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The Land Girls & their Impact
Ann Kramer
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The imagery of the Woman’s Land Army (WLA) within the wider population is tinted by the late 1990’s film ‘The Land Girls’-(which seemed to focus on the physical, emotional & sexual awakening of women thrust upon the rural communities), in much the same way that The Home Guard will be forever viewed against the backdrop of the highly successful Dad’s Army caper.
In addition the WLA is projected upon ones conscious with the grainy black & white images of young girls staring into Britain’s blue skies of 1940, as the Battle of Britain raged, whilst driving some form of farm machinery.

Though the above is constricted to the WLA of WW2, this book traces the lineage from the Women’s Farm and Garden Association of 1889. One of its leading lights was Meriel Talbot, who in 1917 in response to a Board of Agriculture decision, helped form the first WLA. In all some 23,000 served on the land, and helped to contribute to the ultimate victory in 1918.
With the end of the war, the WLA was disbanded in 1919, and many of those that served returned to their former lives.
One of those women was Lady Gertrude Denman who some 20years later would be the director of the new WLA.

As with the first incarnation of the WLA, there were numerous hurdles for them to overcome. Government Departments protecting there turf, Unions uneasy about the influence of women within ‘male industries’, the farming communities unsure of there worth on an industry based on sheer brute strength. However as in the First World War, their worth soon started to show, as food production started to increase and other sectors didn’t collapse with women only at the helm.

The book centers on the authors’ interviews with 20 odd former members and other various memoirs etc. There is a sense of humour running through the book, which clearly mirrors the outlook of these women plucked from there normal lives and placed into positions well outside there comfort zone. Equally the sense that their contribution to Britain’s war effort is largely overlooked by the public and historians alike still stings. When compared to the almost iconic image of Rosie the Riveter in America, and the effect this had on the women in the workplace, one can easily see why they still feel this way.

On balance this book is a good starting point for those interested on this aspect of Britain’s war effort, and more importantly for those interested in the changing role of women within the economy.

(Reviewed by Andy H)
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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