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UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
FRANCES PERKINS, Secretary

WOMEN’S BUREAU
MARY ANDERSON, Director

+

SUCCESSFUL PRACTICES IN THE
EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN
ON FARMS IN THE NORTHEASTERN
STATES, 1943
By

FRANCES W. VALENTINE

Bulletin of the Women’s Bureau,

No. 199

UNITED STATES
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1944

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office
Washington 25, D. C. - Price 10 cents

Li



LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
United States Department of Labor,
Women’s Bureau,

Washington, Jarmary 31,191±J±.
Madam: I am submitting herewith a description of the work on

farms done by nonfarm women, and the conditions under which such
work was done, in the Northeastern States in 1943. As in industry,
the employment of a new group of workers by employers not accus­
tomed to this type of worker creates many problems calling for prac­
tical adjustment. This report points out the most successful prac­
tices and the steps necessary to secure a better utilization of nonfarm
women on farms in the Northeastern States in 1944.
The field surveys were made and the report has been written by
Frances W. Valentine.
Respectfully submitted.
Mart Anderson, Director.
Hon. Frances Perkins,

Secretary of Labor.




CONTENTS
Letter of transmittal
Introduction
The agriculture of the Northeastern region
The labor demand and the farms on which women worked
The record for 1943___________________
Plans to meet the 1943 needsI
Experiments of 1942
Private-agency plans of 1943
Government-agency plans of 1943
The recruiting of women.
The interviewing of women
The groups of women furnishing recruits
Farm work and working conditions of 1943
Work done by women
Market-garden or truck farms
Orchards~
Dairy farms
Poultry farms
Seed-growers’ farms
Conditions under which the 1943 farm women worked
Safety practices, insurance, and occupational hazards_____ _
Sanitary facilities_________
Drinking water
Hours, rest periods, time off*
Wages, rates of pay, earnings____________________________
Attitude of women workers and farmers toward work and
training___________________ ___________________
Life and living conditions of the 1943 women farm workers
Various housing methods used_______________________________
Food provision for women workers
Transportation____ ,_________________________________
Health provisions___________________________________
RecreationZ_Z~ZZ_Z
Conclusion: Advisable practices for 1944 suggested by the study of the
1943 program______________________________________________'
SupervisionZIZZIZ_ZZ __
~
Farm work and seasons for which women will be needed
Qualifications of a successful woman farm worker___________ _______
Qualifications of a successful employer________________________
Employment conditions__________________ _______________
Women’s wages______________________ Z_____
Working hours; rest and lunch periodsZ_ZZZZZ
Work clothing___ 1_______________________
Sanitary facilities for women workers at farms___ _________ _
Drinking water________________________ _____
Job hazards___________________________
Transportation____________________ Z__________ Z___
Recreation__________________________Z Z Z
Procedure for setting up units of nonfarm women for work on farms
Locality___________________ _____
HousingZZ__ ZZZ__ ZZZZZZZZZZZZ ”
Feeding farm workers_____________________ ____
RecruitingZZ_Z_ZZ_""
~
Program for winter work in organizing recruits
Illustrations:
- - —
Girls picking tomatoes on a market-garden farm ___ ______ facing
Girl apple picker on a fruit farm________________________
Girls feeding calves on a dairy farm_____________________




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GIRLS PICKING TOMATOES ON A MARKET-GARDEN FARM.

Successful Practices in the
Employment of Nonfarm Women on Farms
in the Northeastern States, 1943
INTRODUCTION
THE AGRICULTURE OF THE NORTHEASTERN REGION
The necessity of using women to help to supply the great demand
for agricultural workers became generally recognized in the North­
eastern States1 during the 1943 season. That there were women and
girls ready to take farm jobs in 1943 and that many projects for
women farm workers were set up and even operating was due largely
to the unswerving efforts of pioneer women leaders and to the more
farsighted farmers. These men and women, with or without State
recognition and aid and before the Extension Service of the Depart­
ment of Agriculture was charged by Congress with the responsibility
of recruiting women for farm work, paved the way and broke down
farmers’ resistance to the employment of women in 1942. Bv the
spring of 1943 there were increasing numbers of women and girls
ready to serve and increasing numbers of farmers ready to try them.
By the end of the 1943 season there was no question of the value of
the women’s work, no question of agriculture’s need for them, little
question of the farmers’ willingness to employ them.
The farms of this Northeastern Region have furnished the fluid
milk for the great eastern centers of population, the value of their
milk and cream sales (exclusive of cream sold as butterfat), both
wholesale and retail, exceeding that of any other division of the
United States. In 1941 almost one-third (32 percent) of the potato
crop of the country was produced here. The value of the truck crops
grown here for market and for processing wTas over 76y2 million
dollars, more than a fifth of the total valuation for the whole country.
Particularly now that long-distance transportation is curtailed, these
are the farms that supply the tables of the homes of this region. In
the production of apples, in farm value the second most important
fruit of the country, it ranks second and produces nearly one-third
of all the commercial crop. Only the Western States (and these
now ship east fewer apples than formerly) exceed this region. The
Northeastern States produce 17 percent of the eggs, 13 percent of
the chickens, of the United States.2
For the purposes of this study, “Northeastern States” conforms closely to the Eastern
Division used by the Extension Service of the U. S. Department of Agriculture. It Includes
Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York
ExtenstonnServiceW rouS<?y’ Delaware’ a,Kl Maryland, excluding only West Virginia of the
2 From “Agricultural Statistics, 1942,” U. S. Department of Agriculture.




1

2

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

While this region is not rated as one of the great agricultural sec­
tions of the United States, it is a region which consumes most of what
it produces, and any lowering of this production would immediately
affect the food supply of the people of this part of the country.
Because it is predominantly an industrial section, the increase in
industrial labor demands has been so tremendous that farm labor has
been depleted. The Department of Agriculture’s map showing the
districts where need for an emergency farm-labor program exists
shows almost this entire area marked to indicate “large or very large
and serious seasonal or year-round labor problem.”
The purpose of this bulletin is to sum up and evaluate the 1943
experience in the use of women on the farms in the Northeastern
States and to point out some of the important factors to be considered
when employing them in the future.
THE LABOR DEMAND AND THE FARMS ON WHICH
WOMEN WORKED
In this region owner-operated farms prevail, farms of moderate
size, where most of the family assist in the farm operations, one way
or another. Depending on the size of the farm, farmers had been
in the habit of employing, the year round, such farm hands as were
needed to take care of the continuous work, especially on dairy and
poultry farms where certain work goes on regardless of season. When
spring came, on dairy or general farms one or more extra men, as
the case demanded, would be employed for the season. During the
haying period again one or more extra hands might be hired by the
day or until haying was done.
On the truck or vegetable-growing farms, spring work begins
early. The market gardener begins to expand his force as soon as
the ground can be worked. According to the crop he grows he needs,
besides a continuous force to take care of the growing crops, extra
hands to harvest the crops in which he specializes. There are
throughout this region a great many truck farms. These are situated
near the large cities in great numbers, so that their produce can be
taken to market every day. Many of the truck farmers rent land for
their crops, usually near their own farms. These farms may employ
from a dozen to a hundred workers at a time.
Orchard crops are grown sometimes in connection with truck or
dairy farms but principally as major crops. There are many apple
and peach orchards—peaches chiefly in Pennsylvania, New Jersey,
and New York, apples in every State but chiefly in New York, Penn­
sylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maryland. Pears are a
considerable crop in New York and Pennsylvania, and more grapes
are grown in New York than in any other State save California.
The chief need for extra workers in the orchards is during harvest
time.
_
#
...
Commercial canneries are established in these States m the regions
where various vegetables, such as corn, beans, and tomatoes, can be
grown most easily. Some canneries own large acreages and grow
vegetables for their own factories, others contract with farmers to
grow vegetables for them.




3

INTRODUCTION

All these varied types of farms needed help in 1943. Not only
were the extra male hands that they had been in the habit of picking
up easily when needed no longer available, but the regular year-round
hands were largely gone or going to war industries or to the armed
services. The realization of that fact on the part of the farmers
opened the way for the employment of women. The demand for
women, scarcely more than a reluctant toleration at first, began to
appear. At the end of the season women had been successfully used
on the following types of farms.
1. Truck or Market-Garden Farms.—By far the greatest number
of women and girls had been employed by farmers growing vegetables
and small fruits. From northern Maine to Maryland', from western
New York to the end of Long Island, the market gardeners used
women from May to November and were surprised and pleased with
the women workers, most of whom had never been on a farm before.
If there was one outstanding characteristic mentioned over and over
again by farmers, it was the “intelligence” of the women workers.
“You only have to explain a thing to them once and they understand
and do it the way you say,” was a frequent comment. As the harvest
season for one crop after another came along, from early summer to
late autumn, many extra women were needed in addition to those
who had worked all through the planting and growing season.
2. Small-Fruit Growers and Orchardists.—Women bad been em­
ployed to harvest all sorts of berries and small fruits and wound up
the season in the peach and apple orchards, where they were considered
more careful and better pickers than ordinary help.
3. Dairy Farms.—These farms had employed women all summer,
when they could get them, and considered their gentle, quiet han­
dling of cows particularly good and their cleanliness in the dairies
outstanding. They would have been glad to keep them on the year
round.
4. Poultry Farms.—Minute attention to detail is essential on poul­
try farms, where women were found to be satisfactory workers.
5. Seed-Growing Farms.—A large commercial seed grower had
used to his entire satisfaction a group of 25 to 30 junior girls to weed,
cultivate, and finally harvest the vegetable-seed crops.




T

THE RECORD FOR 1943
PLANS TO MEET THE 1943 NEEDS
Experiments of 1942.
The first use of nonfarm women in this region was made in 1942.
In that year there had been an attempt in several States in this section
to recruit nonfarm women for farm work and to persuade farmers to
at least give them a trial. Opposition to the use of women was found
not only among farmers but among agricultural leaders and farmers’
organizations. Some State farm-labor supervisors or county agents,
if not actively opposing the movement to use women, did not believe
it would work or thought the difficulties attendant on any definite move
to use women were too great. In two States, however, Maine and
Connecticut, State organizations with State funds (very limited)
had been set up. The Women’s Emergency Farm Service in Maine
under Katharine Potter and the Connecticut Land Army under Mrs.
Joseph Alsop had recruited girls and women and placed them on
farms, where they had been entirely satisfactory. Two private agen­
cies also were active; the Vermont Land Corps under the leadership of
Dorothy Thompson had placed about 50 girls and women on farms,
and the “Farm for Freedom” group in New York State under Mrs.
Frank Washburn had established a group of college girls at Clermont,
N. Y., to work on nearby farms. In all these projects the work of the
women and girls had both surprised and pleased the farmers, so that
in 1943 they were asking for women in many places.
In addition to these efforts there had been in 1942 women placement
officers in the New York and New Jersey U. S. Employment Service
who were trying to place women on farms. There was not always
sufficiently well organized supervision of placements to secure the
standards necessary to success.
Private-Agency Plans of 1943.
In 1943, in addition to the State plans of Maine and Connecticut,
other private organizations were eager to “do something,” and during
the winter months of 1942-43 much preliminary work was done by
individuals and agencies who believed women could and should be used
to help in the farm-labor shortage. Both to individual farmers
and to farm commodity groups the possibility of trying women was
proposed. Plans were outlined by which they might be employed,
efforts were made to set up something that seemed practical to the
farmer, and he was told of the satisfaction expressed by the farmers
who had tried women.
The result was that by the spring of 1943 a considerable number of
privately organized groups of women for farm wTork were being set
up, as well as a continuation of the two State-sponsored plans, and a
fairly large group of farmers were looking for women to help with
4



THE RECORD FOR 1943

5

their work. With work assured, these projects sought recruits largely
through colleges, junior colleges, and schools, since large numbers, of
students and teachers who were known to have time available could
be reached easily through such channels. Placement officers at these
institutions were deluged with requests for girls to work on farms.
Some individual farmers sought recruits for groups to work on their
farms. No one could have offered finer or more successful coopera­
tion than the college and school vocational and placement officers m all
this work. As there was no one channel through which workers
cleared, it resulted in some women who desired work failing to get it,
and some projects not having all the workers they desired.
Government-Agency Plans of 1943.
At the end of April Congress appropriated funds and named the Ex­
tension Service of the Department of Agriculture as the agency to
handle farm labor under the War Food Administration. Within this
set-up a Women’s Land Army program was to be developed, which
was to cooperate with all agencies that could help to recruit women
who could work on farms, place the workers, and otherwise supervise
this phase of farm labor. Miss Florence L. Hall was named national
leader of the Women’s Land Army, and Women’s Land Army leaders
were appointed by the Extension Service in nearly every State. These'
women worked under the State Farm Labor Supervisor (an Exten­
sion Service man in each case) helping with whatever method of
utilizing women seemed best in that State.
In most States, plans for using women got under way at once.
State leaders generally recognized that it was impossible to provide
a sufficient number of women workers from localities adjacent to
farms, who would live at home and go to and from work on nearby
farms each day. Recruits were sought in large urban areas for units
of workers to be set up in localities where suitable housing could be
provided and farmers found who were ready to employ women.
The Recruiting of Women.
Recruiting plans were put into effect during June and July. For
New York State a contract was made between the Extension Service
and the USES by which the latter was to recruit and help to place
farm labor. A woman was put in charge of the women’s work, with
a woman assistant. Press, radio, posters were used to attract women.
Descriptive circulars of the different projects and camps were dis­
tributed, and women were interviewed and sent out to whichever of
a dozen projects might need workers. Women were recruited also for
year-round jobs, and for the Farmingdale farm-training school on
Long Island.
Other States put out their own publicity through the Extension
Service Publicity Department, and recruited for their needs through
whatever channels it could devise—press, radio, posters, leaflets, clubs,
organizations, industries, YWCA. AWVS, IJSO, Civilian Defense,
lists of rejects of WACs or WAVEs, personal contacts, and so forth.
(Schools and colleges were in most cases closed and their vacation
workers already enrolled before July.) In this region there were only
three States—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Delaware—where no
work camps for women workers were set up by the Extension Service.
574337"—44------ 2




6

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

The Interviewing of Women.
Wherever possible, workers were interviewed before being accepted
by someone trained for the job, but there was in general very little
screening of applicants. Every effort was made to take the glamor
out of the job and to present it as work rather than as a vacation.
Where recruits applied by mail, interviews were not always possible,
which sometimes led to later difficulties. Considering this, there were
on the whole a surprisingly small proportion who were complete mis­
fits. On some projects where workers came from a distance without
interviews, character references were required, but that was rare.
The Groups of Women Furnishing Recruits.
The Women of Farm Families.

