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Fruits of Victory: The Woman's Land Army of America in the Great War [Hardcover]

by Elaine F. Weiss
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 2008 1597972738 978-1597972734 First Edition
From 1917 to 1920 the Woman’s Land Army (WLA) brought thousands of city workers, society women, artists, business professionals, and college students into rural America to take over the farm work after men were called to wartime service. These women wore military-style uniforms, lived in communal camps, and did what was considered “men's work”—that is, plowing fields, driving tractors, planting, harvesting, and hauling lumber. The Land Army insisted its “farmerettes” be paid wages equal to male farm laborers and be protected by an eight-hour workday. These farmerettes were shocking at first and encountered skeptical farmers’ scorn, but as they proved themselves willing and capable, farmers began to rely upon the women workers and became their loudest champions.

While the Woman’s Land Army was deeply rooted in the great political and social movements of its day—suffrage, urban and rural reform, women’s education, scientific management, and labor rights—it pushed into new, uncharted territory and ventured into areas considered off-limits. More than any other women’s war work group of the time, the Land Army took pleasure in breaking the rules. It challenged conventional thinking on what was “proper” work for women to do, their role in wartime, how they should be paid, and how they should dress.

The WLA’s short but spirited life also foreshadowed some of the most profound and contentious social issues America would face in the twentieth century: women’s changing role in society and the workplace, the problem of social class distinctions in a democracy, the mechanization and urbanization of society, the role of science and technology, and the physiological and psychological differences between men and women.

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Weiss, who has written for such publications as the New York Times and Harper's, chronicles the largely forgotten history of the Woman's Land Army (WLA), a group of women in the United States who left their homes and college dorms in droves to volunteer when American involvement in World War I called young men from the fields to the trenches of Europe. Weiss shows how these "farmerettes" faced an uphill battle, as they were often met with disdain by shorthanded farmers and Washington politicians who did not feel the situation was dire enough to warrant hiring women to do men's work. WLA architects, many of whom earned their stripes in the suffrage movement, developed a blueprint for managing a group anywhere in the United States, and they were able to secure wages—and an eight-hour workday—equal to their male counterparts. The group was disbanded after the war, but the farmerettes helped pave the way for women working during World War II. Weiss effectively chronicles the birth of the WLA movement and the dedicated women behind it. Recommended for both scholarly readers and interested history buffs.—Patti C. McCall, Albany Molecular Research, Inc., NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"The most extensively researched and far-reaching examination of the Land Army to date. . . . A wealth of material that scholars and teachers of U.S. women's history, American agricultural history, and the American experience in World War I will want to have at their fingertips."

“Weiss effectively chronicles the birth of the WLA movement and the dedicated women behind it. Recommended for both scholarly readers and interested history buffs."

“Weiss’s excellent work of cross-disciplinary scholarship offers readers a unique look at how WWI changed society."

"Bravo to Elaine Weiss! She has rescued a fascinating chapter of our history from undeserved obscurity and tells the story of the Woman's Land Army of World War I with undeniable verve."

“Elaine Weiss has written an important book on an overlooked subject. Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army in the Great War covers the virtually unknown story of the “farmettes” who joined American’s land army to feed the nation during World War I. This engaging account makes not only good reading, but also contributes to our understanding of both women’s history and the home front during the war.”

“Weiss plows through a wide variety of primary sources and produces a bumper crop of determined women, stubborn men, telling anecdotes, and rich details, all part of a surprising and surprisingly moving story of mobilization and organization, patriotism and sexism. The army of “farmerettes,” drawn from the classrooms of the “Seven Sisters” and urban factories, who came together as “soldiers of the soil” to harvest everything from cherries in Michigan to cotton in Georgia and the women who recruited, trained, and championed them leave an indelible imprint in this well-told tale of the remarkable effort of American women to feed a nation at war.”

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc.; First Edition edition (December 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597972738
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597972734
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #856,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great tale of remarkable lost piece of American history February 6, 2009
Elaine Weiss' book Fruits of Victory tells the story of the woman's land army, which was organized by women to bring in the crops while men were off at war in WWI. With disdain from the government women from the suffrage movement, labor movement, garden clubs, universities and high society raised funds, recruited volunteers and with difficulty convinced farmers to employ tens of thousands of women in the fields for equal pay with men. It is a great tale and remarkable that the same dismissive approach toward women in the early 20th century allowed historians to ignore this whole episode of American history.

Ms. Weiss telling of the tale is done is a very engaging manner focus on many remarkable characters that made the land army a success but also address the social and political mores of the time that the organizers and foot soldiers of the land army had to overcome.

I would hardily recommend the book to any fan of historical novels as well as those interested in women's rights, the social history of the 20th century or WWI.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Tour-de-Force February 5, 2009
"Fruits of Victory: The Woman's Land Army of America in the Great War" is a true tour-de-force. Weiss has uncovered an extraordinary organization, completely forgotten by academic historians and everyone else, and brought it to life. It's fascinating to read her sparklingly-written story of how a coalition of women's college faculty, women's club activists, and just-plain self-activated women from all over the country assembled an organization that could put tens of thousands of women to work in the nation's farm fields in the midst of World War I. At the same time, Weiss creates vivid sketches of some truly remarkable people, women like Edith Diehl, one of the finest bookbinders of the 20th century, but also a born-to-lead officer of the Land Army who ran its "West Point" on the Wellesley College campus. I heartily recommend this book to anyone with a shred of interest in American history or sociology or the US role in World War I or women's history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An excellent, easily readable book that explains how women took things into their own hands to help the country maintain an adequate food supply in time of need while the government sat on its hands. The book provides detailed history in an entertaining style to show how Suffragette leaders of the day turned from their single focus issue,along with activist women college students, to help the country in its time of need. These women mobilized themselves with minimal help from men and with no help from the federal government. The book shows how American women identified a national problem and developed a pragmatic solution while improving their image and self worth. The book should be of interest to American studies, women's studies, and Reagan Conservatives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars very interesting April 13, 2009
By Mo B
I purchased this in support of NPR. I find the book very interesting, lots of details. I had not known about this part of history and am enjoying reading about the drive, creativity, intelligence and fortitude of the women who made the Land Army happen. I look forward to the remainder of the book and plan to pass it on to my friends.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thanks for the information March 27, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I saw where the author was going to give a speech at a General Federation of Women's Club function and thought the book sounded interesting. While it was not spellbinding it was interesting, something I had never heard of before and no one else I talked to had heard of the Woman's Land Army. During the 2nd world war, I know that my mother and others of the town went out and hoed in the beet fields in Montana. I babysat a neighbor's children so she could go out too.
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