“The Women’s Institute (WI) was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. Since then the organisation’s aims have broadened and the WI is now the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK.”
The WI will be celebrating it’s centenary year this year, so I thought it was a good time to give you an insight into the wonderful world of the WI.
The first WI meeting took place on 16 September 1915 at Llanfairpwll, Anglesey in Wales and it is amazing to see how far it has developed since then. With over 212,000 members in around 6,600 WIs, these ladies really are a force to be reckoned with. They are always embarking on new campaigns; from talking about organ donation to demanding more midwives in our hospitals and these women will not rest until something is done. I personally think they would make a great job of running this country!
My grandmother, Mary, has written a short article about her experiences with the WI so I thought I would treat you all to a few snippets.
“I first joined the Women’s Institute in 1968, at Southwick in Northamptonshire. During my time there I was Treasurer, Secretary and President, in turn. I had very good training in WI matters from my mother’s friend Pearl, who was steeped in WI.”
“I had a break of seven years when I worked full time, but I kept in close touch with the local WI branches”.
My grandmother and grandfather then moved to the Isle of Man, in 1998, where she then joined the Sulby WI. How she found out about it was pure fate! Her first encounter with the Isle of Man Federation was at the Isle of Man Airport. My grandmother and grandfather were sat in the departure lounge, waiting to board their flight to Luton and there was a large group of women, also waiting. One of them approached my grandparents, saying “You look as if you belong to the WI”. How spooky indeed! My grandmother says she never did find out how she knew! It was then my grandfather who found out about Sulby WI from the village shop and that’s where it started. From then on, my grandmother has been a member, a member of the committee and President. “I had to be careful to maintain some valuable traditions, which were important to each individual WI.” my grandmother says. Since being a member, my grandmother has had some wonderful experiences, “visits to Denman College have been of particular interest”. Denman College was founded by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes in 1948 and offers day schools and residential courses in cookery, craft and lifestyle. My grandmother was also lucky enough to attend an AGM at The Royal Albert Hall. “What an amazing experience” she says. Another wonderful experience was being invited along to a private visit of The Royal Chelsea Hospital. My grandmother and her friend, being retired nurses, were then shown round the infirmary where ill pensioners are cared for.
“On Tuesday 19th August 2014, several members of the Glamorgan Board of Trustees travelled to Llangynidr to receive the WI Centenary Baton from Powys Brecnock Federation”. The baton then travelled around the UK and the Isle of Man, where my grandmother managed to hold the baton which is a wonderful achievement and a privilege.
I always love hearing my grandmother’s stories about the WI and although when I was younger I did think it didn’t sound that exciting, I do believe that the time will come that I will join one, later on down the line. The WI has some wonderful values that any lady can aspire to achieve. There is a great sense of community and long may it continue!
Are you a member of a WI? If so where and what are you highlights, as a member?