Sunday 8th March 2020 is International Womens Day!
And why is that worth noting on a website for allotments?
Perhaps because allotments have been a mainly male preserve until recently but we women are now waking up to what we’re missing and doing a positive ‘Me Too’ out there on the sites.
In the past, there were well-known women in gardening such as Gertrude Jekyll, who died in 1932 after creating 400 gardens and influencing garden design to this day, and there’s many more more examples of women who were and are garden experts. Fewer women seem to be prominent in growing fruit and vegetables, but people who watch TV gardening programmes will know of Carol Klein, Alys Fowler (who lives in Birmingham) and Christine Walkden who are all regular presenters and are acknowledged leaders in the field. And do you remember last year on Gardeners World, Frances Tophill showed how to take on an abandoned plot at an allotment site (hers was in Kent) and grow a first year’s harvest?
At Ward End Gardeners Association sites, we are seeing growing numbers of women interested in growing their own. They now represent 23% of the total number of plotholders. WEGA has had a few outstanding growers in the past – Betty Conway was one, and one of my Nechells neighbours, Maureen Wallace, was the person who first inspired me to think about having an allotment. Before she and Stan Wallace retired from their Northleigh Road plot a few years ago, she was the tops in hanging baskets for Nechells in Bloom displays as well as looking after their plot and winning a few WEGA trophies along the way. I think these were the exceptions. I was told that at one site (naming no names), the wives only came as far as the gate – the allotments and the sheds were off-limits for women.
All that is changing now and we’re signing up for lots of reasons. Concerns about health and the use of chemicals on shop-bought food are a factor for some of us, but the common factor is a love of good fresh food and the enjoyment and sense of achievement in growing it!
So here’s a toast to our women members – new and old: a few of us are featured here: Karen, Shelia, Joanne, Chiko, Bahar and Tahra – and me, Hester.