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Bibliophile price: £4.00
'Men in the field, women in the fields' reads the banner of the farmers asking women and girls to join the Land Army during the First World War. It is the Second World War Land Girl which has caught the public imagination, and one would be forgiven for supposing that their history began in 1939. In fact, British agricultural policy during WWI was held up as a success story. Coming through a 'great national emergency', domestic food production was higher at the end of the Great War than at the start. The average calorific value of the British diet barely changed, and bread never had to be rationed. As the press reported starvation and food riots overseas, the 1918 harvest was held up as 'One of the great achievements of the War.' In 1917, at the darkest hour when Britain's food security looked most precarious, it was said that, 'If it were not for the women, agriculture would be absolutely at a standstill on many farms.' This is true, and women really were keeping the wheels turning. Using previously unpublished accounts and photographs, the book proves that meat and milk consumption increased and market gardening flourished as diet broadened. Successful farming was now about diversity and detail. Milkmaids and female fieldworkers weren't extinct by 1914 but were in decline. Employment in agriculture on that date can be roughly broken into four categories - women farmers, female relatives of farmers, female farm servants whose duties were within the household and extended to the barns and fields, and seasonal workers. The 1911 census recorded 94,722 women engaged in agriculture in England and Wales or 8% of the total farm workforce. 20,027 women were working as farmers or graziers in their own right. With the menfolk going off to the trenches, there were a large number of vacancies but articles of the time stated: 'To bring the women out from their homes to work in the fields all day is bad for themselves and bad for the men.' As they would not be 'paying increased and not diminished attention to the bodily requirements of their husbands and sons.' Here they are in huge numbers, Keeping Calm. Features photos, cartoons and poems penned by the women themselves together with their diaries, accounts and interviews bringing some wonderfully characterful women's voices on to the page for the first time. 214pp.

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