Who were the Lumberjills?
The outbreak of the Second World War created a sudden need for millions of tonnes of timber, for railways, mining, aircraft and even for charcoal gas mask filters.
As men were being conscripted, The Women’s Timber Corps was established in 1942 to provide a workforce.
Known as The Lumberjills, these young women aged between 17 and 24 left their homes (often for the very first time) to take up axes and saws. The women rose to the challenge of the hard physical labour– working in difficult physical conditions and showing strength, skill and stamina. Doing what was thought to be ‘a man’s job’, these pioneering women brought gender stereotypes crashing down.
Often facing prejudice from local communities and the men that worked alongside, the women lived on very little money, were always on the move and had to find accommodation at each new place of work.
Despite the tough working conditions, many of the women forged friendships and respect while doing their bit for the war effort. Their incredible contribution paved the way for women in forestry.
The Lumberjills' legacy
The commitment and dedication of the women made a real difference to the war effort.
During their time up to 18,000 women became skilled in forestry and had earned the respect they deserved, paving the way for women to undertake forestry roles in the future.
In 2023 45% of the workforce at Forestry England are female, but some sectors are still under represented. Remembering the perseverance, bravery and community of The Lumberjills can inspire us to continue to work for change.