March 15, 2004

Roles in the hay (work).

Roles in the hay, rolls in the hay, women and rakes.

Making hay and making out, 17th cent. woodcut The purpose of this essay is primarily to explore aspects of gender related to hay, primarily the “role” that women have evidently played in its production, especially during the long pre-mechanized phase when hay was mowed, tossed, moved and stacked by hand and in the many regions where balers are still unaffordable.


Julien Dupre. Repos, after 1880. In most pictures of most times and places, women are associated with a single tool, the rake, used for moving drying grass along the ground or tossing hay just above it. Occasionally, perhaps increasingly, they are shown using forks, but generally the work of pitching the hay onto a wagon or stack is reserved for taller, stronger men. While women are sometimes shown using sickles in grain-harvest scenes, they are almost never associated with scythes. The image at right is one of several fine women haymakers by Julien Dupre, courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.






Haymaking & harvesting, from a French 15th cent. ms., Keble College, Oxford (ID 1623).
Haymaking and harvesting, from a French 15th cent. ms., Keble College, Oxford.




Statistics and generalities.

By early March, 2004, the database of hay images included 143 showing women helping make hay. Of these, 92 showed women using rakes, another 18 showed women using rakes and forks in the same scene, 15 showed women using forks, 3 showed women handling hay without tools, one woman using a sickle, and one highly stylized sculpture of a woman using a scythe. Another 13 images showed women transporting hay, in all but one case carrying it in bundles or bales. Before Dupre’s hay making scenes of the late 19th century, women are shown with rakes in about 50 images, and with forks in only four. Here are the exceptions:
Peter Paul Rubens. Return from the harvest (detail), 1635 (ID 54).
Robert Hills. Studies of haymakers, 1810 (ID 136).
Anonymous study of haymaking in the Pyrenees, 1834 (ID 148).
Winslow Homer. Girl with pitchfork, 1867 (ID 1182).
 Rubens. Return from the harvest (detail), 1635. Hills.  Studies of haymakers, 1810. Anonymous study of haymaking in the Pyrenees, 1834.Homer. Girl with pitchfork, 1867.

Since the nineteenth century sketches are evidently spontaneous illustrations of real life, we cannot infer conclusively an invariable division of labor between men who used forks and women who used rakes; but we can more confidently assert that, from medieval illuminations to the late 19th century, most hay artists chose to emphasize that division.

Harvest time in Romania, 1920s photog.Barry Lewis. Gathering hay, Romania, 1995 photog.About a third of the women and hay images are photographs, roughly corresponding to the ratio of these images to non-photographs in the whole database. The photographs imply a shift in women’s roles from rakers to forkers, from a ratio of about 10 to 1 in the non-photographic images to less than 3 to 1 in the photographs. At left, the jolly haymaking scene in Romania soon after the first World War shows a group of men and women in ethnic costume, laughing as they rest on a pile of hay. The group and its long-handled implements are as carefully posed as those in Stubbs' hay paintings: men at either end are adjusting or sharpening their scythes; in the center an older man also holds a scythe; a young woman and a girl hold wooden rakes; and an older woman holds a more modern four-tined metal fork. At right, another Romanian hay scene, 80 years later shows two women, one with a rake and the other with a fork, in similarly formal poses.

A more obvious shift in the content of the photographic imagery is noticeable. Only one painting of a woman transporting hay was found, a work by Julien Dupre of a girl carrying a bundle of hay along a lane in front of a herd of cows. But there are twelve photographs on this theme in the database. Photographers tend to focus on women with huge hay-bundles, unless, like Lehman, they find interesting tension between the traditional (a Purepecha woman in regional dress) and modern (her alfalfa bale and the hay-truck in the background). James Ravilious is more straightforward in his documentation of work on a Devon, England farm in the 1970s, when a woman and children bring in the bales with a tractor.

Julien Dupre. Returning from the fields, 1895 (ID 621) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Ted Spiegel. French woman carrying hay, 1969 photog. (ID 1648).
Dupre. Returning from the fields, 1895 . Spiegel. French woman carrying hay, 1969 photog.

Danny Lehman. Purepecha woman carrying alfalfa bale, 1995 photog. (ID 1853).
James Ravilious. Woman driving a tractor on a farm, 1976 photog. (ID 1667).
Lehman. Purepecha woman carrying alfalfa bale, 1995 photog. Ravilious. Woman driving a tractor on a farm, 1976 photog.




Women rakers in frescos, miniatures and other manuscripts.

