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  • Writer's pictureJane Wheeler

Lumberjills - the Women of the Forest

You have heard of lumberjacks, well now you can learn about “lumberjills”. Yes, there really is such a thing!

I came across an article, probably somewhere very informative, like you know, Facebook. It grabbed my attention and I had to know more so I did some digging.

It turns out that in World War 1 while the men were off to war the women in the United Kingdom offered to help out in the country’s industry sector but it was met with much resistance. The men in charge of the industries felt that women could not do the work. In 1914 a group of Scottish medical women offered their services to the War Office. They were told to go home and keep quiet. (

July 1915 saw 30,000 women march through London, England demanding the right to work and serve their Country.

Eventually women were put into the work force, most of us have probably seen pictures of women working in the ammunition factories and it seemed an easier transition for these women who worked in the textile factories to be shifted over to munitions. By 1916 there were too few men to replace the working force left behind in the United Kingdom. Great Britian’s government had to get creative or have it’s economy collapse.

There were 3 areas that were set up to include women in the work force. Agriculture, Forage and Timber cutting. By 1917 lumber training camps were set up for the women to go to most of these were mainly based in South England, around 1,900 women were involved.

By 1919 men started returning from the war and by 1920 almost 2/3 of the women were no longer working.

Then came World War 2.

Women, about 15,000, became workers in the Women’s Timber Corps in the United Kingdom which started in 1939. The women, really mainly “girls” you had to be at least 17 but there are reports of girls as young as 14 working out in the bush. The women faced a lot of hostility and prejudice from a lot of men. The women did not just have to fight the bush, they had to fight to prove themselves.

The women had to prove they could do the work by carrying 14lb axes, carry logs, work in sawmills and drive timber trucks. Falling trees and the job they did was dangerous and many were injured, but the women did the work for 5 years. They were given overalls, boots and an axe and they helped Britian’s war effort and the fight against Nazi Germany.

The camps were disbanded in 1944 but it took the government of Britian until 2008 to thank these women for the imperative job they did for their country.

I was reading in the Bible about Leah. She has the distinct reputation as being known as the “unwanted” wife who was “unloved”. She is the 1st wife of Jacob, who was tricked into marrying her, he thought he was marrying her sister Rebecca, but their dad got in the way and meddled and schemed so that Jacob worked 7 years for Rebecca but got Leah. Her father explained it as, ‘we cannot let the younger daughter get married before the older one.’  Jacob then worked another 7 years for Rebecca, the one whom he wanted. Leah had to live with this pain in her heart of being the “unwanted and unloved” woman for the rest of her life, not fair and no fault of her own.

The women who wanted to serve their country and work in the war were put down, belittled and definitely unwanted at the beginning. These gals persevered and stood their ground, and then they got right to work, chopping the trees down and hauling the logs to the decking areas so that lumber could continue to flow in their countries. The lumber was used for construction, aircraft and gun manufacturing, ship building and in mining.

What was the outcome of being unwanted lumberjills? Well, the guys made fun of them, they doubted their abilities, and their own government waited until most of them were dead to even thank them for their service. However, the tenacity and spirit of these women kept the economy and the lumber flowing throughout 2 world wars, it was because of them that Great Britian was able to keep on going. The country would not have survived without them.

91 year old Christina Forrester one of the lumberjills, talks about this time: “you had to get used to being told what to do and when to do it although it wasn’t too regimented. Leisure time was Sunday and there was dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. The girls all walked four miles to and from the dances.”

Leah in the Bible suffered hugely in her heart, but it was Leah that God used mightily for His purposes. Leah gave birth to six of Jacob’s sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. God says in His Word that He noticed that Leah was “unloved, unwanted” and He opened her womb. Genesis 29:31 God noticed her pain.

Leah was the mother of the Levites – the priests of the Jewish Temple and she was the mother of Judah, through whom the Lion of Judah, Jesus, would ultimately come through. God seems to choose with favour the unloved, the forgotten ones. Are you hurting? Do you feel like no one cares? God sees you and He cares.

We do not need outside validation. We do not need someone else giving us our worth. We need to continue on, doing what we can do, and know that the only one we need to worry about is watching. God Himself is where we get our worth, God tells us clearly that He is with us, He cares for us, He is for us, and He will never leave us. God is the one who bestows favour and blessings upon us. God is the defender of the helpless, the hurting, the one who gets passed over. (Acts 4:11, James 4:10) All of us have felt this unwantedness at some point in our lives and Jesus Himself knew this feeling well.

God is the one who says, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

In this age where “loneliness” and a vague sense of “self worth” is often something we fight with, it is good to know that we are never alone, never unwanted and definitely never, ever unloved. God says so.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

With that power behind you, who knows what God will accomplish with your life, perhaps you too can help save your own country or even the world!

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