gloves. The others might well have followed the example. One young girl who did remarkably well finished the competition with a hand badly bleeding. Thanks to the kindness of Mrs Williams the young lady was sent off to the hospital for treatment. On the whole the wood-binding was smartly and efficiently done. The manure spreading was very satisfactory, both as to time and work. The material varied in consistency, but, as far as possible an equitable distribution was made. The hedgeparing and woodsawing , lasting an hour each, concluded a very pleasant afternoon in the fields.
Such was the energy of Miss Dinnis that after working for two hours at woodcutting and binding she went in for hedgeparing and secured the first prize there. She was what the Oxford men call a ‘double first’.
Ingeborg, Lady Molesworth-St Aubyn, who had kindly promised to distribute the prizes on the occasion, came up from Newquay for the purpose, arriving at Launceston by the 2.9 pm train. She was met at the station by Mrs Williams and taken to the ground by motor car. They went all over the ground and devoted considerable attention to the work being done. Lady St Aubyn takes a great interest in agricultural work and has skilled knowledge of it. They were very pleased with the wood-binding and indeed with the work generally.
The public tea which was held in the barn at the conclusion of the competitions, was so well attended that the ladies’ committee found themselves ‘eaten out.’ But by kind permission of Mrs Williams her car was sent to the town and brought back a fresh supply. We believe nothing was left on hand, and are afraid that not everyone was able to get tea. We hope those who failed will be indulgent as the failure was due to an overwhelming success.
After tea a public meeting was held, the Mayor presiding, with Lady St Aubyn and Mrs Williams on his right, and Mr and Mrs TB Hender. Mrs HH Hender and Mrs Newton Davies on his left. Mr Hicks’ spacious barn was crowded to witness the prize distribution and hear the speeches. The Mayor in opening the proceedings emphasised the novelty of the occasion, and referring to the newspaper controversy out of which it had grown criticised the original challenge as demanding too heavy a standard for a man’s day’s work – cutting and binding 60 faggots. The Mayor said that when he was a boy 50 faggots was a good day’s work for a man, and hoped that more than 50 faggots would not be done for a fair day’s wage. They had seen that women could do the work effectively.
Before distributing the prizes Lady St Aubyn made an interesting speech in the course of which she said she expected to see something, but was absolutely astonished and delighted at what she had seen women perform and do that afternoon. She was proud of her fellow women. She was proud, too, of Launceston and neighbourhood. Launceston, the old capital of Cornwall, was certainly leading the county in this matter, and the rest of the Duchy were interested in that effort. Those who were working on the land formed the second line of defence in the war, and as that was depleted of men, women must take their places. The fine band of women, who had worked that day had covered themselves with glory and set a good example to the rest of the county.
Mr TB Hender, JP., C.A., proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Lady St Aubyn for her kindness – Mr J Broad [Dutson] seconded, remarking that Mrs Williams had been very kind in giving help in connection with the demonstration. The vote which was passed by acclamation, was suitably acknowledged by both ladies.
A cordial vote of thanks was given to the judges on the motion of Mr WH Walters, seconded by Mr JL Stevens, and Mr Colwill, in reply, said he was surprised to see such fine work done by women.
An omnibus vote was passed to Mr and Mrs Hicks for lending Scarne Farm for the occasion, to Mrs Prouse and the ladies committee for organising so big a tea, and to tradesmen in the town for lending various articles, and to Mr and Mrs Williams for the gift and conveyance to the ground of the sawing horses, which were afterwards sold at a good price. This was proposed by Mr Nickell and seconded by Mr J Hillson.
On the motion of Mr C Orchard Sharp, seconded by Mr JHB Prouse, a hearty vote of thanks was given to the Mayor not only for presiding but for his public spirit in taking up and giving his Mayoral sanction to the movement that had led to this demonstration. Considerable amusement was created by a humerous proposal by Mr RH Moon to pass a vote of thanks to Mr RJ Martin, of Dunterton, as the actual originator of that day’s demonstration. He also referred to Miss Lobb’s activity in the matter, and was sorry she was not present on that occasion.
Three Photographs were chosen for publication on March 18th: 1. Ingeborg Lady Molesworth-St Aubyn and
Mrs J C Williams in conversation, with Mrs Evely, one of the ladies in the wood-sawing competition.
2. Miss M S Dinnis, of Trecarrell, Lezant, hedge paring. She took two first prizes, one in wood-binding and the other in hedge-paring. 3. The Misses A and M Wood, of Sellick, Clawton, wood binding. They took the second and third prize in that competition.
