What was it like in towns and rural areas?

Girls from the WLA sitting on a gate raising their hoes

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As the war went on, it became harder to find enough food for all the people in Britain and the soldiers fighting at the front.

A Women's Land Army worker

The contribution women made in the fields and the factories proved to be an important factor for women's rights.

Over time people realised that women deserved greater political rights. After the war, women over 30 were able to vote and, in 1918, a woman could also stand for election to parliament.

Many farm workers had left their families to go and fight. They had also left their cows, sheep, ploughs and fields, and there were not enough workers to keep the farms going.

As men left the country to fight overseas, women stepped in to take their place and started taking on work that they had never done before.

Pulling together to feed the country

In September 1915, a group of women formed the Women's Institute and held their first meeting in Wales.

They wanted to encourage other women to grow as much food as possible. They gave tips for making food last through the winter months, like by canning or bottling fruit and salting vegetables.

In February 1917, the situation was getting very serious. German submarines sank 230 ships bringing supplies to Britain from other countries, and the Government realised the country was running out of food.

They needed to act quickly and, with help from the Women's Institute, they set up the Women's Land Army.

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Women's land army workers ploughing a field Members of the Women's Land Army operate a horse-drawn plough
Member of the Women's Land Army holding a lamb Girls from the Women's Land Army feeding lambs during a pause on their march
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A recruitment poster for the Women's Land Army Recruitment campaigns were not just aimed at men; posters also encouraged women to join up and do their bit for the war effort.

At first, some farmers did not want women from towns coming to help. They thought the work would take too long to teach and women would not be strong enough to do all the heavy work around the farm.

The women proved them wrong. They were quick to learn and glad to be in the countryside with plenty of fresh air and good food.

With air raids on towns and cities, the countryside was a much safer place to be.

Women's Land Army

They had shoes with leather gaiters to protect their trousers, and wore rubber coats in bad weather. Their broad brimmed hats had a badge, and for indoor jobs, heavy cotton coats kept them clean.

The women learned how to milk cows, make butter and raise animals for meat. They ploughed fields, planted, weeded and harvested vegetables, fruit and grain for flour. It was hard work with long hours in all kinds of weather, but they kept the nation fed.

By the end of 1917, over 260,000 women had gone to help on the farms. More than 23,000 of them were part of the Women's Land Army.

Start Quote

Never have British women and girls shown more capacity or more pluck.”

End Quote David Lloyd George, Prime Minister from 1916-1920

Teachers' notes

Teachers' notes and classroom ideas looking at town and country life 100 years ago.

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