It should be remembered that the women members of farm families
always have been and always will be the most important women farm
workers. In 1943 they took over not only a tremendous amount of
work but often entire managerial responsibility. But it was still
impossible for them to carry the entire extra burden of work, and re­
sort had to be made to the help of women who had never before worked
on farms. It is the work of these inexperienced “nonfarm” women
which this bulletin discusses.
The Nonfarm Women Workers.

As the need for women farm workers made itself known, many
nonfarm women and girls came forward to answer the call. They
came from many different sources and may be roughly divided into
the following groups:
1. Students from women’s colleges, junior colleges, and high or preparatory
schools, and teachers.
2. Business and professional women other than teachers, including State or
Federal employees.
3. Homemakers and unemployed women.
4. Women workers from industries.

The largest contribution probably was made by the student and
teacher group. These girls and women, having a long summer vaca­
tion during which the majority of them do not plan continuous em­
ployment in ordinary times, offered a splendid group from which to
draw. Their interest in and enthusiasm for the opportunity to con­
tribute real service in food conservation, a field that attracted them,
made them admirable recruits. Their physical condition generally
was excellent. They were intelligent and conscientious. The great
majority of them were not obliged to count on their summer’s earnings
for support. These women and girls could and usually did give a
fairly long period of service, from one to four months.
The women in professional (other than teaching) and business life
who gave up their vacations to work on farms, or who sometimes
came to farming after giving up one job and before taking another,
were a very important group. Among them were office workers from
government and private offices, women from publishing houses and
magazine agencies, telephone companies; writers, artists, librarians,
lawyers, doctors, scientists, waitresses, manicurists, women from an
endless variety of jobs; some were expatriates wTho had come to this
country for refuge. Having been employed, all these women were
likely to understand that concentrating on one’s job is the primary
asset of a good worker. Many of them jumped into their work and



THE RECORD FOR 1943

7

did an unexpected amount for the time they were employed. While
a period of one or two weeks (the prevailing period for this group)
is a short time for a worker either to get into her stride or to be
valuable enough to a farmer to earn what might be considered good
wages, they did a great deal of work and the farmers were well pleased
with the help they gave. Many gave a month, some even more.
In the Northeastern States the war industries were making such
increasing demands for women workers that comparatively few
women went to farms from industry. When industrial workers had
vacations, they unquestionably had many demands on their time.
They were not a large factor in the women farm labor in these States,
but as more women are laid off in the shifting of war contracts this
group may well become more important.
Many women who were not employed—women running their own
homes with some free time, women who were employed but were will­
ing to work Sundays, students who during the school term could work
occasional days—thousands of these women went out from their own
places of abode to work by the day on farms within reach. This work
was principally harvesting crops where an emergency need existed
for a short time. Unquestionably many crops were saved by this
group. Since they had to be recruited from urban centers or college
towns where there was a supply of women available, they could only
be used on farms near enough to such centers to make transportation
feasible. Typical of such services was the work of the American
Women’s Voluntary Services at Washington, D. C., which sent nearly
700 women during 1943 for “day-haul” work on nearby Maryland
farms. The AWVS did all the interviewing of recruits, contacted the
farms, arranged transportation, keeping an active program moving
all summer. Another example, in one of the western counties of
Massachusetts, where the strawberry, asparagus, onion, and potato
fields as well as apple orchards all needed harvest hands at a time
when colleges and schools were in session, the Women’s Land Army
leader and the county farm labor supervisors recruited hundreds of
girl students for day or part-day work in the spring and fall.
This type of help did not, however, reach farms outside of this
fortunate circle and many farmers had to have their help brought
within reach of the farms.
FARM WORK AND WORKING CONDITIONS OF 1943
WORK DONE BY WOMEN

Market-Garden or Truck Farms.
Many large farms of this type are located near or within daily
trucking distance of large centers of population, and all employ large
numbers of workers from the spring planting season to the fall har­
vest. Some specialize in one, two, or three crops; others grow almost
all vegetables; some grow berries and bush fruits; some even have
orchards and dairies in addition to their vegetables. On these farms
women either worked the whole season or harvested special crops.
The number of women who worked the whole season, or even three
or four months of it, was comparatively small, but these women had
the satisfaction of seeing the whole cycle from planting to harvesting.



8

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFAKM WOMEN ON FARMS

(It must be remembered that up to the end of April there was no
organized movement and no Government agency that was urging the
use of women on farms.) Women cut seed potatoes. They weeded
and thinned on hands and knees tiny seedlings as they came up.
Much weeding was done hy children, whom the women often super­
vised. Women pulled the small cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli
plants for transplanting. They planted beans and corn by hand.
They did hoeing as the seedlings got bigger. They did cultivating
and weeding between rows of spinach and lettuce and other vegetables
with scuffle hoe and “shove hoe.” They dusted plants with insecti­
cides and fungicides. They helped transplant tomatoes and celery.
They pulled and bunched radishes. They nailed vegetable boxes (on
rainy days). They cut and bunched asparagus and cut rhubarb.
As strawberries began to ripen, many pickers were needed. Some
camps were organized just for the few weeks of berry picking and
such work was the only job for these women. Other regions depended
on women workers by the day from nearby towns. Berry picking
requires quickness and dexterity and most inexperienced workers
could not do so much as old timers. Currants, raspberries, blueberries,
cranberries—these crops drew workers from such camps as were estab­
lished and also from nearby towns.
Meantime, early vegetable crops were ripening. Women picked
lettuce, spinach, summer squash (a prickly job) ; they picked,
trimmed, and bunched beets and carrots; they picked sweet corn, con­
sidered by some farmers as both a heavy job and one that needs
experience and judgment in selecting ears of just the right degree
of ripeness.
Probably no one job employed more women than picking snap or
string beans. Some farms grew nothing but string beans. This
meant days lost if it was rainy, for beans cannot be picked when the
vines are wet. Though it was monotonous, women did very well at
it, one farmer saying, “After I showed them the size of the beans
that should be picked and should be left, and how to pull them off
without hurting the vines, I did not have to instruct them again nor
correct them. They have done an excellent job, far better than the
boys have ever done.”
Another crop that employed many women was tomatoes. Women
did the pruning and tying up of the vines to overhead wires so that
only one or two main stems were left to bear fruit. The side shoots
or suckers had to be repeatedly broken or cut off—a job that made
hands, arms, and legs literally black from green-tomato-vine juice.
Later the women picked tomatoes day after day, in what they some­
times called “the jungle,” vines were so dense. One of the employers
said women were “most useful on work that, is not too heavy, but
which requires skill and painstaking ability, such as trimming and
training trellis tomatoes.”
Some women worked all the time in the packing sheds, where the
vegetables were stripped, bunched, washed, sorted, and packed. They
were regarded as good at this work though there was some comment
on a tendency of younger girls to chatter and sing too much where
they were working close together. One man had installed a radio
to have conversation and music for the workers rather than by them.
As the season advanced into fall women harvested carrots and
turnips, picked up onions and potatoes. Farmers who had not em­



THE RECORD FOR 1943

9

ployed women earlier in the season now sought their help even from
some distance to harvest their crops.
The method generally used in picking vegetables was to pick into
a bushel or %-bushel basket and carry it to the end of the row, where
a truck picked it up. These baskets were sometimes too heavy for
women to carry, weighing from 30 to 50 pounds; sometimes older
boys or men carried and loaded them when full. One group of women
workers developed a system of carrying the containers on their heads.
There is a considerable opportunity for reengineering many farm
jobs so that they can be done an easier way if women are to be used.
In fact, one of the employers said, “Some of the girls at times had good
suggestions on easier and more efficient ways of doing certain jobs.”
This rearrangement of work to suit the physical capacity of women
has already had official attention in the WAC and is usual in indus­
tries employing women for the first time.
Where women were picking into bushel baskets, the suggestion
was made to use i^-bushel baskets or fill the bushel baskets only onehalf full. Another suggestion made by workers was that in picking
down a row of summer squash, one girl pick from the vines to right and
to left, and another girl come behind with the basket, so that constant
setting down and picking up the basket was avoided, and by alternat­
ing “picking” and “lugging” the work was less fatiguing. Another
improvement was picking from the middle toward the end of the row.
On some of these truck farms girls drove tractors and farm trucks,
the latter chiefly on errands or to make deliveries of small loads.
Where, stock was kept, the women helped with the haying, and operated
the hay hoists that unloaded the hay in the lofts, where they did some
spreading and treading. They raked with horse rakes, drove trucks
loaded with hay, and on one truck and dairy farm two girls and two
men made up the team that operated the hay baler as long as there was
any hay to cut in the neighborhood.
Few of the market gardeners, however, had such diverting jobs.
Most of the work was repetitive and monotonous, and the fact that
practically everyone stuck it out shows the seriousness of their pur­
pose. Where farmers can arrange some variety in the work, it will
unquestionably add to the morale. The same job all day and every
day for weeks becomes very tedious and a change to something else
if only for an hour or two during the day brings new energy and in­
terest to the workers.
The general attitude of the farmers was one of great satisfaction
and surprise that women did so well. Compared to boys of 18 to 20
years they “were more conscientious, made better use of their time,
required less supervision, and the quality of their work was better
than that of boys.” Many farmers said they could not have handled
their work without the “girls” and all wanted them back next year.
In fact, many said that their planting and production plans were de­
pendent on being able to have their women workers back.
Orchards.
Apples.—In 1943, women really came into the picture in the apple
orchards of the Northeast. Harvesting was a great problem and a
general call went out for helpers.
Women were sought by newspaper publicity, by Extension Service
labor supervisors and Land Army leaders, by the U. S. Employment



10

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

Service, and by growers themselves. Many responded. They came
out from nearby cities for the day by train, automobile, and farmer’s
truck. They went from colleges for days and half-days. (Gas was
always granted for this work.) In a few instances camps were set

GIRL APPLE-PICKER ON A FRUIT FARM.

up to house women; in some cases they lived on the farms; one way or
another they actually did a great deal of the harvesting.
The orchardists usually gave them some instruction before starting,
explained how to grasp the apple with the blossom end in the palm of
the hand, and with the forefinger or thumb against the stem break it
off, rather than drag the apple from the tree. The pickers were told



THE RECORD FOR 1943

11

that apples must be handled as carefully as eggs, never dropped in
baskets or boxes; that baskets must never be dumped into boxes; that
apples which dropped from the trees or were knocked off must not be
put in with the hand-picked fruit; and so forth.
The prevailing report was that women learned quickly, were intelli­
gent and conscientious, did not break so many fruit spurs as ordinary
inexperienced pickers, were more careful in handling fruit and did not
bruise many apples. In general, nonfarm women (and men also)
did not pick so many bushels a day as regular experienced pickers, but
the foreman of one large orchard said, turning to a young married
woman who was just walking in from the orchard, “This is our best
picker. She can pick right alongside of me, pick just as fast and just
as carefully as I can.” She had never picked before.
Picking is fairly hard work. Usually (/^-bushel or %-bushel baskets
or containers are used, and when full they weigh around 25 pounds.
Of course, smaller baskets can be used, as they are all emptied into
orchard boxes holding about a bushel.
There seemed to be considerable apprehension among growers that
women would not be able to climb ladders and could not move nor
put up ladders. This certainly was not true of the younger women
nor of many <*f the older ones. They climbed ladders without hesi­
tating ; many of the girls climbed like monkeys to the very top. In
most cases men moved and set up the ladders, in some the girls scorned
any such aid, two girls easily carrying a ladder together and setting it
up, after they learned how. Orchard ladders are of various types and
lengths. Some start like ordinary ladders and taper off to a point
at the top to be more easily poked up into the branches (these ladders
may be 14,16,18, or 20 feet long); some have three legs, the front like an
ordinary stepladder, the back only one leg, like a three-legged easel,
so that it can more easily be pushed in among the branches; besides
these, the ordinary stepladder and straight ladder sometimes are
used. Women should have instruction on how to set up ladders so
that they will be secure; as should inexperienced boys and men, for
that matter, since they can be just as ignorant about such practices as
women.
Previous to harvest time, girls and women had been employed to
thin apples, that is, to pick off little apples that either showed some
blemish or were crowded too close to other apples. Such thinning
insures better fruit, a more valuable crop, but can be practiced only
where there is a sufficient labor supply.
Some growers believe, others do not, that women can assist in the
spraying. It was rarely done last year. This is a two-man job, one
to drive the tractor or spray truck, one to direct the spray nozzle. If
an orchard is on level ground, the driving is not difficult. If on steep
hills, it is a hard job even for an experienced man. Directing the spray
or dusting hose is a heavy, dirty iob, but no more so than many factory
jobs women are doing. Nevertheless, it probably will be one of the
last orchard jobs women will do.
The loading of boxes of picked fruit onto trucks to be carried to
the storehouse is a heavy job, boxes weighing about 44 pounds. Girls
and women are advised against doing such work continuously, unless
two do it together. Much loading was done in 1943, however, by strong
active girls m their late teens and twenties.