PRIZE LIST. The Prize List was as Follows:
WOOD BINDING [2 hours]:- MANURE SPREADING. [12 heaps, 8 paces apart]
1 and Special – Miss Dinnis [7 binds] 1. Miss Hancock [1 hour 22 minutes.
2. – Miss Alberta Wood [6 binds] 2. Mrs Burgoyne [1 hour 35 minutes.
3. – Miss Mary E Wood [7 binds] 3. – Miss Gay [1 hour 50 minutes.]
4. – Mrs H Baker [11 binds]
HEDGE PARING. [One Hour] 1 Miss Dinnis: 2 Mrs Boney: 3. Mrs Hodge.
WOOD SAWING [50 ft of Wood in One Ft Pieces] 1. Mrs Penny [33 minutes].
2 and 3. [equal] Miss Stella Webber and Mrs Burgoyne [34 minutes]
4. Mrs Jury [38 minutes], prize presented by Mr RH Pyne.
5. Mrs Brown [40 minutes], prize presented by Mr T Stephens.
One of the competitors, Miss Webber, returned her prize money – 3s 6d. – for the benefit of the Red Cross fund. The special prize in the wood-binding class, which went to Miss Dinnis as first prize winner, consisted of a receipt for a year’s subscription to the ‘Cornish & Devon Post.’
There was a guessing box at the entrance, with a prize of half a crown, to the person whose guess was written on a piece of paper accompanied by a penny, was nearest to the actual number passing the gate. There were 81 entries and the nearest guess was that of Miss E Coombe [St Gennys], viz. 725 – 3 short of the correct figure. Mr Prouse arranged the competition and also gave the prize.
As mentioned above the prize list was swelled by several contributions given on the spot. This occasioned some delay owing to re-adjustments in the lists. A very handsome contribution was made by Lady St Aubyn in the provision of consolation prizes for all the unsuccessful competitors.
THE JUDGES: The Judges were: Mr J Colwill [Lifton], and Mr J Moyse [Old Wit, South Petherwin], for wood-binding, manure-spreading and hedge-paring; Mr WH Walters and Mr WH Curtice for wood-sawing.
THE STEWARDS: The duties of Stewards were divided among several members of the committee. For wood-binding, Messrs Broad and Smith; hedge-paring, Messrs Couch and Moon; wood-sawing, Messrs Stephens and Walters. The duties at the gate were efficiently performed by Mr AB Venning.
OUR GUARANTEE FUND. Gift of £5. From Mr R H Moon.
We are holding over the Guarantee Fund list owing to great pressure. The contributions include a gift of £5 from Mr RH Moon.
CORNWALL FARMER’S UNION. The President’s Apology for Absence. Mr John Parnell of Nancemellan, St Gennys, wrote expressing regret that a prior engagement, a meeting of the Advisory Committee for Stratton district, would prevent his attending the demonstration at Launceston. Mr Parnell added:- “As President of the Cornwall Farmers’ Union, I heartily commend the steps you have taken to demonstrate the capacity of women for various kinds of agricultural work, whereby the inconvenience arising from the deficiency of manual labour can be minimised as far as possible.
“In these strenuous times, it is necessary to emphasise that all labour is noble and that every man, woman, and child must do their part in the great task that lies before us.”
Cornish & Devon Post,25 March, 1916. AT THE SIGNPOST. There seems to be a division of opinions among agriculturists, a division that is becoming more and more marked as to the practability of women being employed on farms. It is not easy to find the explanation, as opponents to women labour make little scruple of shifting their ground. The objection usually takes this form: ‘It is not a woman’s work.’ When the reply is made that it is woman’s work in times of war, and that women are doing the work in France’, there is a sudden shifting of position; ‘French women are willing; but English women will not do farm work.’ We ought to know on which grounds the opponents of women labour on farms take their stand.
The Scarne Farm demonstration was an indication that there are some women to whom neither objection applies. There are women who are alike able and willing.
There is no question as to ability; the doubt, if any, is to willingness. It would be interesting to know where the farmers who shake their heads get the light to enable them to say so positively that women are not willing. Such might fairly be asked to give women the chance, by offering training facilities. We are sorry to find that in Devon instead of encouraging women labour the policy has been adopted of taking twelve year old children from school. If children, instead of women, are to be set to work on the land, the blame will rest upon the farmers for refusing to pay properly for women labour, or upon the women for shirking war service.
