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Review of Doing Her Bit: A Story About the Woman’s Land Army of America

hagar_doing her bitDoing Her Bit: A Story About the Woman’s Land Army of America
by Erin Hagar; illus. by Jen Hill
Primary    Charlesbridge    32 pp.
9/16    978-1-58089-646-7    $16.95
e-book ed.  978-1-60734-872-6    $9.99

In 1917, proper New York City college girl Helen Stevens joins the Woman’s Land Army of America to “do her bit” for the war effort. Her white-linens-and-fine-china farewell luncheon sets the story’s tone, as Helen waves off her mother’s fretting “as if she were swatting a pesky fly. ‘I’ll be fine,’ she said.” At the Women’s Agricultural Camp in Bedford, New York, Helen and other “farmerettes” trade their dresses for overalls and get to work under the guidance of tough director Ida Ogilvie. While, indeed, “blisters turned into calluses,” finding men who would hire them to do farm work was more challenging. But, thanks to Ida, Helen and her fellow farmerettes do get hired — and for men’s wages (well, after they prove their worth and stand up for themselves). This WWI home front story “based on real events and real people” uses invented dialogue and details in a homespun narrative that gets to the heart of an important moment in feminist history. Hill’s gouache illustrations in a tawny palette are full of Rosie the Riveter–esque images of women hard at work — just doing their bit — in pastoral landscapes. An informative author’s note, a bibliography, and internet-search recommendations are appended; the endpapers display WWI Woman’s Land Army posters and sepia photos of real farmerettes. A century later, when equal pay for equal work is still not guaranteed, this book may empower readers to start discussions about feminism and women’s roles throughout history.

From the January/February 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is managing editor of The Horn Book Guide.

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