Roundtable: Bobby Soxers in the Fields: Girls’ Emergency Farm Labor During World War II

Bobby Soxers in the Fields - Roundtable talk Sept. 15

September 15th
Lewis-Latimer Room, The Faculty Club

Presented by Jennifer Robin Terry, doctoral candidate, History, UC Berkeley

By early 1942, farmers across the United States clamored for congressional aid to supply an agricultural labor force sufficient to meet the food and fiber demands of World War II. Among the various solutions, Congress authorized youth labor programs that recruited urban minors to harvest the nation’s crops. During the peak farm labor year of 1944, child and youth volunteers outnumbered adult laborers in better-known programs, such as the Braceros and Women’s Land Army. Participation in emergency farm labor programs enabled young workers to become partners in the war effort, and many identified as citizen soldiers on a martial mission. Drawing on government documents, youth-serving organizations’ reports, recruitment material, popular media, and the writings and recollections of girl participants, this talk examines adolescent girls’ participation in two programs: the U. S. Crop Corps’ Victory Farm Volunteers and the Girl Scouts’ Farm Aides. Examining these programs through teenage girls’ experiences complicates our understanding of the wartime identities of these girls and reveals how gendered rhetoric influenced their nuanced affinity for situational masculinity.