Conference organised by the Wolfson Centre for Life Writing, held at Wolfson College, Oxford, 20-22 September 2013.
The Land Army – Girls with backbone and breeches by Annie Hedrington.
Amy de la Haye curated an exhibition on the Sussex Land Girls in Brighton, in 2009, telling their story through their uniform. I wish I had seen it. I hadn’t realised that the Land Girls service was established during World War One, during the food crisis of 1917. I’ve recently been reading books about the lead up to the first World War, and came across a remarkable Polish-born financier, Jan Bloch, who forsaw that offensive operations would be unsuccessful and that stalemate would only be broken by one side being better able to withstand exhaustion and starvation. The ultimate arbiter would be famine. Hence, the crucial role of the Land Girls and the Merchant Navy. Amy passed round an unworn pair of women’s breeches, which were extremely well made (to last!). She told us that the reason we see such small size garments in museums is not that everyone was tiny in stature, but rather that it’s the smallest sizes that survive, as they can’t be altered, reworked and reworn, unlike the larger sizes.