Jill of all Trades: The Yorkshire Shepherdess



Since her media debut on ITV series The Dales, The Yorkshire Shepherdess has documented her everyday life on a remote farm in two bestselling books. As my research focuses on the roles of women in farming in the UK, Amanda captured my imagination as a positive role model in the public eye. A few weeks ago, she was in conversation at Waterstones, York and here I reflect on how her story resonates with my research interests.

Motherhood


As a mother, wife, author and farmer, it remains to be seen whether there is anything that Amanda can't put her hand to. We can perhaps relate to the negotiation of multiple identities as part of a hectic lifestyle which demands different roles of us in different situations. But, traditionally women were limited to the domestic space as 'farmer's wives' due to the expectation of an inclination towards childcare and home-making.  With a growing brood of nine children, it is clear that Amanda doesn't let that get in the way of farming in her own right. She often describes carrying her newborn on her back whilst tending to sheep so refers to her self as a "jill of all trades". Motherhood is salient to her practice as a shepherdess as she describes an affinity to ewes with whom she shares a maternal instinct. Although this reproduces traditional notions of gender, it seems a way in which a coherent identity can be forged as a woman in a domain which is stereotypically masculine.


Rural Life


Despite not coming from a rural background herself, visions of the countryside inspired Amanda to pursue farming as a full time job. From an interest sparked by books such as James Herriot and images of hill shepherds, this visual culture has been translated into the 21st century as her photos on social media allow us to share her journey nurturing land and livestock. But, she is quick to challenge the romanticism of the rural idyll, as it is explained that highs are always accompanied by lows in the unpredictability of farming. It is clear that a connection to the farm becomes embodied from the temporality of practices, as she suggests "a place like Ravenseat [the farm] moulds you". So then, it is good to see the rural imagination made visible in popular culture to challenge the assumption that farming represents a 'backward' lifestyle or career unsuitable to women.


Femininity


The fact that Amanda says she "refuses to become a bloke", shows an awareness for the traditional notion that farming values masculine characteristics. 
As a result, she described actively acccentuating femininity to set herself apart from the expectation that farmers (or shepherds) are men. The construction of a feminine appearance is achieved by wearing a skirt under her overalls, bracelets and make-up during a working day. This highlights that gender can be negotiated in interaction for the desired presentation of the self. In this case, in aligning with conventional practices of femininity through dress, the current gender order is resisted. 

Have you read The Yorkshire Shepherdess books?
Would you agree that our identity is multiple and malleable?

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