The Women's Land Army
Although still in its infancy in 1918, WNF&GA played a central role in the creation of the Women’s Land Army (WLA). Women from all walks of life – teachers, college students, secretaries, governesses, factory workers, court stenographers – responded to the call from gardening clubs, suffrage societies, women’s colleges, civic groups, and the YWCA. Most of these women had never worked on a farm, but they were soon plowing fields, driving tractors, planting and harvesting. Quickly dubbed “Farmerettes” in the media, they became celebrated symbols of patriotism.
Farmers were at first reluctant to use women volunteer workers, but as a WNF&GA report noted at the time, “When the fruit ripened and no men were to be had, the farmers sent word to ‘send some women and we’ll try them.’”
The WLA uniform sparked much discussion and some controversy – those scandalous trousers! – but reports from the units remarked that the uniform provided a sense of unity and equality among the women. WLA efforts saved the 1918 harvest in many states, and the Farmerettes became a wartime icon.
The WLA remained active after the war, and Farm and Garden women continued to be of service. During World War II, F&G branches and divisions planted thousands of victory gardens and produced bushels of food in the tens of thousands. In Michigan, some branches purchased pressure cookers and rented them for 25 cents a day to farm women to assist them in preserving their harvest.