Women and Victory Gardens

Women and War Gardens

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The World Wars were won with the help of an ambitious and aggressive campaign on the American home front to overcome wartime shortages through collective action, namely widespread reducing, re-using, and home-producing (such as home-grown produce and canned goods).  Women took the leading role in igniting the nationalism and sense of patriotic obligation these efforts required, and rose to the occasion impressively.  In agriculture and gardening specifically, women’s efforts drew national recognition.  The “Farmerettes,” as they were called, even became a division in the United States employment service, a milestone for women’s rights considering society’s generally negative attitude towards women in the workforce. The maternal nurturing and nourishing ideologies tied to the movement (and women in general) made this occupation seem less threatening than other fields, but it served as a powerful tool for empowering women to think about their capacity to occupy other social spheres.

Wartime agricultural movements such as the war gardens and liberty gardens of World War I and the Victory Gardens 0f World War II created new opportunities for women to work on the edges of the domestic sphere. Women’s economic and patriotic contributions through gardening subtly challenged gender norms and fed the whisperings of political and social change within a male-dominated society. Because gardening was linked to home-making and family-feeding spheres women had traditionally occupied, it attracted many women who would not have participated in more overt forms of political activity. Yet for many young women, being a farmerette served as a tool of empowerment. The sense of community and the success of their collective action called them to consider how they might continue to shape their identities through these assimilation into different domains. Large cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and New York provided an excellent place where women could gather and exchange ideas and feel recognized for their work.  Suffrage and women’s labor rights movements had their roots, in part, in the empowerment women gained from wartime gardening and agricultural movements.

  • Gowdy-Wygant, Ceceilia. “Cultivating Victory: The Women’s Land Army and the Victory Garden Movement.” Pittsburgh, PA: Published by University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013. 165-182.

Click here to see all narratives about agriculture and gardening

Click here to see further reading on agriculture and gardening

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