Friday, 6 May 2016

Women on the Land

From the Brecon & Radnor Express, 27th April 1916.

Women on the Land.



Radnorshire Women's Farm Labour Committee met at Llandrindod Wells on the 17th inst., Mrs C. Coltman Rogers presiding. …  Miss Strachan, of the Board of Trade, attended to explain the scheme of the registration of women workers on the land.  Mrs Coltman Rogers referred to the necessity of organising all available labour, to assist in the production of food supplies at this great crisis. 
Miss Strachan dwelt at some length on the subject in its various aspects.  One great difficulty was to convince farmers that women could render valuable services on the land.  She instanced what successful work was being done in other parts of the country, where a certain degree of prejudice existed in the minds of farmers twelve months ago.  The first step was to get the women of the villages and towns that were willing to offer their services as part or whole time workers enrolled, and most likely the demand for their assistance would come later when the scarcity of labour would be felt more acutely.  To do this thoroughly a house to house canvass should be carried out.  

Regarding the matter of wages she said that this would have to be dealt with locally, as conditions varied considerably in different districts.  She thought that 3d. an hour would be a fair average for casual, and from 12/- to 15/- a week for regular workers.  There should be training centres in the county, where those not accustomed to farm work could be trained in certain farming operation.  Possibly, some farmers would be found who would be willing to take a few women in to be trained for a short period, before being placed on farms as wage-earners.  Above all, the whole matter should be looked upon from a patriotic stand-point by both employers and employed.  She urged that all those present would take the work of canvassing their respective districts enthusiastically.  She was confident that the results would be astonishing, and that the difficulties which appeared almost unsurmountable at present would be overcome. 

A very interesting discussion followed, and it was resolved to hold public meetings throughout the county early in May.

[Since the start of 1916, there had been articles in local papers around  the country about the shortage of men to work on farms, because so many agricultural workers had been called up, e.g. here.  There was much discussion of how to get more women working on the land to replace them, but it seems that progress was difficult.  The wages offered may have been a significant problem - 3d an hour is very low.  (In other sectors, 6d an hour was thought of as a low wage.)  In unionised industries, there were agreements about what women replacing men should be paid (e.g. here),  but Miss Strachan seems to be suggesting that women should work for low wages out of patriotism - a difficult argument to make when women could work for higher wages elsewhere and feel themselves to be equally patriotic in doing the work of a man on active service.]

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