Women appear occasionly in late medieval haying scenes, most famously in the June page of the book of hours of the Duc de Berry, but also, below, in: an Italian fresco; in an early sixteenth century calendar leaf by Simon Bening from the British Library; and in a Jorg Breu round painting, from the National Gallery of Art, which has six women holding rakes and at least two of them flirting with, well, "rakish" looking fellows!

Limbourg Brothers. Book of Hours. June (detail), 1440 (ID 9).
Fresco, Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, c 1400 (ID 1595).
Simon Bening. Haymaking, c 1510 (ID 23).
Jorg Breu I. Hay harvest (June), 1521 (ID 29).
Limbourg Brothers. Book of Hours. June (detail), 1440Fresco, Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, c 1400.Simon Bening. Haymaking, c 1510.Jorg Breu I. Hay harvest (June), 1521.




Women raking in Bruegel’s Haymaking.

Bruegel's wonderful panorama of haymaking in a multi-levelled, multi-layered landscape works as a unified composition but can also be read as a series of vignettes, three of which, each containing a woman raker in a field of haycocks, are shown below.
Pieter Bruegel. Details from Haymaking, 1565 (ID 2014, 2015, 2016).
Bruegel.  Haymaking (detail), 1565. Bruegel.  Haymaking (detail), 1565. Bruegel.  Haymaking (detail), 1565.

Trios by Bruegel and Rubens: six rakes and two forks.

In Bruegel’s painting three women are all carrying rakes; in the 1635 Rubens, one of them carries a fork. The detail of Rubens' Landschaft mit den Regenbogen (Landscape with the rainbow) shows a man, obviously flirting, pushing himself and a fork between two women; another woman on the golden stack at the foot of the rainbow is working with a rake.

Pieter Bruegel. Haymaking (detail), 1565 (ID 2013).
Peter Paul Rubens. Return from the harvest, 1635 (ID 54).
Rubens, Landschaft mit den Regenbogen (detail), 1637 (ID 55).
Bruegel.  Haymaking (detail), 1565. Rubens. Return from the harvest, 1635 (ID 54).Rubens. Landschaft mit den Regenbogen (detail), 1637.




Three Stubbs poses of women with rakes: changing the angle of the pose.

In the 1785 Hay Carting (ID 76), the rakes and forks are tools not just to move the hay but to stabilize and formalize the main pictorial elements into a serene triangle. The 1794 delicate ceramic painting (ID 77) retains the central woman's original pose, but changes the activities behind her to scything and tedding. In the 1795 version (ID 78), the woman, no longer facing the observer, is vigorously using her rake on a pile of sunlit hay; but her companions retain the poses and positions of the earlier work.

George Stubbs. Hay carting, 1785 (ID 76).
George Stubbs. Hay carting, 1794 (ID 77).
George Stubbs. Hay carting, 1795 (ID 78).
Stubbs. Haymaking, 1785.Stubbs. Haymaking, 1794. Stubbs. Haymaking, 1795.




Nineteenth century women with rakes: realism to impressionism.

All the elements of the early nineteenth century haymaking genre are in the Wilson painting, at left below: men on top of a loaded wagon up to its axles in hay; horses posed at various angles; children sitting on the hay with their mother; a wealthy looking rider and a dog; well dressed women watching, and equally well-dressed women raking. The far simpler Venetsianov peasant portrait shows a woman carrying two tools, the familiar rake in front and the exceptional scythe behind. Hicks' subject is an action portrait of a different class of female haymaker, wearing a pink, ruffled bonnet. She is so close to the observer that, for the rake, only the handle is visible. Under the shadow of her bonnet she is pink-faced but serenely smiling.

John James Wilson. Haymaking, 19th cent., (ID 419).
Alexei Venetsianov. Peasant woman with scythe and rake, c 1825 (ID 778).
George Elgar Hicks. Haymaker raking, 1863 (ID 386).
Wilson. Haymaking, 19th cent. Venetsianov. Peasant woman with scythe and rake, c 1825.Hicks. Haymaker raking, 1863.

Cameron's portrait of two women carrying rakes "to the hay" is even further from the realism of rural work. Like the two impressionist works by Dessar, one of several Americans who settled in Giverny in the 1880s and 1890s, they celebrate female beauty in a romanticized rural world. Homer's 1878 watercolor is realistic in theme and impressionistic in treatment. Although the quick strokes enhance the summery effect, they are also precise enough to depict clearly the the curved frame on the rake handle. The first Dessar shows 'haystacks' (more likely 'stooks' – or French 'desmoiselles') in a grain-field. Nevertheless, we include it here for the foreground figure of a woman with a rake on her shoulder. The second painting also has a woman with a rake, here seated in the shade with her tool on the ground. She is half-turned away from the observer towards some authentic haycocks to the right.

