How an Army of Suffragettes Helped Save America From Starvation

During World War I, the US struggled with getting food to soldiers fighting overseas. Meanwhile, there was a shortage of men to work the farms because they were busy fighting. This double whammy caused a food shortage on the home front. That's when activist women stepped in. Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, founded the Woman’s Land Army of America to pick up the slack in working the farms of America.  

National and local newspapers were fascinated by the suffragettes turned farmerettes: “If you see Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, the national suffrage president in a neat uniform of khaki gardening in some vacant lot near her home in New York, don’t think she has deserted suffrage for agriculture,” the Washington Times reported.

In Great Britain, the government-organized Women’s Land Army had already proved women were capable at taking over farm work during the war. In the summer of 1917, Vassar College had trouble finding male laborers for the college farm and decided to train and employ women instead, while a Women’s Agricultural Camp at Mount Kisco, New York, also sought to train women for local farming work.

All three of those efforts served as models for the Women’s Land Army of America (W.L.A.A.), founded by Chapman Catt and others that fall. At first, the plan was just to increase home farming and gardens, but soon they realized farms across the country didn’t have the laborers they needed.

Women responded, many even leaving high school to join the Woman's Land Army. They traded in their corsets for overalls and went to work on faraway farms. About 15,000 women worked farms in 21 states in 1918. Read about the Woman's Land Army at Narratively. -via The Week

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