Northern Illinois University Press


On the Farm Front

The Women's Land Army in World War II

Stephanie A. Carpenter

"Her writing style is clear, her organization is superb, and her interpretations are sound."—The Annals of Iowa

"Carpenter succeeds admirably."—Indiana Magazine of History

"Carpenter has exhaustively researched the WLA and its various activities, and her book should serve as the starting point for anyone interested in gender issues on the wartime farm front."—American Historical Review

Rosie the Riveter is an icon for women's industrial contribution to World War II, but history has largely overlooked the three million women who served on America's agricultural front. The Women's Land Army sent volunteers to farms, canneries, and dairies across the country, accounting for the majority of wartime agricultural labor. On the Farm Front tells for the first time the remarkable story of these women who worked to ensure both "Freedom from Want" at home and victory abroad.

Formed in 1943 as part of the Emergency Farm Labor Program, the WLA placed its workers in areas where American farmers urgently needed assistance. Many farmers in even the most desperate areas, however, initially opposed women working their land. Rural administrators in the Midwest and the South yielded to necessity and employed several hundred thousand women as farm laborers by the end of the war, but those in the Great Plains and eastern Rocky Mountains remained hesitant, suffering serious agricultural and financial losses as a consequence.

Carpenter reveals for the first time how the WLA revolutionized the national view of farming. By accepting all available women as agricultural workers, farmers abandoned traditional labor and stereotypical social practices. When the WLA officially disbanded in 1945, many of its women chose to remain in their agricultural jobs rather than return to a full-time home life or prewar employment.

On the Farm Front illuminates the Women's Land Army's unique contribution to prosperity and victory, showing how this landmark organization changed the role of women in American society.

(2003) 222 pp., illus., biblio., index
ISBN: 978-0-87580-314-2
cloth $44.00

Stephanie A. Carpenter is Assistant Professor of History at Murray State University in Kentucky. She is author of numerous articles on agricultural and women's history.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction—"We Can Drive Tractors"
Part I—Creating the Women's Land Army
1. Prewar Precedents
2. The Federal Government and the WLA
3. "Now We're Set"—Outfitting the WLA
4. "Pitch in and Help"—Calling Women to the Farms
Part II—The Women's Land Army in Action
5. The East—Dorothy Thompson Led the Way
6. The West—"Ho! For a Tall Glass of Lemonade!"
7. The Midwest—In the House or in the Fields
8. The South—When Race and Class Get in the Way
9. The WLA and Postwar Women
Appendix
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-314-2
cloth $44.00