Judging by the apparel this could well have been during World War I when women had no choice but to work at the men’s occupations.
If the lady was not working because of war-time constraints, then it was often likely economic necessity. The photo is probably during Edwardian times up to say, 1920-ish.
So, what’s going on? Haymaking, straw harvesting or land clearing? A close look suggests the material is too coarse for hay. The picture also has a look of land clearing. In any event, it was ‘all hands to’ when the hay or straw was ready to come in and ‘all hands to’ for land clearing – the place had to pay as soon as possible or foreclosure followed.
From here the wagon would have been hauled to the stack area and again forked off the wagon to quite some height, if there was enough material, to create what was most often a masterpiece of organic engineering. The alternative was that the farmer could hire a contractor who would, as today, bring his machinery to the farm.
Using the traction engine which hauled the machinery, the primitive (by today’s standards) baling machine could create small bales. In the earlier times these bales would be hand-tied and stacked in a hayrick. Haystacks were loose hay built up using an age-old technique to bind the material to stabilise the stack.
All of that would usually be men’s work but look again at this photo. This lady is doing the job! That is no small load on her pitchfork, so she could very well have done a great deal more of the day’s work without any men at all!
– Photograph copyright Hamilton City Libraries