Hugh Cameron. Going to the hay, 1858 (ID 1185).
Winslow Homer. Girl with hay rake, 1878 (ID 311).
Louis Paul Dessar. Peasant woman and haystacks, Giverny, 1892 (ID 348).
Louis Paul Dessar. Summer sunlight, 1894 (ID 349).
Cameron. Going to the hay, 1858.Homer. Girl with hay rake, 1878.Dessar. Peasant woman and haystacks, Giverny, 1892. Dessar. Summer sunlight, 1894.




French nineteenth century women rakers.

In the Millet on the left below, a woman is raking hay towards two men who are busily gathering bundles (bottles), precursors of our machine-made bales. In the background, piled to the top edge of the frame are large stacks of loose hay. Van Gogh's version is a similar pose in a simpler composition. Julien Dupre's young woman raker is far more forceful than the others in this row as she moves the hay to the male botteleurs. Notice that the shape of the rake’s handle resembles a fork, an ambiguity which confuses our division of labor and the identification of several of the tools thrust deep into the hay by the hands of Dupre’s powerful heroines.

Jean-Francois Millet. Les Botteleurs du foin, 1850 (ID 457).
Vincent Van Gogh. Woman with rake, after Millet, 1889 (ID 759).
Julien Dupre. Foins, after 1880 (ID 632) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
 Millet. Les Botteleurs du foin, 1850.Van Gogh. Woman with rake, after Millet, 1889.  Dupre. Foins, after 1880.




Dupre’s heroic women and their rakes.

Dupre’s subjects are unusual in several respects. More than those of any other hay artist so far discovered his paintings shows women vigorously heaving hay off the ground, with both forks and rakes. Some of these paintings are vaguely titled with the generic "moisson" and one erroneous "wheatfield," but all are obviously meant to depict glamorously beautiful women in colorful clothes tossing hay with masculine energy. Seen in a row, they can be read almost as frames in documentary movie.

Julien Dupre. Haying, after 1880 (ID 628) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Temps de moisson, after 1880 (ID 629) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Moisson, after 1880 (ID 623) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Faneuse, after 1880 (ID 625) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Wheatfield, 1893 (ID 620) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Dupre. Haying, after 1880. Dupre. Temps de moisson, after 1880. Moisson, after 1880. Dupre. Faneuse, after 1880.Dupre. Wheatfield, 1893.

Julien Dupre. Fenaison, after 1880 (ID 630) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Harvesters loading the cart, after 1880 (ID 631) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Recolte des foins, 1881 (ID 615) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Dupre. Fenaison, after 1880.  Dupre. Harvesters loading the cart, after 1880.Dupre. Recolte des foins, 1881.

Dupre’s women at rest with rakes.

Moments of tranquility are rare in the Dupre hay paintings. And even when his women rest, their rakes are not far away.

Julien Dupre. Moment's rest, after 1880 (ID 626) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Repos dans les champs, 1887 (ID 619) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Dejeuner des faneuses, after 1880 (ID 624) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Dupre. Moment's rest, after 1880.  Dupre. Repos dans les champs, 1887.  Dupre. Dejeuner des faneuses, after 1880.




Gauguin's faneuses.

The following trio of French haymaking scenes, also painted in the 1880s, and also dominated by women, could not be more distant, culturally and stylistically from the Dupre series. Gauguin is concerned less with the work and tools of haying and the gender of the haymakers than with the decorative contrast between the black-and-white Breton costumes of the women and the golden fields and stacks which frame them.

Paul Gauguin. Haymakers, 1889 (ID 607).
Paul Gauguin. Haymaking in Britanny, 1889 (ID 608).
Paul Gauguin. Meules jaunes, 1889 (ID 610).

Gauguin. Haymakers, 1889. Gauguin. Haymaking in Britanny, 1889. Gauguin. Meules jaunes, 1889 .


Pissarro's faneuses: thirty years of women haymakers.

Like that of his American contemporary, Martin Johnson Heade, Camille Pissarro's crop of hay images (56) is large enough to deserve a separate essay. But over one-third of this collection (21) depicts women making, carrying or stacking hay. Chronologically (1874 to 1901) and stylistically (realism to post-impressionism) Pissarro's haymaking overlaps that of Dupre and Gauguin. His technical versatility is mirrored by the range of the activities of his subjects. So a representative Pissarro gallery of faneuses must be included here.

Camille Pissarro. Femme ratissant du foin (Woman raking hay), 1874 lithograph (ID 486).
Camille Pissarro. Femmes portant du foin, 1874 lithograph (ID 487).
Camille Pissarro. Harvest at Montfoucault, 1876 (ID 489).
Pissarro.  Femme ratissant du foin (Woman raking hay), 1874. Pissarro. Femmes portant du foin, 1874. Pissarro. Harvest at Montfoucault, 1876.