12

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

Nailing boxes is a good job for rainy days during the summer.
Many growers buy their boxes knocked down, and put them together
on the farm, It is light work, requiring rhythmic, well coordinated
movements, and many girls did well at it.
After the crop is picked, the sorting, grading, and packing go on
for a large part of the late fall and early winter, since the apples, which
are put into storage immediately on being picked, are later taken out,
sorted, graded, and packed for sale as they are wanted.
Pruning can be learned by women and one orchardist reported that
a 17-year-old girl cut the water sprouts or suckers out of 5 acres of
trees.
One of the most important growers in the Northeast said that in his
opinion there was practically no job in orcharding for which women
could not be employed. Certainly with better organization next sea­
son many more women can be used and used more effectively.
Peaches.—In 1943, heavy winter freezes destroyed a great part of the
peach crop of the Northeastern States. If that had not been so, many
women would have been needed to pick peaches. As it was, small
groups of women were organized to pick peaches in Maryland and
New Jersey. A Maryland grower reported them as the “best pickers
we have ever had in the orchards.” This group had been carefully
selected for this special job. In New Jersey a peach grower said, “T
never sold a nicer crop of peaches—better picked, better graded, or
better packed—than I did this year.”
In one of these orchards the grower had the women pick in the
morning, sort, grade, and pack in the afternoon, which gave the work
variety and made it less fatiguing.
Dairy Farms.
Work on dairy farms required residence at the farm. While there
is tremendous need of year-round workers on dairy farms of this
region, few women so far have come forward for such jobs. Connecti­
cut, however, reported 8 year-round workers, and there were probably
as many if not more in New York. The training school at I'armingdale, L. I., offers a splendid dairy-training course for girls, and while
those who took it were readily placed there have not been many women
who wanted year-round farm jobs.
Nevertheless, there was a real contribution to dairy farms in
the work that • women did during the summer months of 1943.
Many farms wanted someone to take over the dairy work for
the summer and thereby release a man for the heavier outside
work. This is exactly what many women did. They were up
early in the morning, helped to milk with machines and stripped
the cows afterward (stripping is drawing off by hand any milk
that remains in the udder after the machines are taken off). ‘ Some
women also milked entirely by hand. They weighed and recorded
the milk production, then took over in the dairy, did the cooling,
pasteurizing, and bottling of the milk. If cream was sold, they
did the separating; if chocolate milk was sold, they mixed and bottled
it. And when these operations were over, they washed and sterilized
all the equipment—milking machines, pails, cans, bottles, and sep­
arator. This usually was a job that took all the morning.
Some of the dairy work, such as bringing the cans of milk from the
barn to the dairy and emptying them into the pasteurizer, was too



13

THE RECORD FOR 1943

heavy for women. A full 20-quart can weighs nearly 60 pounds, and
a 40-quart can 120 pounds. Two girls together could handle a 20quart can but men usually did the heavy lifting. Bottling the milk
was easy, but stacking up cases of a dozen filled bottles was heavy, and
the men usually did the top rows on the small hand trucks. When
the work was all done, the dairy was thoroughly washed down; the
night’s utensils were rinsed and left to be taken care of in the morning.
Both in the cow barn and in the dairy, women were very successful.
They were quiet and gentle with the cows, and cows do much better
under such handling. Women’s cleanliness in the dairy work was out­
standing. Their intelligence in learning to operate all the dairy
machinery and their conscientiousness in following instructions ex-

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-

.

M§9?Wii

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j*v*:

GIRLS FEEDING CALVES ON A DAIRY FARM.

actly relieved the farmer of much responsibility. They did not limit
their “washing up” to the dairy, but gave the cow barns and windows
a thorough scrubbing when needed. They fed and cared for calves.
In the afternoons the dairy-farm workers helped with whatever
work was on hand. They planted com, worked in the vegetable gar­
den, helped with the haying, led the horse for the hay hoist or raked
with a horse rake. Sometimes they drove tractors or trucks that
hauled hay. They also helped to fill silos, and some cut corn by hand.
They tramped and spread ensilage in the silos. Other miscellaneous
jobs included setting fence posts, clearing small stones from fields,
washing the milk truck, driving the milk route.
On one farm where a married son had been drafted, his wife and
another soldier’s wife moved in together and one drove the milk route
while the other did the dairy work, a half-day job for each.
574337°—44------3




14

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

r
____
______ Farms have
Quoting one 1dairy .. i i “The noviriflf
farmer, ^ ^ girls at
P
’...............
nulr
been*very^useful in our dairy work, having T
taken full charge of pas­
teurizing, separating, cooling, bottling, and keeping the dairy clean
and orderly, and helpful in other phases of our farm work lhey
compare very favorably with young men without previous dairying
experience and are very much superior to boys m the 12-to-Hi atoe
group.” Another dairy farmer reported, “They have been very use­
ful to us in the pasteurizing plant and running the milking machines
and have been able to do the work required except the washing of milk
cans and lifting of the milk into the pasteurizers. Their strong points
have been willingness to do whatever they were asked, cheerfulness,
and sticking to the job until it was finished. They are much more in­
telligent than the boys we have had and have not wasted time or shirked
as the boys have a tendency to do.”
Poultry Farms.
On the poultry farms there was almost no part of the work that
some women did not do. They “trap nested” the laying hens, that is,
collected eggs from nests that had closed when the hens entered them,
recorded the number of the hen so that a complete record of her egg
production could be kept, and then released her. lhey candled eggs
(held them up to a light to see if there were blood spots inside) and
graded them by size; packed the eggs collected from the nests m cases;
kept the feed hoppers and water receptacles filled. They picked and
dressed birds for market—a job started with some repugnance but
mastered with some pride. They caponized cockerels. Two women
who were biologists were sent to a farm where there were a lot of
cockerels to caponize and delighted the farmer by their skill. On any
poultry farm there is a multiplicity of detail work. On the hatching
farms, which ship day-old chicks, the handling of the incubator eggs,
the taking out and boxing the chicks, is a job well suited to women.
Except for handling the bags of feed, which weigh 100 pounds, there
need be no excessively heavy work on a poultry farm.
While women were desperately needed for year-round work on a
good many poultry farms of this region, there was far less success
in getting them than there was for summer months or crop-harvest
periods.
Seed-Growers’ Farms.
The girls employed on one of the seed-growers’ farms came from a
camp of “junior girls,” that is, 15 to 18 years old. They worked an
8-hour day, however, and were very satisfactory. They were chosen
on recommendation of their school principals and had a thoroughly
serious purpose in signing up for the summer. They worked on the
farms under the supervision of working counselors, lor the first
part of the season they did chiefly the weeding and cultivating of
plants being grown for seed. All root and bulb crops take two years
to produce seed. They are grown the first year, stored over the
winter, planted the second year, during which season the seeds mature
and are harvested.
.
„
,
. , .
,
After the seeds ripened, the seed stalks were cut, the seeds stripped
off, and here the girls’ work ended, the further drying, cleaning,
and packaging being carried on in another department of the com­
pany.



ttt

THE RECORD FOR 1943

15

One of the few agricultural-industry poisonings occurred here, when
some of the girls got a slight skin irritation from handling parsnips,
known as “parsnip poisoning.”
CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH THE 1943 FARM WOMEN WORKED

Safety Practices, Insurance, and Occupational Hazards.
The great majority of the women who worked on farms in 1943
lived elsewhere and came daily to the farms to work. The working
conditions discussed in this section relate particularly to the farms
as working centers, and not to conditions at farms or camps where
the women lived.
Safety Practices.

Except as individual farmers were careful, used precautions them­
selves and expected their employees to do so, it did not appear that
any special safety program for the women workers was initiated.
Women did not use machinery to any extent in this region, and ex­
cept for the few who were trained at Farmingdale, L. I., at the Con­
necticut or the Maryland agricultural college, or in evening lectures
as in Washington, D. C., women workers had had little previous ex­
perience in the use of even the ordinary farm tools. There were
several cases where girls stuck pitchforks in their feet, fell off trucks
or out of hay lofts, or strained their backs, but no serious injury
was reported.
Clothing.—Suitable clothing, essential to safety, was generally
worn. Blue denim overalls or dungarees, cotton and flannel work
shirts, sport shoes, shade hats or caps, rubber boots, raincoats, sweaters,
were all part of the essential equipment. The Women’s Land Army
uniform, overalls, jacket, shirt, and cap, available by August, was
well suited to the work. Frequently there was lack of emphasis on
suitable protective clothing. Some women or girls went to work
in halters and shorts, which are unsuitable because (a) they expose
the body unduly to sun and are likely to result in painful sunburns,
(b) farming is rough work and shoulders, back, arms, and legs need
some protection against bumps, scratches, bruises, and scrapes, (c)
country people, traditionally conservative, dislike and comment un­
favorably on so much exposure of a woman’s body to the general
public eye.
Accident Insurance.

Farmers are not required to carry employers’ liability insurance.
They may, of course, be sued for injuries incurred by an employee
in the course of her work. Many farmers did carry such insurance,
and some projects—at least one—placed women only on farms so pro­
tected. No instance was heard of where women were injured and
received, or asked for but did not receive, compensation, but doctor’s
bills were sometimes paid by the employer.
After the organization of the Women’s Land Army program under
the Extension Service, accident insurance was offered members at
the rate of $4 for a period of three months with the privilege of re­
newal for additional periods of one to three months, if desired. There
was no shorter term. Few workers took this insurance. Where
large numbers of workers are transported by trucks back and forth
to work, or from one part of a farm to another, transportation ac­
cidents, as well as accidents connected with work, may happen.



16

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

Occupational Hazards.

Svmburn and Poison Ivy.—The two chief occupational hazards
reported by workers throughout the region were, unquestionably,
sunburn and poison ivy. As the first is avoidable, and the second
largely preventable, it would seem that supervisors, employers, and
workers themselves were largely responsible. Many serious cases of
sunburn occurred because of eagerness to acquire a deep tan at once.
These resulted not only in acute discomfort but in loss of working
time. Carelessness and ignorance caused many contacts with poison
ivy, which resulted in suffering and loss of time for the worker.
Suitable protection against the sun, especially at first when the skin
is tender, would have obviated serious sunburn, and thorough in­
struction in recognition of poison ivy, the trouble it can cause, and
the importance of immediate treatment for it, would have greatly
lessened the discomfort and lost time occasioned.
Tractor's and Machinery.—Girls taught at schools were carefully
instructed as to the dangerous and the safe practices in the use of
farm machinery and farm tools, and about safe practices with ani­
mals; others had instruction on the farms of varying degrees and
quality.
The Women’s Land Army, various State Extension Offices, and
the National Safety Council all issued excellent pamphlets about
safety on the farm. These were distributed as widely as possible
but did not reach all workers nor all farmer employers.
Sanitary Facilities.
The farms’ sanitary facilities for women day workers were not
satisfactory. Apparently no provision had been made for such fa­
cilities where men workers were employed and no planning was done
for women workers. Frequently the number of women employed
was too large or their places of work were too far from the farm­
house bathroom for convenience, but no other arrangements were
provided. In some cases a nearby family offered the use of their
bathroom. Near the farmhouse the girls used whatever toilet the
family had, sometimes an outside privy, sometimes the family bath­
room. Before another season, if nonfarm women are used in large
numbers, this matter must be given attention.
Drinking Water.
Drinking water for workers was another matter given little thought
by employers. A jug or an open pail of water, sometimes with ice
floating in it, was the usual water supply in the fields. Sometimes a
“water boy” refilled the container from time to time. Often all work­
ers drank directly from the jug or from the side of the pail or used
a common dipper. Around the packing sheds or farm buildings
where there was a hose, workers often drank from the end of the
hose. Such methods, banned from industry and all public places
long ago, still continue in agriculture. Women were at fault, too,
for though given individual tin or flat paper cups they would not
bother to use them.
It did not appear that the water supply of the farms where the
women worked was questionable, though seldom was there any check
on that, but rather that the way it was supplied to the workers was
definitely unsanitary. (It should be understood that this discussion



THE RECORD FOR 1943

17

is of the drinking water supplied the workers in the fields, not in the
farm homes.)
Hours, Rest Periods, Time Off.
Hours of Work.—Where women were housed in groups and hired
by the day, week, or month, the hours of work on the farms were 8
or 9 a day: From 7, 7:30, or 8 a. m. to 5 or 5:30 p. m. Where the
girls or women lived on the farm, they started work earlier, worked
over longer periods, but had more breaks in their work. Some groups
of junior girls worked only 6 hours. In many groups where the
work depended entirely on good weather conditions, hours were quite
irregular, usually less than 8, though 8 was the standard. Ordinarily
it was not possible to work longer hours on a day when working
conditions were good or make up lost time, because of transportation
arrangements. Only very occasionally did women work overtime.
Those living on farms, however, frequently worked late, sometimes
well into the evening, getting a truck ready for market, rounding
up runaway heifers, or whatever unexpected job called for the whole
family’s exertions.
While the 8- or 9-hour workday usually meant a day of 10 or 11
hours, and sometimes more, from the time they, left home or camp
until they got back, the women stood it very well. They were com­
pletely exhausted the first few days and exclamations such as, “I
was never so tired before in my whole life,” “Every muscle in my
body aches,” were common at evening even among the young and most
active. Yet practically nobody quit because of that. An older
woman who was obliged to stop and rest for an hour in the shade came
back and finished her day’s work “to the admiration of the farmer
and his wife.”
hunch.—An hour off at noon was universal. Lunch was generally
eaten out of doors and gave enough time for some relaxation and
rest. There was seldom any effort made to provide a comfortable
place to eat lunch; a spot in the nearest shade generally was chosen,
or if it was raining, a place in some shed, barn, or greenhouse was
sought. Women living in farm families had the customary hot noon­
day meal indoors, taking the same time.
There was no place where anyone who did not feel well could lie
down, though if anyone had been really ill she undoubtedly would have
been taken into the farmhouse. There was a lack of knowledge or
good judgment on the part of the women as to how to get the most
rest from their noon recess, some even using it for active games.
Rest Periods.—Women were, on the whole, free to take short rest
periods whenever they felt they needed them, even if working on day
rates. In fact, they were told by employers or project supervisors to
do so. It was not reported that they abused this privilege, but rather
that they were conscientious in the use of their time. For piece work,
rest periods might mean curtailment of earnings. Seldom was a fixed
rest time set, though one employer initiated four definite rest periods
of 15 minutes each, two in the morning and two in the afternoon,
and felt that he benefited from them by the increased energy of the
workers.
Day of Rest.—The number of days a week worked by day workers
living in units was 6, but frequently they were spread over the 7-day
week. Some market-garden farms where vegetables had to be picked



