People & Culture

 How the Farmerettes helped win the Second World War with Alison Lawrence

Episode 84

The actor, playwright and author discusses her upcoming play about the young women who kept Ontario’s farms running during the Second World War

  • Published Jun 04, 2024
  • Updated Jun 05
Farmerettes pitching grain in Shelburne, Ont. 1945. (Courtesy Museum of Dufferin)
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They can’t fight if they don’t eat.

That was the motto of the Farmerettes, the thousands of young women who took the place of male farmers and farmhands who had gone off to fight in the Second World War. While much has been written about the crucial role women played in factories during the war: building tanks, planes, munitions, and weapons of all kinds, etc., the story of Canadian farms, the breadbaskets of the war effort, remains largely untold.

In this episode of Explore, we’re going to rectify that by diving into the story of the Farmerettes, the mostly high school-aged women who kept Canadian farms running at a critical time.

Alison Lawrence’s newest play tells that story at the Fourth Line Theatre and Blyth Festival this summer. Onion Skins and Peach Fuzz is based on personal interviews with Farmerettes as well as letters, memoirs and oral histories. Her play is an intimate look at how that experience was not only transformative for the war effort but for these young women as well. 

Among the many hats she wears, Lawrence is currently a regular cast member on the Amazon Prime series The Lake and a familiar face on stages right across the country. She’s also the co-author of Bittergirl, the play that became a book, which became a musical, playing off-Broadway, across Canada and in the UK. She’s also a MacDowell Fellow and an alumna of the Banff Playwrights Lab.

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A gathering of original Farmerettes at the 4th Line Theatre in April 2023. (Photo Alison Lawrence)
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1943 Farmerette recruitment poster.
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