The precursor to the Women’s Land Army may first have been suggested in Fleet in 1916.
The problems of agriculture and the war and ‘how labour difficulties may be met’ was the topic of discussion at Fleet Debating Society.
Mr J H Diggle, of Spalding and Small Holdings Commissioner, gave an address at the meeting in the Hargate clubroom.
During the meeting, a suggestion was made that a volunteer organisation called the Farmers’ Help Brigade might be formed for work on the land – the Women’s Land Army was created in January 1917.
The meeting heard the “efforts of the working class women in this area had been magnificent” and that 5,000 wives of small farmers and small holders in the county of Holland were “working harder than ever before, and longer hours if possible”.
In 1915, the county had grown 42,000 acres of potatoes, over 100,000 acres of corn, about 14,000 acres of clover and rotation grasses.
Society members heard that “all circumstances pointed to a shortage of male labour” when the full effect of the Military Service Act was felt.
They were told that co-operation and mutual help were making things easier, but “a great deal more could be done in this direction. Then there were the wage-earning women”. The chairman of the County War Agricultural Committee had confidence that “the wage-earning women would do more this year than ever before”.
There had been a national call “to every woman, even if she does not want the money, to do whatever she can on the land in the absence of her husband or her son”. The movement of women on to the land was taking a very firm hold, the meeting heard.