Thursday, 9 June 2016

“Women on the Land” Demonstration at Biddenham

Miss M. Welch of Kempston ploughing [WW1/WA5/2/4]

Friday 9th June 1916: An interesting demonstration took place at Biddenham yesterday afternoon at Mr. Chibnall’s homestead, of the work which can be carried out on farms by women. Demonstrations were given be three expert women from Cornwall of milking, harrowing, hoeing, weeding, cutting clover, rolling, ploughing and the harnessing of a pair of horses. The demonstrations were interspersed with the competitions in the following events:
  • Class 1. Milking
  • Class 2. Handling and Management of Calves
  • Class 3. Harnessing and Management of Horses
  • Class 4. Driving Stock
  • Class 5. Ploughing
  • Class 6. Hoeing Corn
  • Class 7. Weeding
  • Class 8: Setting Out Roots

Most of the entrants were girls from agricultural backgrounds, some of them very young. Nerves meant they did not all perform as well as they might have done in less trying circumstances, but it was clear that in a more familiar and favourable field they would be quite expert. The work of many of the competitors was quite good, and would be serviceable and acceptable to farmers if it could be sustained for an entire day’s work. The milking was a picturesque scene, with “ten merry milkmaids, clad in ideal dresses and bonnets, armed with three-legged stools, and shining pails, tackled as many cows that were waiting patiently in the thatched hovel”. Unsurprisingly there were rather more entrants for the hoeing corn class (nineteen) than there were for ploughing (two). The work of these two girls with the plough was described as “fair”.  One of the most successful competitions was the Harnessing and Management of Horses, in which the thirteen candidates showed great confidence in handling the horses, and dexterity in putting on the harness.

Source: WW1/WA5/2/1-4

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