Sunday, 15 April 2012
Countdown to our first meeting
Five days til our first WI meeting...and five things you didn't know about the WI.
1. The WI is an educational charity.
The Women’s Institute (WI) was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and to 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 celebrate its centenary in 2015 and currently has over 210,000 members in around 6,600 WIs.
The WI plays a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities.
2. The WI kicks buttock when it comes to campaigning.
The first WI campaign was in 1926 for improved school dinners. Since then the campaigns have been many and varied including equal pay for women, free breast screening for every woman, HIV and AIDS awareness, the plight of the bumble bee, saving libraries and inappropriate imprisonment of the mentally ill among many other campaigns.
3. The WI has its own college - Denman College in Oxfordshire.
WI members can sign up for courses from Maki sushi Japanese home cookery, via weaving your own willow coffin and crochet for beginners to Pilates and Photoshop.
4. The stereotype isn't quite right.
There are WI branches who specialise in flower arranging and jam making (not that there is anything wrong with either of those activities). But equally there are WI groups who get their knickers off (see calendar girls for more info) and who make giant fanjo patchworks.
In the early days the WI chose Jerusalem as 'their' song because of its association with women's suffrage. In 1916 Sir Hubert Parry composed the hymn for a meeting of suffragettes for the Fight for the Right movement. Many WI groups sing Jerusalem at their monthly meetings and at the national AGM the WI fills the Albert Hall with a giant group singalong.