Camille Pissarro. Tedder, 1884 (ID 503).
Camille Pissarro. Tedders, 1884 watercolor (ID 504).
Camille Pissarro. Haymakers at Eragny, 1889 (ID 507).
Camille Pissarro. Paysanne a la fourche, 1889 (ID 508).
Pissarro.  Tedder, 1884. Pissarro. Tedders, 1884. Pissarro. Haymakers at Eragny, 1889.Pissarro. Paysanne a la fourche, 1889.

Camille Pissarro. Faneuses, 1890 etching (ID 510).
Camille Pissarro. Three women resting, 1890 watercolor (ID 511).
Camille Pissarro. Haymakers, evening, Eragny, 1890 (ID 512).
Pissarro. Faneuses, 1890. Pissarro. Three women resting, 1890. Pissarro. Haymakers, evening, Eragny, 1890.

Camille Pissarro. Haymaking, 1895 gouache (ID 518).
Camille Pissarro. Faneuses d'Eragny, 1896 lithograph (ID 522).
Camille Pissarro. Faneuses d'Eragny, 1897 etching (ID 523).
Pissarro. Haymaking, 1895. Pissarro. Faneuses d'Eragny, 1896. Faneuses d'Eragny, 1897.

Camille Pissarro. Hay harvest at Eragny, 1901 (ID 529).
Camille Pissarro. Peasant with a pitchfork, 1901 (ID 530).
Camille Pissarro. Haymaking in Eragny, 1901 (ID 531).
Pissarro. Hay harvest at Eragny, 1901. Pissarro. Peasant with a pitchfork, 1901. Pissarro. Haymaking in Eragny, 1901.




Russian roles and Soviet styles: realism and modernism.

The first pair of images typify the social realism (or determined optimism) of postwar Soviet recovery. Sunnily impressionist in their dappled light effects, they exploit what M. C. Bown terms "metaphors of renewal." Plastov's painting won the Stalin Prize in 1946 by showing the effects of war (only boys, women and old men survive to work in the fields) while implying a golden future. However the actual work is not clearly documented: the tools seem to be rakes, but the flowery field has yet to be mowed. Milnikov's title is more overtly allegorical, but his women carrying rakes to or from the hayfield echo a theme we have noted above in Bruegel, Rubens, Winslow Homer and others. As in Plastov's work, the absence of young men reflects the devastation of war, while the bright style encourages the survivors to move forward to blissful peace and prosperity.

Arkadi Plastov. Haymaking, 1945 (ID 960).
Andrei Milnikov. In peaceful fields, 1950 (ID 974).
Plastov. Haymaking, 1945. Milnikov. In peaceful fields, 1950.

The following group of women haymaking images reflects some of the complexity and contradictions of Soviet painting. Basmanov's expressionist trio from the eve of the World War II represents three archetypal activities of women in the hayfields: raker, water-carrier, and forker, while at left behind them are equally simplified shapes suggesting haycocks. Thirty years later, the Latvian Ozols has a more realistic portrait of a woman haymaker reminiscent of the nineteenth century Venetsianov, but with a busy, equally documentary background of haycocks and other workers. Finally, the late Soviet Tatarnikov depicts a voluptuous woman with a rake standing incongruously in an uncut field too golden to be potential hay. The lively clouds and flowing grass recall the style of such American regionalists as Thomas Hart Benton.

Pavel Basmanov. On the hay making, 1939 (ID 946).
Vilis Ozols. Haymaking, 1970 (ID 989).
Oleg Tatarnikov. Haymaking time, 1985 (ID 1005).
Basmanov.  On the hay making, 1939. Ozols.  Haymaking, 1970. Tatarnikov. Haymaking time, 1985.





Photographs of women with rakes: from static pose to action shot.

The shapes of women and their rakes in the works of most hay artists seem like tranquil triangles, even before pioneer photographers had to pose men and women statically with their implements to avoid the blur of movement. More recently, twentieth century cameras allowed action shots of women working energetically, with rakes or forks. Below, an intriguing, anonymous image, entitled "Pitching hay on holiday" is focused on women happily using pitchforks on their vacation, even before the war when many of their gender would be for more urgent reasons keeping farms productive. To the left of this are two illustrations of blur, the first presumably unintentional -- Sydney Newton's formal pose of Edwardian haymakers, in which the youngest of the four figures standing still for the slow film fidgets itself into blurred gender -- and the second by the famous Irish dramatist Synge perhaps to emphasize the action. To the right, Ted Spiegel's fine quintet of rakes, held by a woman and four children radiate like solar rays, from the pile of hay they're tedding. The latter's energetic action, bright color and opportunistic composition would have been impossible in the earlier days of documentary photography.