18

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

and packed Sunday for the Monday morning market wanted their
workers Sunday mornings. They usually gave them Saturday after­
noon off in exchange for Sunday morning or all day Saturday instead
of Sunday.
Time Off.—No regular time off was given the women workers, ex­
cept those living on farms. As the majority were working for short
periods only, no time off was expected. Most of the women em­
ployed and living on dairy farms had “every other Sunday off after
morning chores.” When women worked all summer, individual ar­
rangements occasionally were made to permit a day or week end
away on specific occasions.
On the whole, women were very conscientious about taking any
time off from their farm jobs, and absenteeism was nowhere re­
ported a problem or even an occurrence. Days lost due to illness were
rare.
Wages, Rates of Pay, Earnings.
Almost every sort of wage system was found, piece rates, and
hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly rates. The amounts varied so
greatly that two things were obvious: First, that no one felt quite
sure what women were going to be worth, and second, that there was
no standard of wages and hours that would assure some profit to
the women workers. The fact that in New York State the Farm
Bureau raised an hourly rate that had started at 25 cents for adult
women to 30 cents and then to a minimum of 40 cents indicates that
it realized women’s value had been underestimated.
Earnings at Piece and Hourly Rates.

The greater part of the crop harvesting was piece-rate or hourlyrate work, and the rates set up were those that had been fixed for
regular harvest hands. No concessions were made to or asked by in­
experienced women workers whose principal motive for undertaking
farm work was patriotic service. At the start they could not make
the pay that old hands could. But it was not only a question of inex­
perience. They had no chance to make a reasonable wage because
they seldom had a full week’s work. Women usually were employed
as the casual crop harvesters had been: “We won’t start picking till
Thursday”; “It’s too wet to pick today”; “I guess this is all for
today”; “Let me have 5 girls Tuesday,” was the way many farmers
at first regarded their women workers.
At one well organized, well set-up camp where 135 women were
employed, the actual days worked amounted to only 69 percent of
the days the workers were available. The proportion of women who
worked at a loss, that is, did not earn enough to cover the cost of
room and board ($10 a week), was 18 percent; these lost an average
of $4.48 a week. Average earnings for the week were $12.30, equiva­
lent to $2.99 a day on the basis of days worked but of only $2.05 a day
on the basis of days available. Yet these women were workers of
whom the farmer said, “I have never had better packers and sorters
than these; I wish there were many like them.”
At another excellent unit the average daily earnings were $2.42
but the weekly earnings, including days of idleness, were only $10.54.
This average was for 58 man-weeks. The highest amount earned in
a week was $17.78 and this was the instance of a piece worker on a



THE RECORD FOR 1943

19

48-hour week who picked up potatoes at 7 cents a bushel. At this same
unit on a 35-cent hourly rate one girl on a 6-day 48-hour week earned
Still another unit of 233 women had average daily earnings (piece
and hourly rates) of $2.08. This average was for the whole season
and included hourly rates of from 25 to 40 cents. 1 he average weekly
earnings for days worked were $9.56, but it was estimated that if the
women had been given work for 6 full days their earnings would have
averaged $12 to $14.
,,
,
The foregoing figures were taken from actual pay-roll records.
Other camp supervisors reported estimates of average weekly or dai y
earnings from piece and hourly rates as follows: $1.80 a day for days
worktiffhoure and work irregSlar; would get $2.80 for an 8-hour day
but worked not over 7 hours and days irregular; $15 to $18 a week,
$1 35 a day (hours and days irregular); $8.75 to $9 a week, could barely
pay board; $14 to $183 a week, work was created to keep recruits on
hand; $14 a week. Board at these camps, ranging from $8 to $10, was
deducted from the pay earned before the worker had anything tor
herself. At two very small camps picking apples, gross earnings ot
$24 a week were reported.
•
The hourly and piece rates from which women derived the foregoing
earnings were as follows:
Hourly rates: 25, 30, 35, 40, and very rarely 50 cents an hour.
Piece rates (picking or picking up berries and vegetables) :
Beans: 35 and 50 cents a bushel, 2 cents a pound.

Apples: 10 and 12 cents a bushel, 12% to 15 “tops” (picked on ladders
Blueberries: 7 cents a quart.
Strawberries: 4, 5, and 6 cents a quart.
Tomatoes: 9 and 10 cents a %-bushel basket.
Potatoes: 7 cents a bushel.
Turnips, carrots, beets: 10 to 13 cents a bushel.
Peaches: 10 cents a bushel.

Probably beans and tomatoes are the two Crops that employed the
most women, and much of the work on tomatoes suckering, tjdng up,
picking, sorting, grading, packing—was done on an hourly rate basis.
One employer, a truck farmer, paid his women workers 50 cents an
hour; he brought them from a nearby town, not, from a farm unit. He
said he had been greatly criticized for his high wages but found that
it had paid him.
Earnings at Guaranteed Daily, Weekly, or Monthly Rates.

Turning from the earnings of piece and hourly rate workers to
those of persons paid a guaranteed wage, it appears that the latter
system prevailed in Maine and in some unit groups in Massachusetts.
In Maine in 1942 the director of the Women’s Emergency Farm
Service, one of the first State-sponsored organizations for employing
nonfarm women on farms, studied the matter of pay carefully and de­
cided that a guaranteed wage, though small, brought far safer earn­
ings than did piece or hourly rates. Accordingly, in 1942 the Maine
WEFS workers got $21 a month and board—at that time “Army pri­
vates’ pay.” The girls made good. The farmers wanted more of
them in 1943, and were willing to guarantee $30 a month and board
(the latter $10 a week) to the Maine WEFS. The employer paid the
3 These higher earnings were on picking peaches or apples.




20

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

full amount of wages and board, together amounting to $2.43 a day;
$1.43 then was deducted to pay for the worker’s board and she herself
received the $1 wage. This insured to the worker gross weekly earnings
of $17 as long as she worked, and net income of $7 weekly. The junior
workers (girls under 18) in 1943 received $21 and board, or daily earn­
ings of $2.13, gross weekly earnings of $14.90, and net of $4.90.' They
worked an 8-hour day instead of the 9 hours of older workers.
In Massachusetts three privately organized farm units had guar­
anteed their workers weekly earnings of $10, $11, and $12, plus their
board. These units kept a working force of about 50 from May to
September. The Massachusetts State College paid its unit of about
20 workers more than $4 a day; they started at $3 and progressed to
the higher rate. This, however, was a State Civil Service rating and
was paid from State funds, not by any farmer.
The net income of women who were paid a guaranteed weekly or
monthly wage was far greater than that of women paid by the hour
or the piece. The average weekly earnings of the workers at one
unit, whose work was on market-garden farms, over a period of 14
weeks was $20.65 gross, $10 board to be paid from this amount. The
women were paid $3.50 a 9-hour day and had work every day. At
other units the averages were $10 and $12 a week, plus board.
Where the women lived and worked on individual farms, they were
paid from $30 to $45 a month and board when they were entirely inex­
perienced, and raised in some cases to $50 after they became more use­
ful. Women with good preliminary dairy training, at Farmingdale,
L. I., for example, were reported as starting at $65 with a prospect
of a raise within a Year to as much as $80 a month and board.
Though the wage figures give little indication of it, vegetable
growers in general expressed themselves as satisfied beyond expecta­
tion with the women’s work. Several said that the women of 25 years
of age and up were steadier, more dependable workers than the
younger women, except where the latter (18 to 25 years of age) had
a serious purpose and remained long enough to really get into the
work. In a number of States the Farm Bureau, the Extension Service,
and the United States Employment Service, realizing that the irregu­
larity of work was playing havoc with earnings, demanded that the
farmers guarantee work for at least 75 percent of the time. This
improved the situation but still did not give full-time employment.
No implication is intended in this report that vegetable growers did
not want to pay women all they were worth, but rather that at the
beginning of the season they had no idea what women were worth.
Of their own accord, some farmers raised the pay of certain workers
or gave bonuses, which in turn upset the other workers when it became
known. The farmer’s uncertainty as to the amount of labor that
would be required, his lack of provision of other work that could be
done when the weather or state of the crop did not permit picking,
and his uncertainty as to how much work women could do or how long
a day or a week they could work, were all factors influencing earnings
that must receive consideration before another season. On the whole,
the group of women who came forward for farm work seemed to prefer
a standard wage which, of course, carried the understanding that a
worker below standard might be dropped.




(

THE RECORD FOR 1943

21

In New York, New Jersey, and Maryland farmers paid a head tax
of 20, 15, or 5 cents a day for each worker, this money going to the
Extension Service toward the operating expenses of the units. As the
camps could not supply women workers to all the farmers who wanted
them, it was considered fair that those who were supplied with help
should pay something for the service.
Attitude of Women Workers and Farmers Toward Work and
Training.
By far the most important motive that had impelled these nonfarm
women to go into farm work was a feeling of obligation to be of service.
The necessity for food was something every woman could under­
stand—food was her business. Then, too, the publicity given em­
phasized the need for short-time harvest hands, and many women
who could not give up their regular occupation were willing to give up
their vacation time. The idea of spending that time in the country
doing something really useful to the war effort had a strong appeal to
city women. Many of them craved a change from their routine work.
Though always acceptable, the money that might be earned definitely
was not a prime motive; nor had the women much idea of the money
value of their services at farm work.
Nevertheless, as the season went on the women did feel in many
cases that what they earned was not commensurate with their efforts,
and they were dissatisfied at times when the various methods and
rates of pay brought equally diligent workers very different earnings.
They did not find the work too hard nor the daily hours (8 or 9) too
long, but they did feel the need of frequent rest periods. The gii-ls
decided that the morning hours were the best for work, and the best
for heavy work, and they liked to start early, by 7 o’clock. What
they craved most of all was some variety in their work, though they
realized this was not always possible. They liked being given respon­
sibility ; they wanted to be told just how to do things and to be cor­
rected quickly if they were not doing them just right, but they hesitated
to reveal their ignorance for fear of being laughed at. They also
craved a word of praise if they were doing well. The women were
strongly loyal to the farms where they worked and they felt concern
and responsibility for the progress of work on those farms. They
were willing to work Sundays when necessary; in fact, some said, “We
must get the vegetables picked and trucks loaded Sunday for the
Monday market.” They wanted to be treated just like any other
worker on the farm. They established friendly and business-like rela­
tions with other workers, and friendly relations with the farm families
and their friends. The few exceptions to these prevailing character­
istics missed a great opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and
experience and to give to the farmers and their families equally
valuable contacts.
The farmers, on their part, undoubtedly were skeptical at first as
to the usefulness of women workers. They did not like the idea of
giving orders to a woman; they were shy before city women and girls
who came from entirely different surroundings. They treated the
women with consideration beyond that given regular hands; they
selected work for them that seemed suitable and that they thought
women could do. The farmers had held off from hiring women as long




22

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

as anyone else was available, and when they had to take women they
did it without much planning of how to use the new group efficiently.
This conversation between a farmer’s son and one of the women
workers is typical: “When my father said he was going to hire female
help, I told him I was going to quit.” “Do you feel that way now,
Bill?” “No, the girls are all right; they’re doing a swell job and I’m
all for them.” As the season wore on and the farmers found the
women conscientious and intelligent, willing to work hard and steadily,
a mutual respect between employer and employee developed. Women
were regarded as definitely a part of the labor staff. Farmers sent
them about their various jobs. A supervisor visiting a farm heard
the farmer call out to a girl, “Say, Betty, tell Jane to wake up and
bring the tractor down to pull in this load of hay.” (Jane was snatch­
ing a regular few-minutes-after-dinner rest.) By the end of the season
the farmers and the women workers were friends looking forward to
another season of work together next year.
There were, of course, problems to be solved between farmers and
employees, complaints to be straightened out, difficulties to be cleared
up; but these were not more numerous nor more serious than occur in
any labor force, and the Women’s Land Army leaders, their assistants
or supervisors of various projects, did a fine and understanding per­
sonnel job in these matters.
•
Training.

