July WTC Photo of the Month
This month’s photo is an image published on the front page of The Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette in August 1942. It depicted two Lumber Jills sitting on horses after felling a forest. It promoted the work of the then newly-formed Women’s Timber Corps in 1942. Horses helped Lumber Jills to help transport some of the recently felled timber.
WLA promotional posters often used horses to make farmwork more palatable, functioning as a key part of recruitment drives to encourage more women onto farms. The horse could be seen to speak to women’s maternal, nurturing role in relation to animals. In the context of the WTC, the horse has very different meanings.
Riding a horse, and using them to help move timber, highlighted women’s competence. The foregrounding of the horse and the elevation of the rider generated a sense of women’s power within the natural environment. Women horse hauliers not only needed the confidence to ride the horse itself, but also to navigate the uneven terrain whilst carrying a heavy load of timber.
The absence of men from the photograph also suggested the extent of women’s independence working in the forest and their successful adaptation to fulfilling the duties previously expected of men. Women’s happy faces indicate their contentment in their new roles, though this is tempered with the dark clouds, hanging above their heads.
As the focal point of the image, we could also say that the horse partially distracted the viewer’s attention from the terrain. The horse walks on broken twigs and branches, which showed how the environment had been disturbed as a result of women’s timber operations. The photograph also implied how women laboured amongst the wilderness, refuting the rural ideal of the picturesque forest which newspapers frequently conveyed in their commentary.
Photos such as this helped move beyond the novelty of women’s forestry work and revealed more complex messages about women’s role in the forest environment.