Farm Women and Tractors


| July/August 1980



Agricultural Work

WOMEN have always taken their part in agricultural work, for many farmers' wives, in addition to doing the multitudinous household duties, have done their 'shift' in field operations during times of labor shortage. In European countries the use of women for field work has been carried to a far greater extent than in the United States, for in many countries the majority of this work is performed by women.

In the past few years a great many economic changes have taken place in our industrial life, and women have gone into many industries and have competed with men in lines of endeavor that was not thought possible a decade ago. Women have taken up mechanical trades and have become proficient in a number of supposedly masculine lines of effort. They have entered machine shops and performed the various jobs of manufacturing and assembling machines, including tractors and other farm implements, and a number of alert, healthy young women have become successful tractor demonstrators and operators. A few years ago a woman tractor operator at a demonstration would be looked upon as merely an advertising novelty, and actual performance would not be expected of her, but today practically every tractor manufacturer in the country has regular women operators who can handle their machines as successfully as the men.

During the war, England purchased a large number of American-made tractors to speed up food production, and practically all of these machines were run by women, trained in schools held at different parts of the country for the purpose. The English woman proved as capable of running a tractor as she did in making munitions.

In California., where the eight track-laying type of tractor is largely used in orchard work, a number of machines are regularly operated by the younger members of the family, including the daughters, and so proficient have these young girls become that they often take complete charge of a given piece of field work while their dads are off attending to some other business. In the prune districts of the Santa Clara Valley are a number of families owning tractors, and it is as common to see a girl in overalls running the machine as boys. In some instances where women are not able to start the tractor motor, they can operate it successfully for several hours so as to release the man for urgent work, without suspending field operations entirely.

In the manufacturing plants of the Yuba and the Holt in California can be found a number of women employed in the various departments, and these concerns employ several expert women tractor operators and demonstrators, who will undertake a job of plowing or other field operation in competition with men at any time and place.

The trend of tractor manufacturers is toward greater simplicity of construction and ease of operation, and as these accomplishments are attained it makes it easier for women to use tractors to greater advantage. With self-starting engines, easily manipulated clutches and a responsive steering wheel, the average farm woman can take charge of a tractor outfit and perform as much work as a man. The average tractor of today is a bit too heavy to start and manage without some assistance from the stronger sex, but such rapid strides are being made in simplifying tractor operation that it is only a matter of a short time before they will be as, easy to operate as the automobile, and it is safe to say that as many autos are run by women as men on our farms today.