The opinion expressed by the farmers as to the desirability of train­
ing was varied. Many, and usually they were on vegetable farms, said
they preferred to train the workers themselves. Some said preliminary
training would have been helpful. All agreed that the same women
would be much more useful next year and usually the farmer “would
like to have the same women back.” Again and again a farmer felt
that his special group of workers was “the pick of the lot.” Most
dairy farmers believed that some training would have made the girls
more useful, but admitted that they were so intelligent that they
learned quickly. Such work as milking, however, cannot be learned
overnight, no matter how intelligent a person may be.
One reason that farmers were disinclined toward training was that
they were afraid workers would either (a) think they knew it all, or
(b) have been trained where the equipment was so much better than
that of the farmer that the worker might be contemptuous of the things
with which the farmer had to work. Little preliminary training had
actually been received. Women often wTere utterly ignorant, even of
the names of ordinary tools. They knew vegetables only in their
edible parts. The girls’ experience with cows, horses, poultry con­
sisted of seeing them from a passing automobile. The processes of
planting, cultivating, harvesting, alt were unknown to them. They
were eager to learn but hesitated to ask questions for fear of ridicule.
The only States that had offered worth-while definite training
courses for women were New York, Connecticut, and Maryland.
1. In New York a four-week course at Farmingdale, L. I., gave a splendid
grounding in dairy and poultry work, use and care of horses and farm machinery,
and general farm practices. This school was open, by arrangement, to women
from most of the neighboring States.
2. In Connecticut and Maryland the State agricultural colleges had offered
special 2-week courses in dairying or poultry work for women.




THE RECORD FOR 1043

23

These schools had not sufficient applicants to keep running all the
time.
The apparent lack of interest in training on the part of the women
may have been due to the fact (a) they had only a short time to give
to farm work and wanted to put in all the time on the farm; (b) ]obs
were waiting for them without any training; and (c) if they accepted
the free training at these schools, they had to agree to stay at least
three months in farm work.
No attempt was made by any State authorities to offer a short
series of evening lectures in the large cities fairly close to the time when
women might be needed. The American Women’s Volunteer Services,
in cooperation with the Maryland Extension Service, did hold such
meetings in Washington, three evenings a week, just before apple and
peach picking.
LIFE AND LIVING CONDITIONS OF THE 1943 WOMEN
FARM WORKERS
VARIOUS HOUSING METHODS USED

Unit Plan.
From all accounts the most successful plan by which urban women
were made available for farm work was to have a unit of women
recruited from any available source and established in some central
locality from which they went out each morning to work on nearby
farms (mostly market-garden or special-crop farms and orchards),
returning to their unit at night. This method had many advantages
for the farmer. He had no responsibility at all for the women work­
ers outside of their working hours. He did not have to provide a
room that they found adequate, his wife did not have to cook for more
people, he and his family did not have to change their habits or mode
of living to accommodate a stranger, he had not the responsiblity
of providing recreation or supervision. Usually farm families prefer
not to take women into their homes. Units of women, established
in what is called for convenience a “camp,” planned at the request and
with the cooperation of the surrounding farmers, furnished as many
workers as the farmer needed, whether 2 or 20. The size of the camp
group was based on the demand for workers. All the farmer had to
do was to call for his crew in the morning and return them at night.
If a worker was not satisfactory at one farm, a shift to another farm
and another job was tried.
For the girls or women as well, such an arrangement usually was
happier. Living conditions were more easily controlled and kept
at a definitely understood standard. Food was planned and provided
that followed nutrition requirements rather than any one family’s
eating habits. Companionship of other persons of the same age and
actuated by the same motives, the stimulus of meeting other women
of varied experience, all tended to weld the group into a loyal cooper­
ating unit. To keep such a unit operating at top efficiency required
very able supervision and direction, and the success or failure of such
a project often depended on the person at the head of it.
Type of Housing.

Frequently it was difficult to find suitable housing for a unit in the
area desired, but the ingenuity and determination shown by the



24

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

Women’s Land Army leaders and the Extension Service County Farm
Labor supervisors demonstrated that no difficulty is insurmountable,
as the great variety of housing proved.
Summer Hotels—In many cases small summer hotels that did not
anticipate a large patronage agreed to turn over all or part of their
rooms to the farm units. This was easier for the promoters of the
unit, in that the hotel proprietor charged for room and board to­
gether, no operating personnel was necessary, and the expense to the
Extension Service was very small. The girls’ wages covered the cost
of board (usually $10 a week). For the hotel or camp proprietors,
however, the margin of profit was slight, since they were supposed
to give the girls hearty and nutritious food as well as comfortable
lodging.
_
Camps.—Summer camps, in attractive rural spots, also made satis­
factory bases for units. The arrangements here were in some cases
the same as with the hotels and in other cases the camps were rented
outright, the rent being paid by the Extension Service and the operat­
ing personnel put in by that Service.
Tourist Cabins.—In few instances were tourist cabins utilized.
Usually they were not in strategic locations, but some very attractive
ones were found that were conveniently situated. Here too the pro­
prietor made a flat rate for room and board.
Tent Camps.—In Connecticut the lack of suitable buildings was
overcome by using a small inn for dining and living quarters and
having the workers sleep in regular army tents. As the season was
very dry, this arrangement was satisfactory to the workers. Board
and lodging cost $8.50 a week.
Market Building.—In one New York case buildings put up for a
regional market a few years ago were entirely rearranged for a unit
of about 50 girls. Wallboard partitions were put up, double-deck
bunks with springs and mattresses put in, showers with hot and cold
water, additional washbowls and toilets installed. The accommoda­
tions were very simple but the girls were satisfied. Meals were served
in a cafeteria in the basement, originally planned to feed the farmers
coming to market. Board and lodging was $10 a week.
Grange Hall.—Another New York unit was housed in a grange
hall, remodeled at considerable expense by the Extension Service.
Here, too, board and lodging was $10.
Chautauqua Conference Camp Grounds.—The Chautauqua Con­
ference Camp grounds, with cottages and central dining hall, tennis
courts, bathing beaches, and other recreational facilities, were offered
for farm workers. Board and lodging was $10.
Girl Scout Camp.—The Girl Scout Council of New York offered to
house and supervise a unit at their girls’ camp, “Camp Wendy.” Here
Girl Scouts and other workers lived in tents, with real camp living,
outside latrines, showers with hot and cold water. Board and lodging
here also was $10.
Farmingdale School.—Dormitories housed a unit working on Long
Island. The school dining room fed them, and the dormitory house
mother had the supervision of the unit.
Summer Cottages.—A group of three furnished summer cottages
on the beach at Shelter Island, off Long Island, offered particularly
pleasant housing for a unit working on nearby farms.



THE RECORD FOR 1943

25

Country Club in New Jersey.—The Extension Service took over and
rented a country club house and housed a unit of 50 women there. The
Service engaged and paid cooks, helpers, and directors and was re­
sponsible for the camp. Board and lodging was $10.
Boys' Summer Camp.—In Maryland a boys’ summer camp was
rented by the Extension Service and run as a joint camp for Victory
Farm Volunteers (junior workers) and the Women’s Land Army.
It had recreational facilities besides board and lodging.
Private Country Home.—In Massachusetts the use of a private
country home, fully equipped, was given free to a unit of 15 college
girls. Board, lodging, and transportation cost $10 a week.
^ College Fraternity House.—A group of college girls working on a
State farm rented a college fraternity house. They divided the weekly
expenses for board and lodging, paying $2 each for room and prorat­
ing food costs.
Private School Buildings.—Finely equipped school dormitories and
dining and recreation halls were rented for a nominal sum to the
Unitarian Service Camp, for a unit of girls and boys in Massachusetts.
Ihe examples cited show the wide range of housing facilities.
Some were very primitive; some were the height of comfort. Ac­
commodations did not seem to make much difference to the workers,
however, if the camp was clean, sanitary, and well run.
Sleeping Rooms.

Workers usually had cot beds with two to four persons in a room,
but in some cases dormitories had as many as 20 cots. Whether or
not there was closet or bureau space depended on the type of housing.
Private homes or hotels had such equipment; tents, obviously none,
but women used hooks and boxes for their clothes and toilet articles.
Workers almost always took care of their own rooms. At most units
the workers brought their own sheets, pillow cases, and towels and
in many cases their own blankets.
Living Rooms.

Some units had very pleasant living rooms for the exclusive use
of the workers, others shared rooms with hotel guests, others had
little or no space outside of their rooms.
Plumbing.

Almost all group units had modern plumbing facilities, with hot
and cold water. The number of bathrooms, toilets, showers, tubs,
was not always adequate and the amount of hot water available for
baths was seldom enough. Care of the bathrooms and the house in
general usually was a matter for committees of workers to apportion.
Financing.

The Extension Service undertook to finance the rental and equip­
ment of these camps in most States. In other cases the workers paid
by their weekly board the entire cost, and in still others private
organizations or individuals made the camps possible.
Farm Resident Plan.
.The chief alternative to the unit plan was to have the workers live
with the farm family. This was done to a greater or less extent in
all States but probably more in Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, and
New York, which were a year ahead of the other States in their ex­



26

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

periments with women for farm work. New York, after the estab­
lishment of the training school at Farmingdale, L. I., placed its
graduates in farm homes without difficulty.
Residence on the farm was almost essential for those who worked
on dairy farms. Usually, if there were two workers they shared a
room, and sometimes a bed, though separate beds generally were avail­
able. As members of the household, they adopted family habits. If
there was no running water, they used bowls and pitchers or washed
at the kitchen sink. Some farms had well equipped bathrooms, some
had outside privies. Many bedrooms had no heat, not a disadvantage
in summer but chilly in fall or winter. The farm workers shared
the family living room, and were made part of the family plans. The
farmer’s wife frequently did the girls’ washing. They, in turn, helped
her with the dishes.
.
The girls or women who lived on farms went there of their own
choice. They felt that the experience and their contact with farm
life was more real if they lived on a farm, and for the most part they
wanted to do dairy work as well as crop work. Putting girls or
women into a farm family that has established habits and standards
requires very careful adjustment. Not only the farmer but his wife
and the whole family must have a cooperative attitude to make the
experiment successful, and the girls or women so placed must be
equally cooperative and anxious to fit themselves into their new en­
vironment with the least possible disturbance to the farm family.
Such arrangemeaits frequently worked out most happily. The
girls or women gave something to the farm families by their presence
that was valued and appreciated in addition to their labor. Farm
families gave to the girls or women an experience of great value never
to be forgotten. On the other hand, there were instances where girls
adjusted themselves very badly to the farm families or where the
families failed by their attitude and lack of understanding to make
the experiment a success. The degree of success of these placements
of women in farm families depended to a great extent on a thorough
knowledge both of the farmer and his family and of the worker by the
one who made the placement.
Individual-Farm-Unit Plans.
Individual farm units were found less frequently. There were, how­
ever, some individual farmers who wanted to employ women and,
without help from outside, through their own energy and interest
made over buildings on their land or rented and equipped adjacent
buildings as housing for women workers. Such farmers also pro­
vided the board and gave some oversight to the welfare and recreation
of their workers. For the most part they did their own recruiting,
largely through schools and colleges. In some instances the workers
were paid a wage that included board, in others a wage from which
they paid the actual cost of their food and the employer contributed
the rent. This method unquestionably puts a much heavier burden
and expense on the employer. There is little doubt that if he could
have been assured of the necessary supply of women workers when
he needed them, he would have preferred to pay their wages and have
no further responsibility.
One of the outstanding housing set-ups of the whole region was,
nevertheless, just such a unit. A market-gardener who had not only



THE RECORD FOR 1943

27

considerable acreage of truck crops but a good-sized dairy herd had
living with his family a sister, of much experience with girls both as
a teacher and as the head of girls’ summer camps. This woman un­
dertook to recruit, house, and feed a unit of 16 girls from May to No­
vember to work on the farm. A vacant farmhouse “next door,” with
plumbing and electricity, was rented and equipped, simply but ade­
quately; recruits were sought at colleges and junior colleges; a fixed
rate of pay over and above board was offered ($10 a week). A dining
room at the home farm was assigned to the girls, the home-farm living
room was available, the farmer’s sister and mother saw that good and
ample food was provided, interested and intelligent supervision was
exercised, and a succession of workers kept a force of 16 girls on that
farm from May to November with applicants turned away every
month and girls registering already for 1944.
Inspection of Housing.
As has been said, in the camps set up by the Women’s Land Army
leaders and the Extension Service, or by private groups, the sanitary
provisions generally were acceptable, though frequently there was an
insufficient number of bathrooms and an inadequate supply of hot
water for bathing. The Connecticut Women’s Land Army leader had
all buildings that were, being considered for housing units of women
inspected by State or local health authorities and recommendations
made that the Women’s Land Army carried out to bring them to ac­
ceptable standards. Unquestionably this was a wise move.
In New York the Farm Labor Division of the United States Em­
ployment Service sent their woman representative to inspect the hous­
ing that had been suggested by the county farm labor representatives
or other cooperating agencies and that had to conform to local health
regulations. In Maine the Women’s Land Army supervisor person­
ally made all the selection of camps and housing for the groups of
women. In Vermont and New Hampshire the Women’s Land Army
leaders approved the housing used. In Maryland, New Jersey, and
Pennsylvania the Women’s Land Army and the Extension Service
took all responsibility for the large camps they operated and saw that
everything was up to standard. In Rhode Island, Delaware, and Mas­
sachusetts, no camps for women were set up by the Women’s Land
Army and the Extension Service.
In general it may be considered that the housing and sanitary facili­
ties of women working on farms in 1943 were far better than those
of 1942_, when some of the camp set-ups offered by individual farmers
to patriotic women who went to work from a desire to help were far
below any standards of comfort or adequacy.
FOOD PROVISION FOR WOMEN WORKERS

Women in Camps.
The units of women and girls living in camps of various sorts were
usually fed in one of two ways:
1. The summer camps or hotels that were leased to house units under­
took to both house and feed the workers at a fixed price, usually $10
a week.
2. The Extension Service (or whatever organization was financially
responsible for the unit) rented quarters for living, then hired a cook



