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This newsreel, one of the earliest Topical Budget films in the East Anglian Film archive, shows women haymaking in the fields at Warden’s Hall, Willingale, Essex during the First World War. The women landworkers use pitch forks to toss the mown grass and spread it to dry in the field.The grass was destined to become hay to feed the livestock. Haystacks for longer term storage can be seen in the background. The women are dressed for work with long aprons and bonnets.
With most able-bodied men away fighting on the Front, women took on their roles, many adapting well to agricultural work. This was an essential strategy, to keep the population of Britain well fed and to combat food shortages. Not all farmers welcomed women landworkers, but many women proved to be more than competent at the task. The new circumstances changed the traditional view of women’s role in society. It was seen that they could take their place in the workforce and complete hard labour efficiently. It was a scheme that would be mirrored during the Second World War .
During World War I, the Topical Film Company became the official newsreel production unit, providing news and morale-boosting propaganda to the population of Britain. After the war, the company was bought by Edward Hulton in February 1919 and in May of that year it became known as Topical Budget. By the 1920s, Topical Budget was reaching an estimated audience of 3,500,000 people a week.