Sydney Newton. Agricultural workers, Northants, England, 1904 photog. (ID 1345).
John Millington Synge. Haymaking at Castle Kevin, Co Wicklow, c 1900 (ID 1328).
[unknown photographer] Pitching hay on holiday, 1937 (ID 1415).
Ted Spiegel. Raking hay into piles, Iceland, 1968 photog. (ID 1641).
Sydney Newton. Agricultural workers, Northants, England, 1904 photog.Synge. Haymaking at Castle Kevin, Co Wicklow, c 1900.  Pitching hay on holiday, 1937. Ted Spiegel. Raking hay into piles, Iceland, 1968 photog.




The effect of war on women's work in the hay.

Cheerful propaganda showing how well women perform manual or technical tasks when men are away at war included images intended to boost morale on the home-front. So-called “landgirls” or "farmerettes" (rural Rosie-the-riveters) did whatever it takes, not just raking, to harvest the hay in the absence of enough males, either during wars which took the men away for years or in their aftermath (literally "after mowing") which took them away for ever. The Landgirls in the first picture are obviously intended to serve as pinups more than peasants, their bikinis hardly practical in the prickly hay. The young girls in the center, evacuees from the city, seem oblivious to the battles in which Britain was engaged in 1941. The Bavarian women make hay in the traditional style near the end of the war, against signs of modernity which promise reconstruction and renewal. The first of the following "aftermath" trio of images shows a German hayfield from the 1920s full of heavily dressed women filling in for the men lost in the Great War. In the second, a woman bundles a hay-like material in a Japanese farmyard. The third, a postwar image from Hanover is notable both for the unusual mix of draft-animals -- both oxen and horses are harnessed to the hay wagons -- and for the number of women at work. Of the thirteen figures, at least eleven are female, a stark reflection of the shortage of male labor in the postwar period. Compare these relatively matter-of-fact documentary photographs with the Soviet paintings, earlier in this essay, on similar themes.

Landgirls haymaking, England, 1940s (ID 1911).
Girls pull cart of hay and goat, England, 1941 (ID 1427).
Haystacks in Bavaria, 1945 (ID 1445).
Landgirls haymaking, England, 1940s photog. Girls pull cart of hay and goat, England, 1941 photog. Haystacks in Bavaria, 1945 photog.

Farmerettes harvesting hay, Germany, 1929 (ID 1389)
Horace Bristol. Farm woman bundling hay, Japan, c 1945 (ID 1446).
Hay loads, Germany, 1947 (ID 1451).
Farmerettes harvesting hay, Germany, 1929 photog. Horace Bristol. Farm woman bundling hay, Japan, c 1945 photog. Hay loads, Germany, 1947 photog.




Men's forks and women's rakes survive.

In each of the following quartet of images from four different decades and four different countries, the work relationship is similar: men lift hay on their forks, and women rake hay along the ground. The Italian image, from about 1910, is particularly striking -- the pitched hay, posed against the sky like palm-trees, is balanced on forks which have to be held vertically to obey the tardy shutterspeed. The others, while more dynamic in their activity, illustrate the durability of custom both in the style of hay and the division of labor.

[unknown photographer] Farmers stacking hay, Italy, c 1910 (ID 1361).
[unknown photographer] Verge side hay, England, 1957 (ID 1588).
David Houser. Farmers harvest hay, Finland, c 1988 (ID 1721).
Raymond Gehman. Farmer and wife raking hay, Poland 1993 (ID 1819).
Farmers stacking hay, Italy, c 1910. Verge side hay, England, 1957. David Houser. Farmers harvest hay, Finland, c 1988. Raymond Gehman. Farmer and wife raking hay, Poland, 1993

Kevin Fleming. Amish woman raking hay, 1975 (ID 1659).
The concluding image of our essay confirms the triumph of tradition, even with a shift in technology. One of the most culturally conservative ethnic groups in North America, the Amish, is well-known for its dependence on literal horse-power. The horse-drawn rake, invented in the nineteenth century to make the creation and tedding of windrows more efficient, was designed with easy-to-shift levers and gears which allowed women to continue their conventional role in the hay, even while sitting down on the job.

Fleming.  Amish woman raking hay, 1975.




A companion essay, Roles in the hay (play), shows women in various sexual romps (with another kind of rake!) and in glamorous poses, presumably appealing because of our time-honored association of hay with soft intimacy.


Posted by Alan Ritch at March 15, 2004 05:48 PM