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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Pruning Trees and Land Girls

This week is my week to prune our fruit trees. One of my daughters came outside and gave me a hand for a couple of hours today, which was much appreciated. Two pairs of hands when tackling this work makes the work go quicker and makes the whole job a lot more pleasant. As we were taking off the last large branch I commented to my daughter that she could have been a Land Girl. (She beamed.)

Land Girls were the name for the members of the Women's Land Army in England during WWI and WWII. During the Great War, farmers found themselves shorthanded, as their usual laborers joined in the military efforts. The WLA put able-bodied young women to work in capacities previously reserved for men, such as helping with farm chores and harvests. When England became involved in WWII, the WLA was resumed and a forestry division was added, where young women felled trees and cleared wooded areas.

It would be my guess that many young women who were raised in farming communities had performed their share of farm chores. However, it is unlikely that they would have worked as paid laborers prior to the creation of the Women's Land Army. To be a woman, then, and paid for doing a man's job must have been thrilling for the Land Girls, even if they were paid less than men doing the same work. Throughout both wars, women proved their ability to perform strenuous tasks that had previously been in the domain of men. Unfortunately, when wartime ended, and men returned home, women lost this "new" place in public life and were most often shuttled back into traditional female roles.

I tend to do a large portion of the heavy physical labor in our household. It's just how the division of labor has settled for my family. I do take some pride in being able to successfully use saws and axes. It's not easy work for me, as I'm not very tall or muscular. But I can do my share. Both of my daughters find the same pride and enjoyment in helping with this work. When the tree fell on our roof a year ago, both daughters were eager to use both saw and ax to cut up the wood. And this week when I was trimming several fruit trees, they both offered to come out and help. They are both very petite. But they are both so proud of themselves when they successfully chop wood or saw branches. I asked both of them what type of work they would have preferred during WWII, if they'd been alive then and there -- Land Girls or work in a factory. I pointed out that some of the factory work must have been equally thrilling (think Rosie the Riveter). They both still thought they would have preferred working in the countryside, either on farms or clearing land, my Land Girls.


  1. I'm the same as you Lili! I am always helping equally with my husband together working on outside projects. My dad owned a lawn and garden store in my youth and I worked for him by selling lawn and garden products and even helping him fix lawnmowers. I love the first cutting of new grass smell in the spring, I love mowing the lawn, I love helping fix things and I even love having a chainsaw in my hand to cut limbs either for burning or a bonfire. If I were to choose what I would do during WWII, I also would do the farm/outdoors work.


    1. Hi Alice,
      Wow, thank you for sharing that info about your growing up years. You must have learned so much from your work in your dad's store. And it also explains your father's love of gardening and wanting to continue to plant every year, as he is able.

  2. I've watched a few episodes of the PBS program, Land Girls, this winter. I'm sure it's over-dramatized, but you do get a feel for what would have been required of the women working these jobs. I have been interested in the Women's Land Army for awhile now. I would definitely have opted to do outdoor work versus factory work if I had been able to make the choice (I'm guessing that many women didn't want to leave their families to go to the countryside).

    1. Hi Kris,
      I only recently learned of the Land Girls show and haven't watched any episodes. I don't watch television very often, so I often miss out on entire programs. I'll have to check this one out.

      In my reading, I found out that about a third of the Land Girls came from cities like London. That sounds like a lot of young women leaving the cities. But maybe it also felt safer being in the countryside during the war. I would have chosen to be a Land Girl, too.

    2. It's an okay show--sort of soap-opera style--fairly intriguing but I've seen better.

    3. Thanks for your honest thoughts, Kris.

  3. Another vote to be a Land Girl here. I think it would very hard to have the constant attention that is required for factory work. But there was a great sense of pride in helping the war effort, so I think either job is one a woman would have wanted. Not the same as being a Land Girl, but I worked in male dominated field for a while as a geologist. I was in woods, and on the oil rigs with the rest of them. (But in full disclosure, much of my work was in an office, too.) At that point in time, there were still men (mostly older) who didn't think geology was the place for women. But men my own age were accepting.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I imagine working in a male-dominated field has its challenges as well as rewards. Were the oil rigs out on the water? What an interesting field you chose.

  4. I don't mind getting dirty doing hard, physical work, but sadly my children, both son and daughter, don't like to get their hands dirty. And likewise their children don't either, except one grandson who is a carpenter apprentice. I wonder if it is because we live in a tech advanced world that yard work is too slow paced. You would think they would welcome the balance. Good that your daughters love being Land Girls.


    1. Hi Laura,
      I think today's kids are really missing out, spending so much time on devices instead of outdoor play or building stuff. Like you said about balance, working outdoors or on a project often frees my mind, and I find new solutions to problems in other areas of life during these times.


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