28

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

and put in a supervisor to have charge of planning meals, buying food,
and so forth. Sometimes in very small groups one person held both
these jobs, but this was rare.
The first method was by far the easier for those organizing the camp.
But it seems doubtful whether $10 a week could cover adequate food,
lodging, and general overhead and still yield sufficient profit to those
running a commercial hotel or camp to encourage them to continue
if other guests were available. The fear of a guestless season for their
resort in the summer of 1943 was the reason that impelled most of them
to make such arrangements. Furthermore, the small charge made it
necessary to watch food bills very closely. In no cases reviewed were
the girls underfed, but neither could much supervision be exercised
over what commercial hotels supplied them.
The second and more usual plan was to have the Extension Service
provide and pay for the housing for the unit, pay the supervisors, and
try to make the food and operating costs come out of the money paid
for “board” by the workers, which thus was not the actual cost of
board and lodging but was what seemed to be a fair rate to charge the
worker.
In a few camps, board and lodging was $8 or $8.50 a week; nowhere
was more than $10 paid. In one very small cooperative group only
50 cents a day was charged. According to the State leader, “This
small charge was possible because the woman heading the project
is a wonderful cook and economizer, with extensive experience in
stretching the dollar.”
The breakfast given the girls at camps usually consisted of some
kind of fruit, cereal and milk, milk or coffee to drink, with toast and
butter or more often margarine; sometimes eggs in some form or
bacon or french toast was provided, but not so generally as is desirable
for hard physical work. The tendency of young people to be late in
getting up and then to rush through breakfast so as to be ready for
work had to be guarded against. When they did that, they were sure
to be hungry before noon and sometimes were known to eat their
lunch in midmorning to appease their hunger.
Lunch varied from simple sandwiches (to which farmers some­
times contributed milk) to fruit, milk, sandwiches, and cookies or
cake. Especially at first, girls were inclined to eat very heartily, and
the number of sandwiches provided often was at the request of the in­
dividual. Lunch generally was eaten out of doors and a full hour
was allowed, which gave time for at least 15 minutes of relaxation
or complete rest for those wise enough to take it.
Dinner on return from work was the hearty meal of the day. While
this was contrary to general farm practice, it was in line with the food
habits of most of the workers. Effort was made to provide meat sev­
eral times a week, fish and poultry, soups, vegetables and salads, and
such simple desserts as could be made from available materials. Good
food at a low price was not easily obtained for large groups, nor were
good cooks. In fact, securing a good cook was solving half the prob­
lem of assuring the success of the project.
Women in Farm Families.
One of the difficulties of placing women in farm households was
that family food habits were likely to be very different from those
of the city worker. For one thing, the worker had to adapt herself



THE RECORD FOR 1943

29

to a much more starchy diet than had been her custom. In some
cases the food was much less satisfactory than in the units; in others,
where the farm family believed in feeding themselves well, it may
have been better. What it cost a farm wife to board a worker is hard
to say, but judging from the costs of feeding units, the same sort of
food should not have cost the farm wife more than $5 a week, leaving
her at least $5 for her time, overhead, and room rent.
TRANSPORTATION

Almost without exception the farmers employing women from the
units housed in camps called there each morning to get their workers
and took them back at night. Farmers have been accustomed to
getting young workers from nearby towns or cities in this way, and
make no objection because it is considered a necessary part of their
work. It can be quite expensive. One man figured that to transport
boys from a nearby city in 1942 had cost him, in the use of his trucks,
$1,500. Getting women from a much nearer unit, he figured, would
save him hundreds of dollars as well as give him better help. The
distance from the camps to the farms ranged from 3 or 4 miles to 25,
occasionally more, but usually not over 10 or 12. Long hauls, if they
took 20 or 25 workers to one farm, were not considered a hardship.
One farmer who badly needed a group of women to pick up potatoes
got a bus and took them 35 miles, the girls paying part of the cost.
Usually the farmer’s passenger car or farm trucks were used.
HEALTH PROVISIONS

In the State and privately organized projects, women who worked
on farms and lived either in units at camps or on individual farms
were required to have a doctor’s certificate of physical fitness and
freedom from communicable disease. This precaution was not re­
quired in the case of workers who went from home by the day. The
matter was important, for farmers hesitated to give women work
that might be “too heavy,” and with no assurance of their physical
condition sometimes held them off from work they could have done
perfectly well, or put them on wTork that might have overtaxed them.
Individuals cannot be sure of their own condition without some
check. If anyone has a communicable or infectious disease, other
workers living in the same camps should not be exposed to it.
The chief objections to a physical examination were that—
1. Women did not want the bother or expense of it.
2. Doctors were so busy that it was sometimes hard to get hold
of them at a time when a prospective worker could consult them.
Nevertheless, the projects that did require it did not state that
they had lost recruits because of the provision. A certificate of
health was easy to secure for college and school students, the school
doctors being able to give it. Other workers had to secure theirs
from individual doctors, there being no provision by the Government
for such certification.
The Women’s Land Army requires that all women or girls going
to camp or to farm homes for farm work should first secure the cer­
tificate of physical fitness and freedom from communicable disease
that the Land Army offers. (For form see p. 34.)



30

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

All unit projects had first-aid kits and persons qualified to ad­
minister treatment. For other medical care local doctors were con­
sulted. No special provision was made for caring for or isolating
illness that needed nursing care; and so far as camps were reviewed,
there were no arrangements for having a trained nurse on the job.
RECREATION

One of the problems that demand attention if women are to con­
tinue in agricultural work is that of providing diversion and recrea­
tion for the young women. Those who are the most capable workers,
as a group, and those who are able to give the longest periods of
service are young women not yet tied down by home responsibilities
and family cares. They naturally crave recreation. If they are to
work for long periods in fairly remote country regions, they must
have companionship of their own age, some opportunities of getting
away from their work and having “fun.” This is true also of the
older women, though not to the same extent.
Projects equipped to provide recreation at the camp, or that made
it possible to go to nearby towns or to get away for an occasional
week end, were much more likely to keep their group of workers con­
tented and have a smaller turn-over or labor loss than those where it
was all work, low pay, and little opportunity for play. Projects that
had swimming places had the most healthful and most popular rec­
reation. Communities where some interest was shown in the girls
and some recognition given of their contribution by efforts to make
things pleasant for them were not common. Here again local people
watched to see what these women would be like. Some farmers ar­
ranged picnics or corn roasts, or made a point, if the project was re­
mote from a town, of transporting workers to a movie once a week.
On some projects workers could have friends visit occasionally.
Diversions such as these made for contentment.
The girls at camps found resources of their own. They played
cards, did group singing, played victrola records, and so forth. Where
local amusements were offered, such as movies or bowling, these were
regularly patronized. Some workers had a chance to go to grange
suppers or community dances. Those who were living on farms went
to town with the farm families Saturday nights, took in a movie, and
stopped for sodas or ice cream. One of the outings that gave marketgarden workers the most pleasure was to go to market with the truck
load of vegetables, see their vegetables sold, and watch the whole
procedure of marketing farm produce. This was not only recrea­
tional but educational, and most farmers were very willing to take
their workers, as opportunity offered, on these trips.
It is true, also, that the girls and women who worked on farms
cheerfully, willingly, and with a gay spirit contributed materially to
the general morale of the farm staff. One farmer’s wife said, “I do
believe the men enjoyed having the girls around and will miss them
when they go.”




CONCLUSION: ADVISABLE PRACTICES FOR 1944
SUGGESTED BY STUDY OF THE 1943 PROGRAM
SUPERVISION
Tlie most important conclusion reached relating to the employment
of nonfarm women on farms is that adequate leadership and super­
vision by well qualihed women should be provided all along the
way. Endless and unforeseen problems crop up in any new field of
employment of women, and when such new employment entails not
only working conditions but living and social conditions, guidance
from someone with wide experience with women and girls as well as
with employment problems is needed.
One of the problems that plagued the early advocates of women
for farm work, as well as the prospective employers and employees,
was where the women were going to live and who was going to “look
after” them. The experience of 1943 showed without question that,
adequate supervision is an essential feature of any program involving
women farm workers, and this was one reason why women leaders
both in the over-all State programs and in the supervision of indi­
vidual camps or projects were such an important factor. In recruit­
ing girl students from schools or colleges, the authorities at these
institutions wanted first of all to know who was the responsible head
of such projects and just what were the conditions under which the
girls and women would live, work, and play. They would not recruit
their students until they were satisfied that the project wTould be well
organized and well managed. Women who were “on their own” also
wanted to know something about what they were going into. Ob­
viously, if girls or women are going to live in a farm family and work
on an individual farm they should have some guarantee of the health,
character, and standards of the family with whom they will be
thrown so intimately. Parents will insist on this. Farm families
also should know something about the health and character of the
women or girls who are to be taken into their homes as members of
the family, for the women who go to work and live on farms occupy
a different place from many of the “hired men,” who often live quite
apart and in no way share the family life.
Where the recruiting, placement, and general supervision of the
women were the job of the State leader of the Women’s Land Army,
she took the responsibility of passing on these matters. Where the
responsibility was given to or shared with men placement officers
and labor supervisors, it usually was found advisable to have close
cooperation with the women leaders.
When women State leaders were able to give only part time to this
work during the year (and only two had assistants) it is obvious
that in 1943 they could make only a beginning of what they wanted
to do.




31

32

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

The job of passing on the suitability of living quarters was one
that needed women’s judgment as well as men’s judgment. A thor­
ough knowledge and sympathetic understanding of girls and women
by the State leader played an important part in their successful
employment in 1943. Some of the jobs that had to be done were
these:
To find farmers who would employ women.
To And suitable housing for women workers.
To see that suitable camp equipment was found and installed.
To see that sanitary provisions met health requirements and were adequate.
To see that cooks and supervisors were ready when the camp opened.
To provide for some recreation program.
To arrange for meeting new arrivals and transporting them to camp.
To see that the general morale of the camp was kept up.
To watch the health of the workers and see that they did not get overtired.
To see that reasonable camp rules were set up and maintained by the workers
themselves.
To see that good, substantial, well-balanced food was provided.
To see that the workers had enough work to more than cover expenses.

These jobs are essentially women’s jobs. Just as the personnel of­
fices dealing with women in industry have more and more come to
realize that they must have women personnel officers to help in han­
dling women’s problems, so the farm-labor men will realize that
where women come into the farm-labor picture they need the help of
women leaders and the kind of supervision that women alone can
give. Each separate camp or project needs a woman supervisor who
will give full time to her project as long as it is running, and on the
quality of this supervision depends to a considerable extent the suc­
cess of the project.
If 1944 goals are to be met, every Women’s Land Army leader must
be given the opportunity to put all her effort into this work with such
assistants as she may require.
.
FARM WORK AND SEASONS FOR WHICH WOMEN WILL
BE NEEDED
In 1944 the need for women farm workers will exist in both these
divisions of farm work:
1. Farm work that goes on throughout the year.
2. Farm work that has to be done during only part of the year.

The latter may be divided again into—
(a) Long-season work covering the growing and harvesting periods for all
r;rops. In the Northeastern States this season lasts from March to November.
(b) Short-season harvesting periods; that is, as each crop matures, extra hands
are needed to harvest it for periods of 2 to 6 weeks or longer.

1. The year-round work naturally has to do with animals. The
greatest need for help exists on dairy farms. Where girls or women
have taken up such work, they have been very successful. Any girl
or woman who likes animals can find ready employment at wages
which, with board included, are comparable to those of the industrial
worker. The number of women in such jobs in 1943 was small but the
need is great and increasing. Training with all expenses paid is
provided.
_
. _
2. The seasonal work should not be considered as simply picking
various crops, but as—



ADVISABLE PRACTICES FOR 194 4

33

(a) Long-season work, during which market-gardeners who grow
a variety of crops from early spring to late fall need workers the
entire season. These workers shift from one job to another, taking
part in planting, cultivating, harvesting, and marketing. Orchardists
have work all through a long season—spraying, thinning, box nailing,
picking, and finally sorting, grading, and packing. General farms
and dairy farms always take on extra help in the summer for haying,
a hard job, but here a woman could release a regular hand for this
heavy work by taking over some dairy work.
(b) The harvest work, the time when many workers are needed for
a short period to cut asparagus; to pick strawberries, currants,
raspberries, blueberries, grapes, cranberries; to harvest string beans,
tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets, beans, onions, potatoes,
peaches, pears, apples, comes to a small extent in spring and early
summer but principally from mid-July on, lasting into November.
With this range of occupations and seasons any woman who is
willing to make herself responsible for a share in this essential job
can pretty well pick her time and place.
Students and Teachers.—Students and teachers can utilize their
summer vacations for the long-season work on market-garden, dairy,
or general farms. The longer a worker stays the more valuable she
becomes to her employer.
Vacation Workers from Business.—Workers from business, profes­
sional, and industrial occupations can apply their vacations to crop
harvesting. By concentrating on one job a certain amount of necessary
skill can be acquired in a shorter time than if one is trying to learn a
dozen jobs. (It is not, of course, so much fun as a variety of jobs,
but fun is not the primary object.) If there is a choice of vacation
period, workers can find out at what time they will be most needed
and if possible fit their plans to the need. If they have no choice,
they can make known the time they would be available and leave the
assignment to the State Women’s Land Army leader or the agency
assigned to have charge of recruiting.
QUALIFICATIONS OF A SUCCESSFUL WOMAN FARM
WORKER
Anyone who loves outdoor life and work, who likes animals and the
country, starts out on farm work with a big advantage. As many
city women do not know whether or not they like such things, never
having tried them, it is well to consider their other qualifications.
First-class physical condition is the most important qualification
of a successful farm worker because the work is primarily physical.
This does not mean that the worker must be an athlete in her early
twenties, but any inexperienced, nonfarm girl or woman undertaking
continuous outdoor work over a period of weeks or months should be
sure she is in good physical condition and has the endurance to stand
it. Farmers should have the assurance that women sent to them can
stand the work. The only means of furnishing such assurance to
both parties is a doctor’s certificate of physical fitness and freedom
from communicable disease. It is earnestly recommended that this be
a requirement of all women recruited for working groups under
Government or private supervision, or placed by Government or other
agencies on individual farms. If girls or women choose to go from



