National Museums Scotland have a happy knack of publishing books on subjects that have probably never crossed your mind before, yet which turn out to be captivating and thought provoking. Scotland's Land Girls: Breeches, Bombers and Backaches, to give it its full title, fits this pattern very well indeed.
The roots of the Womens Land Army lay in the First World War. There was an acute farm labour shortage because male farmhands were needed for military service and horses were also requisitioned for the war effort. By 1918 there were 23,000 Land Girls at work milking, ploughing and herding. In 1939, the farming community of Britain greeted the idea of the Womens Land Army with scorn. Yet more than 100,000 Land Girls and 11 years later, the National Farmers' Union protested strongly when the WLA was officially disbanded.
After an introduction covering the story of the Womens Land Army in the First and Second World Wars, the book sets out a series of reminiscences, recorded by the editor, from ten ex-Landgirls. The book is co-published with The European Ethnological Research Centre (EERC), an independent unit within Celtic & Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh.
The editor, Elaine Edwards, is the curator at the National Museum of Rural Life and the book coincides with an exhibition entitled Land Girls and Lumber Jills at the National War Museum which covers both the Womens Land Army and Womens Timber Corps in Scotland.