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Imagine a more controversial Rosie the Riveter—a generation older and more outlandish for her time. She was the “farmerette” of the Woman’s Land Army of America (WLA), doing a man’s job on the home front during World War I.
From 1917 to 1920 the WLA sent more than twenty thousand urban women into rural America to take over farm work after the men went off to war and food shortages threatened the nation. These women, from all social and economic strata, lived together in communal camps and did what was considered “men’s work”: plowing fields, driving tractors, planting, harvesting, and hauling lumber. The Land Army was a civilian enterprise organized and financed by women. It insisted on fair labor practices and pay equal to male laborers’ wages for its workers and taught women not only agricultural skills but also leadership and management techniques. Despite their initial skepticism, farmers became the WLA’s loudest champions, and the farmerette was celebrated as an icon of American women’s patriotism and pluck.
The WLA’s short but spirited life foreshadowed some of the most significant social issues of the twentieth century: women’s changing roles, the problem of class distinctions in a democracy, and the physiological and psychological differences between men and women.
The dramatic story of the WLA is vividly retold here using long-buried archival material, allowing a fascinating chapter of America’s World War I experience to be rediscovered.
About the Author
Elaine Weiss is a journalist and narrative non-fiction author. Her magazine feature writing has been recognized with prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists, and her by-line has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, New York Times, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as reports and documentaries for National Public Radio and Voice of America. She has been a frequent correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor.
“A wealth of material that scholars and teachers of U.S. women’s history, American agricultural history, and the American experience in World War I will want to have at their fingertips.”—American Historical Review
“Weiss effectively chronicles the birth of the WLA movement and the dedicated women behind it. Recommended for both scholarly readers and interested history buffs.”—Library Journal
“Excellent. . . . A unique look at how World War I changed society.”—Booklist
“Elaine Weiss has written an important book on an overlooked subject. . . . This engaging account makes not only good reading but also contributes to our understanding of both women’s history and the home front during the war.”—Jean Baker, Bennett-Harwood Professor of History, Goucher College
— Jean Baker
“Weiss plows through a wide variety of primary sources and produces a bumper crop of determined women, stubborn men, telling anecdotes, and rich details, all part of a surprising and surprisingly moving story of mobilization and organization, patriotism and sexism.”—Kathryn Allamong Jacob, curator of manuscripts at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University
— Kathryn Allamong Jacob
“Bravo to Elaine Weiss! She has rescued a fascinating chapter of our history from undeserved obscurity and tells the story of the Woman’s Land Army of World War I with undeniable verve.”—Deborah Dash Moore, Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professor of History and director of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies
— Deborah Dash Moore