34

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

their own homes for day or part-day work, or if they find farm jobs
and take them on their own responsibility, no one can prevent it; but
it then becomes a responsibility shared by the worker and the farmer
and they alone can be blamed for any disastrous effects that may result.
At the request of Miss Florence L. Hall, Chief of the Women’s Land
Army, and after consultation with doctors and health authorities, the
Women’s Bureau prepared the following certificate of health and
physical fitness to be used by prospective farm workers, covering the
essential points simply and briefly. Such a statement is necessary
not only for the protection of the worker but for the protection of
those with whom she works. Passing a physical examination is
required of women workers in many war industries as well as in the
various Service organizations.
PHYSICAL EXAMINATION RECORD1
Applicants for Women’s Land Army
Check

Single
Married
(Last name)
(Home address)

(First name)

(Middle name)

(City)

(County)

Widowed
Divorced
(Age)

(Color)

(State)

I. Medical history: (To be filled out by applicant)
a. Check any contagious diseases you have had :
Measles Whooping cough Scarlet fever Diphtheria Typhoid
b. Have you had rheumatic fever?
c. Have you had tuberculosis?_______________________ __________
d. Have you had a severe illness or major operation recently?-----------e. State difficulty with monthly periods.
f. Do you have hay fever or asthma?----------------------------------------

II. Medical examination: (To be filled out by licensed physician)
a. Has applicant detectable heart disease?___________________
Blood pressure if applicant is over 40 years of age__________
b. List any course of immunization, particularly tetanus antitoxin.
c. List any abnormal physical findings of:
1. Mouth (teeth and gums)__________________________
2. Throat _________________________________________
3. Lungs _________________________________________
4. Skin___________________________________________
5. Extremities (joint mobility, varicose veins, foot strains)
d. Does applicant appear emotionally stable?.
e. Do you advise this applicant to do farm work? Yes______ No
f. Do you see any cause for restriction of any activity?________
Height Weight-----------------------------------------------------------------------------Date------------------------------------------------------------------------------(Signature of licensed physician)
Developed in cooperation with the Women’s Bureau, U. S. Department of Labor.




ADVISABLE PRACTICES FOR 1944

35

Adaptability is perhaps next in importance to physical fitness. For
most women farm work means an entirely new environment. If they
are to live and work with a group or on an individual farm, they
must be able to fit themselves into a group or family without upset­
ting themselves, the group, or the family. They must be emotionally
stable, able to get along with other people, to submerge their indi­
vidual likes and dislikes, and above all to refrain from criticism of
people or things, especially in the first week or two. (After that,
they may find their criticism vanishing.) If there are matters that
after careful consideration call for remedy, these should be taken up
with the organization supervisor. Tact, consideration for others,
and a good sense of humor all help to make one adaptable.
Dependability and conscientiousness are two characteristics that
help any worker in any job. They are also two that have been gen­
erally praised by the farmers; “the women could be counted on and
stuck to their work conscientiously.” To preserve that reputation
should be the goal of every woman worker. Add to it self-reliance,
persistence, desire to learn the whys and wherefores of the job, top
it off with a little imagination, and you have a prize.
Ability to concentrate—that is, knowing how to work steadily, be­
ing able to stick to a job persistently—will rate anyone as a “good
worker.” And concentration includes such obvious things as that too
much conversation while at work cannot be indulged in.
Ability to work without praise is important. It is generally ad­
mitted that women, especially beginners in any new job, do better
with the stimulus of commendation. It is equally true that farmers
usually are men of few words, and are not given to commendation
to a person’s face. Workers need not expect praise, even when they
know they have done a good job. If they do get a “well done” it
means something. (They will probably be told if they do things
wrong.)
Desire for service is a stimulus and a challenge. Almost all girls
or women who take a job on a farm are actuated by a real desire to
be of service in the war emergency and a sense of obligation to con­
tribute all they can. But they must remember that, having assumed
such obligation in a very essential field, they must do their utmost to
make their contribution worth while and not take the attitude that
simply by going to a farm they are being patriotic. There is no place
on a farm now for women who go for a lark, for a vacation, or to be
able to say they have worked on a farm. The real workers will find
that they are doing a vitally important job and are also learning
much about a vitally important industry.
QUALIFICATIONS OF A SUCCESSFUL EMPLOYER
The employer who has always been successful with his help, who
in normal times could always get and keep help, will have practically
no trouble with girls and women provided he will draw a little on
his stock of patience. There are, however, some points about non­
farm women workers that he will do well to remember and heed.
1. He should instruct his workers carefully and thoroughly at the
start and encourage them to ask questions, since most of them know
nothing at all about farming. He may be, at first, not at ease with
the women, and they in turn undoubtedly feel awkward and embar


36

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

passed by their ignorance and a little afraid of him. They dread be­
ing laughed at or held in contempt (as they often are) by experienced
workers, male or female. If the farmer will take time to explain
what he wants them to do, to give them a little idea of his farming
operations, even take them over as much of it qs he can; if he will
instruct them by word and by demonstration in the work they are
to do; if he will take a hoe, explain its use, show them how to hold it
and use it properly, not just tell them to “start hoeing cabbages”;
if he will show them how to pick beans clean and tell them why every
bean that is ready must be picked or it will be too big at the next
picking; if he will make them feel free to ask questions, and will
answer them seriously no matter how foolish they sound, he will be
repaid many times over. Men who appreciate the difficulties of green
women workers and give them a good induction period (and there
have been many fine examples of this) have far less trouble with
poor work.
2. The farmer should have a cooperative attitude, make the women
feel that they are working with him for a common goal—-food produc­
tion. If an employer holds this attitude he will get loyalty, respon­
sibility, and concern for his particular needs.
3. He must give an occasional word of encouragement or praise for
good work. Women definitely need and respond to an expression of
appreciation of their efforts to a far greater extent than men do, and
in a new7 enterprise they are most anxious to know7 whether or not they
are making good. If there are those that are lazy or slackers, a com­
parison of their output with that of good workers may improve
matters; if they are no good, they should not be kept on.
4. Ability to study the capacity of his workers and find out which
ones are best suited for which jobs is important. On one farm, of a
number of women workers who tried to manage and supervise a group
of young weeders, only one was successful. She did it so well that
the" whole job, including hiring and firing, was turned over to her,
with wholly satisfactory results.
5. He must have consideration for the health and safety and the com­
fort of his women wmrkers. There are many and varied hazards on
a farm. Workers should be warned of those that they may incur at
their particular place of employment. As for their health, too long
hours or too heavy work are the chief dangers against which the em­
ployer must guard. Little personal attentions, such as cool drinks on
a very hot day, or a treat of some sort, bring rewards far beyond any
effort or cost they may entail.
6. Finally, the farmer must be willing to pay the women as much
as he would pay any man for comparable wTork. If he pays good
wages, he may demand and expect good work.
EMPLOYMENT CONDITIONS
Women’s Wages.
The question of women’s pay is one that must be given careful con­
sideration this winter if the employment of women is to continue and
to expand. Women who go into farm work are not out after “big
money.” They realize that, come what may, America and the fam­
ilies and children of her allies must have food. They are willing



ADVISABLE PRACTICES FOR 1944

37

to work for moderate pay. But they cannot be recruited, for harvest
or for long-season farm work,-on the old basis of migratory workers
who were expected to come when wanted, to work and be paid for only
such days or hours as they were needed and sit around in idleness the
rest of the time. They must earn sufficient to pay their board and
expenses and something over. If the women do any given job as well
as men, they should have the same pay, or if, because of what they
can do, they replace a man, they should have the same pay. On the
farmers who have employed women, on the State Land Army leaders
and the State labor supervisors of the Extension Service, on the proj­
ect directors who know the women’s problems most intimately, on the
officers of Farm Bureau, the Grange, and farmers’ commodity asso­
ciations, all of whom have been instrumental in seeing such projects
successfully carried through—on all these people, but chiefly on the
farmers themselves, rests the responsibility of getting together this
winter of 1943-44 and working out a plan of payment that will he
satisfactory to all.
It should not be forgotten that there is a farmers’ side to the pay
proposition. Some women paid an hourly rate may not do enough
work to earn it, or if they are paid a piece rate they may do so little
work that they do not earn enough to satisfy themselves. These in­
dividual problems exist wherever men or women are employed; they
are not peculiar to farming. No farmer need keep workers who are
much below average in performance. Instances have been reported
where a woman who did not do well on one farm made an entirely sat­
isfactory record when shifted to another with a different type of work.
Women do not want the farmer to keep them on out of kindness to
them, or because he doesn’t want to hurt their feelings; nor do they
want to work out of kindness to the farmer because he cannot afford
to pay them. The laborer should be worthy of her hire and well
managed farming should be able to pay decent wages.
The piece rate should be such that the average industrious worker
can earn what is judged to be an amount fair to the worker and to the
industry. The hourly rate should have the same aim—the worker
should earn in an hour about the same amount as the average piecerate worker. Unless the work is all on one crop, the hourly rate is
much simpler and probably better on the whole for women.
The guaranteed daily, weekly, or monthly wage seemed to work out
still more satisfactorily for women. There was very little complaint
of women’s loafing on the job. Since this is emergency work for
women, with service an important factor, a uniform rate of pay for
all, which insures expenses and a fair amount over, would seem the
best system of pay for volunteer women workers.
It is unquestionably true that no women (or new workers in any job)
are worth as much the first week as they are after they have got the
hang of the job and their “second wind” physically.
A beginner’s rate for the first week, with an increase thereafter,
might offer an incentive to workers to acquire skill and proficiency.
Farmers must remember that “patriotic service” needs a fair financial
reward to keep functioning, and workers who earn barely enough to
pay their board will not keep on working indefinitely.
Where women lived on the farms they were paid $30, $45, $50, and
sometimes more, a month, plus their board. Women who had re­



38

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

ceived training in dairy work, for example, who knew how to milk
and do all the dairy work, could start out at higher wages than un­
trained workers, though the speed with which women learned these
jobs was remarkable.
The relation of earnings to the cost of board is somewhat different
in these cases. While for groups living together under project man­
agement board was from $8 to $10 a week, and usually was figured at
$10, the cost to the employer where one or twTo girls lived with the
family—especially if the girls came in as members of the family,
shared a room, had the same food as the family, and helped occasion­
ally with the work in the house—certainly was less than under project
management but cannot be figured exactly. Because in some States
“summer boarders” had been part of the farm income there was a
tendency to overestimate the cost of the board. A summer boarder,
however, is a very different proposition from a farm worker, and
receives very different treatment. So while “board” well above $10
may be reasonable enough for a summer boarder, $10 last year cer­
tainly would have covered the costs that could be charged to boarding
a worker in a farm home. Almost all farmers have or could have
sufficient surplus farm products for their own families at a cost
considerably below what it costs nonfarm families who buy at retail
prices.
Working Hours; Rest and Lunch Periods.
Women seemed able and willing to work a day of 8 or 9 hours,
though everyone the first day or two took many “rests” or sometimes
definitely worked only 6 hours. Where a short day can be arranged
for the first few days, the breaking-in process will be much less pain­
ful, and light work, if possible, is desirable at the start. With a
regular transportation schedule, however, new workers who may
join a unit at different dates cannot always be given special hours.
A definite rest period of perhaps 15 minutes coming at a specified
time morning and afternoon, when everyone was expected to stop
and no one who stopped could be considered a slacker, would, it is
believed, increase the efficiency of the women workers. Further, if
schedules could be arranged so that work stopped by 5 p. m. the longdrag of hot afternoons would be lessened and probably as much work
would be accomplished as under a 5:30 or later quitting time.
The lunch period of 1 hour gives everyone time to wash up, eat
leisurely, and rest a little. A dry and comfortable place in which to
eat lunch on rainy days, a simple picnic table in a shady place on
pleasant days, would make the lunch hour more comfortable.
Work Clothing.
Clothing recommendations call for suitability primarily; for ex­
ample, overalls; work shirts, not too thin, with sleeves that can be
rolled up or down; sweaters or .heavy flannel shirts; shade hats; rain
coats and rubber boots, the last named a necessity if working around
a dairy or in a vegetable-washing and packing room. Halters and
shorts are not suitable clothing. Comfortable lowr-heeled sport shoes
with clean, whole socks are desirable; farms are dangerous places in
which to go barefoot.
The Women’s Land Army bib-overalls with insignia, accompanied
by shirt, coat, and cap, are attractive and suitable if one, is buying new
work clothes.



