Urban Women

A WW1 land girl recruit, training at the Cheshire Agricultural College, Homes Chapel.  Source: IWM HU 91978

A WW1 land girl recruit, training at the Cheshire Agricultural College, Homes Chapel. 
Source: IWM HU 91978

As indicated on the page ‘Other Women Land Worker Organisations’, the recruitment efforts of these organisations tended to focus on encouraging urban women to work on the land.

Furthermore, to corroborate with this, the following information on The Cabinet Papers Website under the title of the Women’s Land Army can be seen as follows:-

‘The government responded in different ways to these problems. In 1916, Women’s War Agricultural Committees were set up as a form of labour exchange, matching women wishing to work in rural areas with farmers who had labour shortages. The Women’s National Land Services Corps – later developed into the Women’s Land Army – was created in order to bring urban women, usually educated and middle class, into the countryside in the ‘lighter’ rural roles.’

Hence, it would be appropriate to deduce from this that the World War One Women’s Land Army largely encouraged women from urban backgrounds onto the land. According to Gill Clarke in ‘The Women’s Land Army: A Portrait’ there was an additional major appeal to women to join the Land Army in July 1917 which was largely aimed at girls living in the suburbs of large towns. She also comments that many women saw work on the land as degrading, and together with the low wages and the hard work – it didn’t exactly encourage women to offer their services.

She goes on to add that some rural women saw being a woman land worker as socially inferior to that of domestic service. Hence, it would make logical sense therefore for the recruitment (and subsequently the membership of the WLA) to be focused on women from towns/cities. where some of these rural attitudes perhaps hadn’t reached the women. It is interesting and clever that the Government appealed to middle class patriotic young women in urban areas, who wouldn’t, just as in the Second World War, know what they were letting themselves in for.

One however must remember that there is no official way of verifying this, as there are no official records of where land girls came from before working on the land during World War One.


Written by

Cherish Watton

Web Editor and Historian


June 2014