100 Years of the WI

April 23rd 2015
By: Jon
100 Years of the WI

The Women’s Institute was founded in 1897 in Canada, by Adelaide Hoodless – a farmer’s wife who wanted women to support each other in their daily lives.  The first British WI was established in 1915 in Anglesey. 
It’s the largest women’s organisation in the UK and has over 215,000 members.  Because it is open to all women – it is non sectarian and non party political and is therefore able to influence all kinds of affairs by campaigning for anything that affects women.
Whilst the general impression of the WI might be all ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ based on their affinity with cakes and the hymn sung at the end of all meetings, there’s more to life as a member of the WI.  In 2003 the Calendar Girls film shot to fame following the story of one branch of the WI who were focussed on raising money for a sofa for the visitors lounge of the hospital where one of the member’s husband was being treated for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  The film raised the profile of the WI and the amazing fundraising work that many of the members take part in.
As their membership welcome pack says “The WI gives women the opportunity to improve the quality of their lives, to learn new skills, to take part in social activities, to have fun and to make new friends.  Although no longer confined to countrywomen, these aims are still important in the 21st Century.”
The Centennial Fair will be held between the 3rd and  6th of September, at the Harrogate International Centre and is the pinnacle of their year of celebrations.  Advertised as ‘a live event of ‘everything WI’ and will welcome WI members and non-members alike’.  So if you would like to find out more, visit the website
WI Life, the monthly national magazine has interviews with members, finds out about the latest campaigns and of course has recipes and craft activities.  The WI has kept up with the times and uses social media to enhance its profile.  Reading the magazine and talking to members shows that this traditional organisation is able to play a very large part in our society – tackling subjects that are close to the heart of today’s women, raising the profile for those that are often overlooked.
There are an amazing 212,000 members in around 6,600 WIs – to find out more about one near you, have a look at the website