ADVISABLE PRACTICES FOR 1944

39

Sanitary Facilities for Women Workers at Farms.
Sanitary facilities for outside workers were unsatisfactory at most
farms. Where more women are employed than can comfortably use
the farmhouse bathroom and washing-up facilities, a special place for
women, with toilets and washbasins, which will be kept clean and in
good order, should be provided. It should be screened, well ventilated,
and accessible. There should be enough washbasins and toilets to ac­
commodate the workers without too much delay. If there is running
water, washbowls and flush toilets can be installed; if no running water,
an outside privy can be made clean and sanitary and enameled basins
can be provided. The farmer who expects to employ next season more
than two or three women would do well to plan and equip such a
washroom this winter. It should have also a simple cot, with a blanket
to put over anyone who may feel ill. A Bed Cross first-aid kit should
be available. With the prevalence of Bed Cross first-aid training in
every group there is practically always someone qualified to administer
first aid in minor injuries or to recognize the necessity of calling a
doctor in a case of serious accident or illness.
Drinking Water.
The source of drinking water on the farms was questionable in very
few cases, but it would be advisable to check it with State health
authorities. As supplied to workers, however, water frequently was
in unsanitary containers, and with no cups provided. Water should
be brought to the fields in a covered container with a faucet4 by which
it can be drawn off, and individual cups should be supplied. It is not
necessary for workers to run for a drink of water every few minutes;
a drink morning, noon, and night, and at the two rest periods, should
give everyone ample opportunity to quench her thirst. This drinkingwater question arises chiefly where women work all day in fields some
distance from farm buildings.
Job Hazards.
Sunburn.

The chief caution against sunburn is not to try to get a deep tan
the first day in the hot sun. A painful burn is likely to result unless
a definite effort to protect the skin is made. The standard ointments
or tannic-acid jelly to prevent burns may be used, and a tube carried
in the pocket. If a bad burn is acquired, it should be covered with
ointment or tannic-acid jelly, wet soda or epsom-salts dressing; in se­
vere cases a doctor should be consulted.
Poison Ivy.

The best advice against poison ivy is to learn to recognize its three
shiny leaves and keep away from it.
After coming in contact with
it, sopping (not rubbing) the exposed skin as soon as possible with
chlorox and water (one teaspoonful in half a glass of water) usually
will keep it from developing. If it develops unexpectedly it should
be sopped with the mixture frequently. IT MUST NOT BE
SCBATCHED. Once it is spread by scratching, it will take days
to subside. It first appears as a slight rash, then as tiny blisters, then,
* A wash boiler with a cover and a faucet fitted is just as good as a 5-gallon thermos
container such as canteens use.




40

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

if scratched, a blotch of blisters. Washing with a thick lather of
brown soap is good if done soon after exposure. Bathing with alcohol
relieves itching.
(For general advice for women and girls taking up farm work, see
Bulletin No. 47, Food Information Series, U. S. Department of Agri­
culture. Office of Information, prepared by the Women’s Bureau.)
Transportation.
Farmers transporting workers to and from work or from one part
of the farm to another in their own cars or trucks should, for their
own protection as well as that of their passengers, see that their lia­
bility insurance covers such passengers. Serious injury to employees
and damage suits to farmers may occur. Safe riding inside the vehicle
should be insisted on.
Recreation.
As the majority of women farm workers are young, the planning of
some opportunity for recreation is especially important. Swimming
is particularly enjoyed after a hot day’s work, and camps that have
a good swimming place find it much easier to keep their workers con­
tented. A piano, victrola, or radio, singing, informal dancing and
games help to make the evenings pleasant. Special treats, such as
picnics, corn roasts, going to market with the vegetables, help to break
the monotony. When workers are employed not too far away to go
home for an occasional Sunday, it is desirable for them to do so.
When workers are far from home, and not near any town, an occasional
week end oil is desirable, unless the worker is employed for a short
period only. Some arrangement by which friends can come oc­
casionally for a week end is pleasant.
In farm homes, the farm wife wTho plans recreation for her family
and includes her women workers in it will add to their contentment.
Communities that offer such recreation as occasional square dances in
the town hall and invite the women farm workers are helping the
movement. Churches should notify the camps not only of their serv­
ices but of social gatherings to which the women workers are welcome.
Lack of means of transportation of necessity has curtailed many
social activities, but some planning that will offer occasional breaks
in the routine must be regarded as an essential part of the employment
of nonfarm women on farms.
PROCEDURE FOR SETTING UP UNITS OF NONFARM
WOMEN FOR WORK ON FARMS
In addition to the camps for women farm workers organized in
1943 by the Women’s Land Army leaders and the Extension Service
labor supervisors, there were numerous private agencies, some farmers,
and private individuals who established units of women or girls to
do farm work. As this may well happen again in 1944, the procedure
that proved most successful in these efforts is outlined here.
There are four major steps to be taken in the planning of any unit
group.
1. Find a central locality where the type of surrounding farms needing labor
can be served by women workers.
2. Select carefully such farmers in this locality as would like to employ women
and to pay them the going rate of wages.



ADVISABLE PRACTICES FOR 1944

41

3. Study the housing possibilities and determine what sort of housing and
feeding might be available in this locality.
4. Recruit (and select carefully) a group of women for a definite unit serving
this specific area.

Locality.
The selection of a locality where there are many farms fairly close
together of a type that could use a unit of women or girls obviously
is essential. The distance women will have to be transported must be
considered; also whether they will be wanted for long-season work, as
from May to November, or only for short harvest periods. On these
factors will depend the type of unit to be established. This informa­
tion is basic, and the time to get it is in the winter when the farmers
are making their plans for the next season.
In 1943, after the locality was selected the usual method was to con­
tact the farmers, individually or in groups, and see if they would try
women. The experience of those who have successfully employed
women should make it easier to get the cooperation of the farmers in
1944. A great deal depends on the kind of contact made with the
farmers. It is in no way sufficient in these times to take the attitude
“if farmers want women let them come and ask for them.” They will
not do that. The job of the women leaders is to find openings where
women can prove their worth, and the job of the women and girls who
appreciate the vital importance of food production is to step forward
and demonstrate their worth. It is also the job of the farmers to be
open-minded about it, and at least to be willing to try women in a
cooperative spirit.
The approximate number of women who can be used should be de­
termined, also the time for which they will be wanted. Working
hours and pay should be agreed upon.
Housing.
With the varied experiences of 1943 as guide posts, no one need feel
that any locality where help is needed has no housing possibilities.
How much money the Extension Service can use to help finance the
housing of such units cannot be determined much in advance, but
certainly in 1943 funds were available and the probability is that
there will be funds in 1944. To have the responsibility for suitable
living accommodations rest on a joint State and Federal agency as well
known to the farmers as is the Extension Service assures the confidence
not only of the farmers but of the public in such an enterprise. Such
confidence could easily be lost by lack of careful management, but that
very fact makes the responsibility appreciated by the Extension
Service.
Any housing selected for a unit should provide the conditions out­
lined as follows: (a) Comfortable beds, with springs and mattresses;
preferably not more than four in a room, though dormitories, if well
cared for and well supervised, may be used for short periods without
objection. (i) For each worker there should be either closet space
or hooks for clothing and a table or box for such things as toilet
articles; a mirror in each room is a necessity. (c) Adequate washing
and bathing facilities with hot and cold water; if obtainable, fountain
washbasins, which will accommodate four or more at once, are time
savers; showers are preferable to tubs, and a row of 4 or 5 shower heads
Is economical of space; 1 shower to every 8 women is a minimum for



42

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

hot-weather comfort. There should be at least 1 toilet for every 8 to
10 workers because all leave home and return at the same time; it is
possible to have sanitary and well cared for outside latrines if flush
toilets are out of the question, but they must be well built, screened,
and cared for. (d) A living room where women can sit, read or write,
and play games is highly desirable. (e) Some provision for isolating
anyone who may become ill, especially if it is a large unit with a num­
ber of women sharing bedrooms, is essential. (/) If the unit has more
than 12 or 15 workers, there should be not only a cook who will prepare
the meals but helpers who will wash dishes and look after the general
rooms and washrooms and do the weekly cleaning; such persons might
be members of the unit who would take such jobs in turn, for pay, but
preferably employees should be hired for the job; women who get up
early, work hard on the farm all day at physical work to which they
are unaccustomed, should not spend their evenings washing and clean­
ing. (g) A dining room and kitchen well ventilated and well screened
against flies, (h) A place where clothes can be washed, with a washing
machine, if possible, several electric irons and ironing boards, and
plenty of hot wrater. (Nothing adds so much to the health and com­
fort of living as plenty of hot water.)
Feeding Farm Workers.
(a) In unit groups: Whatever organization undertakes to feed
women and girls who are working on farms must be prepared to pro­
vide, especially at first, about twice as much as such women ordinarily
would eat. Farm work burns up calories, creates hunger. Adequate,
nutritious, well-balanced, simple meals—a substantial breakfast, an
ample and varied lunch, with a good hearty ineal at night, and plenty
of milk to drink—are necessary. This food must be bought and pre­
pared with judgment and skill. The experts in nutrition and home
economics of the Extension Service are well qualified to give the best
of advice and supervision to the feeding problems, whether for a unit
that they have set up or for one set up by other agencies.
(&) In farm homes: Whoever is in charge of placing women as
workers in farm homes should undertake to discuss a little the eating
habits of the family and the new worker, and if after trial they prove
so far apart as to make either of them unhappy, the worker should be
shifted to another place.
Recruiting.
For 1944 the Women’s Land Army leaders will be ready, with the
experience of 1943, to gather recruits in any one of a dozen different
ways; but before they go after anyone they should know, from their
county farm labor supervisors, pretty much the jobs, the places, the
time for which they want their recruits. The women and girls who
worked on the farms in 1943 will be the best salesmen of the 1944 plans.
This winter, in the large cities and at the colleges, groups of women
and girls who worked together on farms are already having reunions.
These women will “spread the gospel” to their friends. But it will be
necessary for them to know when they are wanted, how many are
wanted and where, what are the projects to be set up, and what will be
the housing, pay, supervision. The colleges and preparatory schools
are eager to cooperate. They do not need propaganda talk to con­




ADVISABLE PRACTICES FOR 1944

43

vince them of the need; they want to know what program they can put
in that will be most helpful.
The answers to all these questions the Women’s Land Army must
have ready for the 1944 workers as early as possible, if they are to
carry on with increasing numbers the work started in 1943.
PROGRAM FOR WINTER WORK IN ORGANIZING
RECRUITS
A suggested program for women’s colleges, and high and prepara­
tory schools, would be—
1. To put in a conditioning course for prospective farm workers in
the spring, so that they may get “toughened up.” This course should
include special instruction on how to use their bodies and muscles prop­
erly? that they may accomplish their work more efficiently, with less
fatigue and strain. While the opportunity to compare the endurance
and physical fitness of a number of girls or women before and after a
considerable period of farm work has been insufficient to draw con­
clusions, indications are that, under proper supervision, their physical
endurance may be greatly improved by farm work.6
2. A further suggestion for the colleges and schools would be to get
all students who will pledge themselves to farm work for their vaca­
tion, or part of it, to organize themselves into a Women’s Land Army
Unit of the specific college or school, with such officers as they may
need; such a group might be called together from time to time through
the winter as the program for the region develops. They would be­
come, by their organized cooperation, an integral part of the Women’s
Land Army movement.
3. To hold for each unit a short series of lectures on the agriculture
of the region in general, on specific instruction or “indoctrination” in
the kind of work women are likely to do, and on the social aspects of
farm life.
The same method could be applied in urban centers. City women
who worked on farms in 1943 would be requested to come to a mass
meeting and organize a New York—or Philadelphia, or Boston, as
the case might be—Women’s Land Army Division. This could in
turn break down into special groups that worked together in 1943—
business, professional, or industrial units as “AWVS Unit (American
Women’s Voluntary Services) of the Women’s Land Army,” “Business
and Professional Women’s Unit of the WLA,” “Garden Clubs Unit,”
“Rainbow Unit” (for all without special group affiliation), “Federal
Employees Unit,” and so on. Such units, once set up, naturally would
try to get more recruits for their own groups. Members of such units
need not necessarily all go to work on the same project at the same
time. Vacations would come at different times, but the whole would
be an organization about which to build up an esprit de corps that
would strengthen the Women’s Land Army movement.
Such divisions and units could set up standards, under direction
of the National and State Women’s Land Army leaders, could elect
s Scores of 7 girls tested after 1 to 3 months on farm work :
Before
After
Before
After
Before
After
41
68
55
57
80
81
42
78
66
76
48
71
75
89




44

EMPLOYMENT OF NONFARM WOMEN ON FARMS

their own officers, could have conditioning programs before the work
season began, could have preliminary training, lectures by authorities
on different types of farm work (some of these have proved very
helpful and should be continued and extended).
Group planning need not interfere in the least with such organiza­
tions as prefer to work independently at recruiting and supervising
their own units or recruiting through regular channels such as USES.
There is a place for every group. There is need, however, that all
groups, however organized, should work and live under good condi­
tions, with fair pay, reasonable hours, adequate and nutritious food,
some recreational facilities, and careful supervision. This can best
be obtained by having, standards set by an organization like the
Women’s Land Army, working through the Extension Service in
every county of every State. It must be assumed that having set
standards some means will be provided for the Women’s Land Army
to see that those standards are lived up to; otherwise, the confidence
in and success of the program will rapidly diminish.
Whatever projects are set up, whether under the auspices of the
Women’s Land Army acting for the Extension Service or under pri­
vate agencies, a clear and definite statement covering all aspects of
the work is of greatest value to the prospective recruits. They should
have a statement of the work to be performed, the provisions for
board and housing, the working conditions, hours and earnings to be
expected, the sanitary provisions assured, the supervision exercised
over health, the recreation facilities offered, the equipment the recruits
must bring with them and the expenses they must incur. The respon­
sible supervision for the project must be made clear. These are the
things nonfarm women going into a new field of work want to know
and are entitled to know.
Since she has a choice, each woman and girl must decide where
she will put her effort in war work. But she should put it where
it is needed and needed now. She is obligated to take a job that bears
a direct relation to her country’s war needs. The women who will
warm the hearts of America’s fighting men are those who pick a good
hard job and do their best at it. Farming is just such a job. The
women of 1943 were just such women.




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