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Countrywomen, The (1942)


Main image of Countrywomen, The (1942)
35mm, black and white, 14 mins
DirectorJohn Page
Production CompaniesPaul Rotha Productions
 Seven League Productions
SponsorMinistry of Information
PhotographyJohn Page

The history of the Women's Institutes and their aims and methods of working, together with an account of how they can promote projects of local and national importance.

Show full synopsis

"What am I going to do with myself here?" wonders evacuee Mrs Urban on arrival at Mrs Rural's country cottage. "Give me town life anytime!"

The Countrywomen documents the often overlooked contribution of the Women's Institute to the war effort. As well as helping with food supplies, the Institute played a crucial role in the evacuation of children and women from towns and cities to rural areas. Evacuation happened on a massive scale, official reports estimating that it affected the lives of around six million people across the country. It often meant a first introduction to rural lifestyles for city folk and, conversely, adjusting to an influx of city attitudes on the part of country dwellers.

The unprecedented coming together of different communities in a situation of national crisis brought cultural differences to the fore and this is played out in the film in the discussions between Mrs Rural and Mrs Urban. As the film progresses, its propagandist aims become less disguised and Mrs Urban's role is mainly of an audience to the countrywoman's talk on the activities of the Women's Institute, past and present.

Augmenting communal allotment produce, jam-making en masse, and not forgetting to provide all-important entertainment in the form of the village hall production of A Christmas Carol, World War II brought the skills and achievements of the Women's Institute to the national stage. Mrs Rural's closing words encapsulate the spirit of a people unified in a national common goal: to win the war. "The idea of working and enjoying things together… we're much stronger as a group than one person working for himself."

Katy McGahan

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Land of Promise: The British Documentary Movement 1930-1950'.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Town vs country (2:51)
2. The village hall (3:06)
3. The Women's Institute (2:11)
Complete film (13:20)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Summer on the Farm (1943)
They Also Serve (1940)