Running the WLA: The Land Girl Magazine
So far, this monthly series has looked at key figures involved in running the WLA, from the pumping heart at Balcombe Place, to the work of County Secretaries and to organisations such as the YWCA and their work running hostels. This post focuses on The Land Girl magazine, which arrived in the billets and hostels of many Land Girls (and Lumber Jills) around the country.
The publication was a way for the organisation to share important news and to bring Land Girls together wherever they were placed in the country. In the wider context of running the WLA, The Land Girl had an important part to play in keeping up morale and making Land Girls feel a valued part of the national organisation.
The first edition
The first edition of The Land Girl was published from Balcombe Place in April 1939. Initially, the publication was unofficial, but once the Ministry of Agriculture saw its success in reaching over 21,000 women a week, the Ministry took over and it became the official magazine of the WLA. In the first issue, M.A.P wrote that:
the magazine will appear once a month…It will contain one or two signed articles on our work, local news from the counties, correspondence, official news, Land Army jokes (strictly original) and gossip, and any useful hints that seem appropriate.The Land Girl, April 1940, p.1.
So who was M.A.P.? Well, it was the editor Margaret Pyke who remained with the publication over its 8 years of circulation. She was praised in the final edition of the magazine by Inez Jenkins for how she had:
unfailingly contrived to produce just the editorial that was needed, giving us in her own vivid and highly individual style, the proper measure of consolation, commendation, chastening or encouragement.The Land Girl, March 1947, pp. 2-3.
The magazine included several advertisements. “Look Smart in Hebden Breeches” and “Tread-tested” Walking Shoes for Active Women were just some of the advertisements published on its pages. Businesses now had a growing audience to advertise their products too which related in some way to the outdoors, from uniform items to beauty products to remedy the effects of working in the fields.
Land Girls’ contributions
The Land Girl frequently invited its readers to contribute to the magazine in different ways. Regular website visitors will know that Land Girls themselves designed the illustration on the front page, which showcased a variety of work on the land. If women were lonely, they could write to The Land Girl and ask them to place an advertisement in the magazine for a pen-pal, to help overcome the inevitable isolation which some women felt many miles away from home.
Those who have browsed through the pages of the magazine will have noticed that women often shared their poetry with readers. The following poem was published in the April 1942 edition by Norfolk Land Girl, Dorothy Allen, reflecting on what it meant to work in the outdoors:
Showcasing exceptional Land Girls
Role model Land Girls were the topic of several articles. In the June 1945 edition, we read about Linda Shrigley, who though ‘under five foot tall and doesn’t look the part in the least, she does a man’s size job driving and maintaining an excavator’. Land Girls were congratulated for their agricultural awards, such as A.Kilby ‘who won the Silver Challenge Cup at the Melton Mowbray Y.F.C Show on VE day with her calf and her yearling shorthorn sold for 78 guinea’s’.
In the correspondence pages of the June 1946 edition, we hear from ex-Land Girl D. Ashby, who having voluntarily resigned from the WLA in March 1946, had asked to re-join again. She wrote:
I came home determined, so I thought, to settle down and make some sort of career for myself. I cannot concentrate on my work. I am all the time longing to jump through the window into the fresh air.The Land Girl, June 1946, p.10.
Of course, letters such as this helped to present a happy and satisfying image of working on the land at a time when many women would have been reading the magazine after a tiring day at work. The publication needed to inspire women to continue with their work and to even feel some competition with their fellow peers over the extent and nature of their contributions.
The magazine combined reporting on national developments, alongside events which were taking place in the Land Girls’ own county. The latter pages of the magazine contained news from different counties. County Secretaries would write about local rallies, thanksgiving services, parades, and fundraising initiatives.
Farewell Land Girl, you were the link to bind…
The final edition of the magazine was published in March 1947, which was later replaced by the less detailed ‘Land Army News’. Reflecting on its success, M.A.P wrote how the publication had been ‘proud to publish the triumphs of the W.L.A’, whether ‘spectacular’ or acts of ‘endurance’. Referring to the stories, handicraft advice, drawings and poetry, she commented how the publication had shown that ‘there was no reason whatever why cows and culture should not go together’.
To end this post, it seems only appropriate to hand over to ex-Land Girl and author E.M.Barraud who wrote the following poem to reflect on the significance of the publication for Land Girls around the country.