Scarne Farm Demonstration. Over £30 for the Red Cross. The Committee of the Women’s Agricultural Demonstration held at Scarne Farm, Launceston, March 9, have issued their balance sheet, which appears on our front advertisement page. It shows a net balance of £30 – 10 – 0., which has been sent to the British Red Cross Society, through the Worshipful the Mayor of Launceston. This net balance is derived from three sources thus: Profits from the Demonstration: £20.10s. Special Donation from Mr RH Moon, Ashwater £5.
The Cornish & Devon Post Guarantee Fund: £5. total £30. 10s.
The Mayor has received the following letter from the Hon. Sir Charles Russell, Bart. Chairman of the Headquarters Collection Committee of the British Red Cross Society. 83 Pall Mall, London. SW. 21st March, 1916. The Mayor of Launceston, Town Hall, Launceston.
Dear Sir, I thank you very much for your letter including cheque for £30. 10s., being the net proceeds of a Women’s Agricultural Demonstration held at Launceston in aid of our funds, and I can assure you that this help is much appreciated by my Committee.
Will you kindly convey our grateful thanks to all those who have so kindly helped our cause.
Yours faithfully, Charles Russell, Chairman, Collection Committee.
Accompanying the letter is an official receipt for the £30. 10s.
Guarantee Fund. The following contributions have been paid to our Guarantee Fund. The Mayor of Launceston: £5. Cornish & Devon Post: 2/6d. James Wooldridge, Launceston: 2/6d. Thomas Hicks, Scarne: 2/6d. E Jenkin, Trekelland: 2/6d. E Augusta Pearse, Exwell, Callington: 2/6d. JHB Prouse, Launceston. 2/6d. S Smith, Hurdon: 2/6d. Mr Kittow, Trosswell: 2/6d. S,A & A: Pipers Pool: 4/6d. C Orchard Sharpe: 2/6d. Mrs M Skitch, St Gennys: 6d. One Interested in Red Cross: 3/-. Bournemouth: 2/6d. V.A.E.: 2/6d. ‘Cedars’ Canada [1 dollar]: 4/-.
Per Miss Billing, Exwell: E Peters, Callington 2/6d. Mr Dinnis, Trehingsta: 2/6d. D Cory, Trefennick: 2/6d
A Vosper, Trerefters: 2/6d. W Prout Tregadillet: 2/6d. H Prout, Tregadillet: 2/6d. J Parnall, St Gennys: 2/6d. R Smith, Northcott Hamlett: 5/-. CL Hart-Smith, Lanson: 2/- Per Miss Billing, Linkinhorne: 8/6d. Householder in Launceston: 2/6d. Miss MS Dinnis, Trecarrell: 2/6d. J Hilman [1 dollar]: 4/-. Second contribution per Miss M Billing, Exwell, as follows: Mr SP Rattenbury, JP. Polhilsa: 2/6d. Mr Pawley, Devonport: 1/-. Mr Hicks, Tresullick, Stokeclimsland: 1/-.
Mr Biscombe, Callington: 2/6d. Mr Chubb, Callington: 6d. A Friend, St Mellion: 6d. 2 Friends, Callington: 3/6d. WH Curtice, Lanson: 2/6d. RH Moon, Ashwater: 5/-. J Colwell, Lifton: 2/6d. Miss S Webber, N. Tamerton [returned prize money] 3/6d. + £5. 0. 0.
Special Donation to Red Cross – Mr RH Moon, Ashwater: £5. 0. 0. = £10.
War Work For Women. (To the Editor of the Cornish & Devon Post): Sir. If there are any ladies in the town who are prepared to go for gardening, I have a piece of land offered for this purpose and the lady making the offer is prepared to give instruction in gardening. As this is the time for such work I shall be glad to have the matter taken up at an early date. Edward Hicks, Mayor. High Street, Launceston. March 20.
Cornish & Devon Post, 1st April, 1916. WOMEN’S LAND SERVICES CORPS. Cornwall Linked Up With The Movement. At Tuesday’s meeting of Cornwall’s Committee of War Service for Women, Ingeborg Lady Molesworth-St Aubyn, presiding, Mrs Roland Wilkins explaining the work of the Women’s National Land Service Corps, said 350,000 men had been withdrawn from agriculture, and the imported labour in that industry must necessarily be a mere drop in the ocean because of the difficulties of housing and accommodation, and most of the work must depend on village women. From personal experience she knew women could use most of the machinery on a farm. If a woman only went along quietly she could do every job on the farm as well as a man, except those jobs which required lifting above the waist.
