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The Land Girls

Friday, 1 November 2013 11:51am

In a Man's World, 1939–46

Dianne Bardsley

the_land_girlsThe book

This book tells the story of New Zealand's land girls during the Second World War. Drawing on the oral histories of 130 women and the written interviews of 90 others, it uncovers what has been a hidden history, overlooked in most surveys of New Zealand's war experience.

The Women's Land Service was formed to supply labour to keep New Zealand agriculture going during the War. From 1940, city girls from the age of seventeen were sent to assist on sheep, cattle, dairy, orchard and poultry properties. Many had the experience of arriving at a remote destination late at night and starting work the next morning as a farm-hand, when they had never been close to a sheep. They learned to ride horses, train and whistle up dogs, muster and shear sheep, plough and harvest crops, and to master all the myriad tasks of rural industries, often without electricity.

The experience dramatically changed lives. Some gave up university education, or left their careers and changed direction. Others were bitten by the land bug and never returned to city life. This book tells it all, with personal stories, diary entries, photographs, and reproductions of artworks by land girl artist, Juliet Peter.

The author

DIANNE BARDSLEY grew up in post-war rural Wairarapa, and often overheard references to land girls in adult conversation. Compiling the book has taken her on the adventure of a lifetime. She found that in addition to the 4290 women who applied to join the land service, there were many more who worked informally in place of male relatives. All of them 'are now, in very many ways, women out of the ordinary'. Dianne wrote the book while holding down a full-time teaching job and is now compiling a dictionary of rural language for Oxford University Press.

Publication details

Paperback, 240 x 170 mm, 192 pages, b&w photographs, ISBN 978 1 877133 94 7, $39.95
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