Farmerettes: Women Who Farmed and Gardened for Victory

May 15, 2018 by

Farmerettes, the Women Who Farmed and Gardened for Victory

They were known as “farmerettes”–the hard working women on the home front who mobilized by the thousands to fill agricultural labor shortages during the First and Second World Wars. On big farms and in small Victory Gardens, they challenged conventional attitudes toward gender roles, taking over for the men who had gone off to war. 

Farmerettes, the Women Who Farmed and Gardened for Victory Photo: National Archives.

Beginning with WWI,  brigades of American “farmerettes” joined the war effort through the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association, a coalition of women’s farm and garden clubs that still exists today.

Farmerettes, the Women Who Farmed and Gardened for Victory

They formed the Woman’s Land Army of America (after the “Land Lassies or Land Girls” of the British Woman’s Land Army), which later became the Woman’s Land Army. The WLA recruited women from urban and rural areas, using the slogan “Joan of Arc Left the Soil to Save France. We’re Going Back to the Soil to Save America.” In Canada, women came together in droves, joining the Farm Service Corps and Women’s Land Brigades to “dig for victory.”

Farmerettes, the Women Who Farmed and Gardened for Victory Photo: National Archives.

“I was accepted!” wrote one young Canadian farmerette. “I had farm service badges to sew on the front of my overall’s bib and my jacket. I gathered up my working shoes, socks, rubber boots, some of my father’s old shirts, a straw hat and a bandana. I was ready to ‘Lend a Hand.’”

Farmerettes, the Women Who Farmed and Gardened for Victory Photo: National Archives.

Most American Land Army farmerettes had no prior farming experience, but before long they were planting, harvesting, and plowing. They had an eight-hour work day limit and earned the same wages as male laborers.

Farmerettes, the Women Who Farmed and Gardened for Victory Australian Land Army Girls with wheelbarrow full of vegetables during war time service with the WANS (Womens Auxiliary National Service), Land Army. Wamberal, Gosford. New South. via National Archives of Australia.

Farmerettes, the Women Who Farmed and Gardened in Victory Gardens

Women were soon wearing the pants in the farming family. With her nine sons either in the army or working in remote factories, one Canadian mother single-handedly managed the entire farm. Along with tending the garden, she drove the tractor and plowed the fields, put up hay and hauled grain to elevators, raised chickens, turkeys and pigs, and canned hundreds of jars of fruits and vegetables.

Farmerettes, Women Who Farmed and Gardened in Victory Gardens

Many women tended their own Victory Gardens or volunteered in community gardens to replace the diminished food supplies resulting from wartime rationing. Even urban dwellers without access to farms began transforming disused empty lots, back yards, and alleys into productive food gardens.

Farmerettes, the Women Who Farmed and Gardened for Victory Photo: National Archives.

In Britain, citizens turned ornamental gardens and lawns, sports fields and golf courses into vegetable and fruit gardens. Trains roared past gardeners “digging for victory” on the edges of the railroad tracks.

Farmerettes, Women Who Farmed and Gardened, "Dig for Victory."

“A Vegetable Garden for Every Home” became the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture’s campaign slogan to rally the gardening troops.

"A vegetable garden in every home"

To support the home garden effort and the cultivation of all available private and public lands, the United States established the National War Garden Commission as a call to action for all Americans to contribute to the war effort by planting and preserving their own fruits and vegetables.

Wartime Victory Garden How-to Garden Manual

The US government distributed posters encouraging citizens to “sow the seeds of victory” and provided novice gardeners with how-to pamphlets suggesting the best crops to plant and offering tips for preventing disease and insect infestation. By the end of the war, there were over five million gardens in the USA, with food production exceeding $1.2 billion.

Victory Garden Call to Action Poster

Never underestimate the power of a woman, especially in the garden.

This post was sponsored by Digit Apparel, makers of Dig It® Handwear and Dig It High 5 gloves, specially crafted for a woman’s hand and designed to blend fashion and function. Gloves have patented pillow-top protection in each fingertip and non-slip silicone dots to ensure a strong grip, offering optimal protection for nails, comfort and dexterity.

Sources: Smithsonian Magazine, Wartime in Canada, History.com, Canadian War Museum, Veterans Affairs Canada,

  • Pingback: The Women Who Farmed and Gardened for Victory – rss()

  • Such a great post! My Grandmother Dorothy had a Victory garden and a walnut orchard. My Grandma Ina worked in an aircraft factory during the war. They both continued to work after the war. Dorothy in a bank and continued to grow food. Ina worked as a cosmetician and grew the most beautiful roses. I grew up with these strong woman and never thought of woman not working. I attribute my strong character and love of gardening to them both!

The freshest innovative and eco-friendly designs, trends, and ideas for urban gardens and stylish small places.

Visit Robin Horton @UrbanGardens's profile on Pinterest.