Article originally published in The Local Historian, Volume 41, Number 1 – February 2011
Please see below the abstract published on the British Association for Local History’s website:-
Bonnie White, ‘Sowing the seeds of patriotism? The Women’s Land Army in Devon, 1916-1918’, pp.13-27
The Women’s Land Army has received close attention from historians, including local and regional historians, in recent years. However, almost all focus has hitherto been on the experience of the Second World War, and far less research and analysis has considered the WLA which was established halfway through the First World War, in 1916, and functioned until the end of 1918. The first incarnation not only represented a determined attempt to tackle an unprecedented national crisis of food supplies and agricultural productivity, but also formed an invaluable template for those who, at the outbreak of the Second World War, addressed the same emergency requirements. Further, analysis of the WLA in 1916-1918 will allow this aspect of women’s wartime work to be given its proper place alongside better-known activities such as labour in munitions factories. In this article Bonnie White presents a detailed case-study of the experience of setting up, organising and working within the WLA in Devon, one of England’s largest and most rural counties. The article considers the process of recruitment, in the context of competition for women’s labour and the role of other organisations such as the Women’s War Service Committee. It then assesses attitudes to female labour and the notion of women working in the agricultural sector. The procedures for joining and training are described, together with the expected roles, tasks and codes of behaviour for WLA members. There is a substantial final section which gives a retrospective on the experiences of the women concerned, and the value and significance of the scheme.