She would not ask women to pitch hay, load manure, or carry sacks, but bar those three things, she knew they could, if they did not overwork themselves at first but slowly got their muscles into working order, do all the jobs, including wheeling barrows of manure up a slippery plank. Mrs Roland Wilkins said that in her corps they did not allow any woman to work voluntarily. They did not wish to subsidise farmers, or under-cut agricultural wages and they insisted that everybody must be paid for the work she was doing at the correct local rate decided upon.
On the motion of Mrs Skilbeck, seconded by Miss Hext, it was decided to link up and co-operate with the Women’s National Land Services Corps, so as to be able to make use of that organisation. Miss Skilbeck was appointed the representative of the corps in Cornwall.
MR ACLAND ON THE FARMERS: Speaking at the annual meeting of the Home Counties Union of Women’s Liberal Associations held in London, Wednesday: Mr F D Acland, M.P., said the farmer had no chance of doing his share towards winning the war unless he would employ women labour. Farmers must pay a fair rate of wages, and must make satisfactory arrangements for the comfort of the women, even to having a cup of tea at the time of day when they required it.
Cornish & Devon Post, 8 April, 1916: THE DEMONSTRATION THIS WEEK NEAR TRURO.
The Women’s demonstration at Scarne Farm is bearing fruit. As we stated last week a similar demonstration is being held Friday this week at Willow Green Farm, near Truro.
Friday’s ploughing and agricultural demonstration by women of Cornwall, at Truro, has appealed to the latent sportsmanship of farmers, who have offered their ploughs. The women were rather nettled by the attitude of the farmers towards their expressions of a desire to help the national cause by working on the land, and have readily seized the opportunity to show that they are not only willing but able.
Definite entries had on Saturday been received from 25 separate women. There are seven classes, comprising ploughing, barrowing, manure spreading, broad-cast manure sowing, harnessing and driving horses in harvest wagons, potato planting with shovels, and the preparation of a seed bed and planting three rows of cabbages. For these classes the entries amount to nearly sixty.
The demonstration, which it is hoped will remove some of the prejudice which exists among farmers in Cornwall with regard to the employment of women, has been organised by the Truro War Agricultural Committee. The profits arising from the tea and demonstrations are to be given to the Red Cross.
Cornish & Devon Post, 1st June, 1918: The Women’s Land Army. Strong Local Appeal.
To the Editor: “Wanted Thirty Thousand Women At Once For The Land Army”.
Owing to the statement by Mr Prothero, President of the Board of Agriculture; we, the members of the Launceston Rural District Committee [Women’s Agriculture] ask you to kindly put this letter into your paper. In consequence of so many men having been called up there is a serious shortage of labour on the land and more women are really needed to come forward and help. There are two ways of doing this: 1st. by joining as quickly as possible the Women’s Land Army, which means enrolling for six months or a year and giving whole time work, for a payment of 20s. for untrained, and 22s. upwards for trained workers per week. 2nd. By giving a few hours work weekly, or joining a gang of “seasonal workers,” which means going what times they can in hay-time, harvest, etc. Payment 4d. for untrained per hour, 5d for trained. We especially appeal to the young and strong woman to think seriously whether they cannot join, one or the other of the above mentioned ways, for the good of their country and the credit of their Home District.
We feel sure that in years to come they would never regret any work they may give, to help their country in its time of need.
We hope that all who can, will apply to the nearest Employment Exchange [Angel Hill, Launceston] for an application form, or their Village Registrar, or to the District Representative of the Women’s Agricultural Council [Penlea, Launceston].
Yours Truly: Mary C Williams. Kate W Body. Phoebe J Lampey. GDI Lethbridge.
Joan S Coode, MM Wills. Annie M Martyn.
District Representatives, Launceston Rural Area. Penlea, Launceston. May 17th.
N.B: Since the above was written it has been stated that 50,000 women are required.
There are many books regarding women working on the land available, very few of which mention that women had always worked on the land, long before the above times. It just took the great necessity for foods during a wartime situation to bring this to the attention of the general public. The much later television programme versions fall very much short of the actual situation most of the women suffered; such as some being threatened – and actually stoned – for wearing trousers in public when most women dared not show an ankle: men being threatened by their womenfolk for working side by side with women, some of whom were still single!
The following is, I hope, a glimpse into the life of some of those women who understood the position of working women in those long ago days, one of whom was not a local born lady, but came to live near Newquay when still a school girl of eleven years of age. Ingeborg Muller, born in Jutland, Denmark, is that lady.