Today we celebrated Founders Day, and the 120th anniversary of the WI Movement!
On February 12th, 1897, Adelaide Hunter Hoodless was invited by Erland and Janet Lee to speak at the “Lady’s Night” of a Farmers Institutes meeting in Stoney Creek, Ontario. Adelaide challenged the women to form their own group, where they could meet regularly not just to socialize, but also to learn from and empower each other to improve their communities.
After hearing Adelaide’s words, Erland and Janet Lee were so inspired that they went home and drafted the first constitution of the Women’s Institutes on their dining room table. One week later, Adelaide was invited to return to Stoney Creek where she found 101 women in attendance of the inaugural meeting of the Women’s Institutes, with Adelaide as the honorary president.
This was on February 19, 1897; 120 years ago today. Stoney Creek was the first branch of the Women’s Institutes, but the movement soon grew. Since then, the movement has spread nationally and internationally. Today in Canada, there are 672 branches distributed throughout 10 provinces, with approximately 8,000 members.
Over the last 120 years, the WI movement has inspired & empowered women to make a difference. Members have worked hard to strengthen their communities through volunteerism, fundraising, and the lobbying of all levels of government. Many members boast lifelong friendships across our country, and indeed all over the world.
Women’s Institutes bring people together. What started as a group of 101 women meeting in Stoney Creek, has become a international movement of incredible and passionate women (and men) who make a difference in our world. We are honoured to celebrate what began 120 years ago, and continues to this day.
As of today’s count, about 45 women will attend the March 12 meeting. Number one on the agenda is choosing our name. Then we can finally move forward on paperwork that’s been stacking up. Things like bank accounts and web sites and tattoos* and stuff.
We also want to get a head start on our program for the year. We will brainstorm the charities or causes we will support, speakers, outings, festivities, and fundraising events.
We also want to discuss the roles of branch officers and committee chairs. Traditionally, branch responsibilities have been shared among the executive officers. You know, President and Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and so on. While most branches still choose to be organized this way, it is not mandatory. Branches who wish to share responsibilities among the members must designate someone as Contact person and another as Treasurer.
Once the branch is formed in April we will hold elections. Check out the following positions. Perhaps there is something here you’d like to try on for size.
The Leader of the branch. She runs the meetings and is hostess of the evening – greets the guests and speakers and new members. The President keeps tabs on projects, committees and sub groups that form, and basically oversees the branch. If there is enough interest in this position, the role of Vice President can be filled. This gal will fill in for the President when she is unable to attend meetings.
The Secretary prepares the agenda, takes minutes of the meetings and prepares and delivers the written minutes to the members. She passes along any news from the Federation of Women’s Institutes of Ontario (FWIO). She is the primary contact between the branch and the provincial and federal offices. If there is more than one person interested in this role? Yup, you guessed it. A Vice Secretary is elected.
Speaking of minutes: many of our membership are online. But there are few who are not, and it is important that we find a way to keep these gals in the loop. We will set up a buddy system to pair up those with internet with those without.
This gal is responsible for the finances of the branch. She collects dues, pays the speakers and other service providers, keeps the books and prepares them for audit and presentation at the annual meeting.
The Advocacy Coordinator is the spokesperson for the branch regarding resolutions. Some of the duties may include: preparing resolutions, acting on local issues and concerns, and working with the Provincial Advocacy Coordinator.
Women’s Institute Members have been instrumental in establishing new laws and amending existing ones. Our Members voice their concerns and initiate resolutions at the community, provincial, national and international levels.
Historically, FWIO has played a pivotal role in influencing many changes to provincial laws and practices, including:
Mandatory stopping for school buses with flashing lights
Installation of railway crossing signs
Painting of white lines on provincial highways
Implementation of easy-to-understand food labels
Enforcement of proper use of slow-moving vehicle signs
Clear markings on poison containers
Some of the duties in this position may include outreach to promote WI at colleges or universities, for example ; speaking engagements or letter writing to attract new members; mentoring new members who join.
This gal gets the word out. She writes our media releases to alert the press about our meetings, special events, and otherwise keeps our name in the spotlight. Social media and other writing projects like a blog or website are handled by this position.
Simply put, ROSE (Rural Ontario Sharing Education) is what Women’s Institutes have been doing for over 118 years – providing education to help build stronger families and vibrant communities. This unique province-wide initiative is driven by WI Members who often work with local community organizations and businesses to increase awareness, provide support and promote community action.
The ROSE Coordinator promotes education to the branch and community. As long as one person from the public who is not a WI member attends the event, it qualifies as a ROSE program. Some of the duties may include: developing educational programs and activities for the community and promoting and organizing ROSE Sessions. You can read more about ROSE on the FWIO Website.
This position will appeal to the historian and the record keeper. She compiles and coordinates Tweedsmuir History Books. Some of the duties may include: writing and editing material and planning and exhibiting the Tweedsmuir Books.
In the mid 1930s Lady Tweedsmuir, wife of the Governor General began encouraging Women’s Institute branches to preserve the history of their communities in response to what she saw as a rapidly changing and urbanizing landscape. By 1947, local branches across the province were compiling living “scrapbooks” which came to be known as Tweedsmuir Histories. In many ways, the members of the Women’s Institutes were the unofficial archivists of their communities. They acquired records, oral histories, photographs and much more for inclusion in their volumes, leaving us today with an outstanding resource on the history of rural Ontario. Click on the blue book cover right for a sample of a Tweedsmuir.
The roles listed above are the positions recommended and described on the FWIO website. We expect that we will also need the following positions filled:
Program Coordinator plans the content or topic for each meeting. This gal and her team will need to work hand-in-hand with the
Event Coordinator/Committee who plan special occasions like summer picnics or fundraising or Champagne Breakfast Celebrations (hint, hint). Both these committees will need to work closely with the
Volunteer Coordinator who will organize the helping hands for meetings or events for things like arranging for tea and cookies, organizing cleanup afterward, or finding someone with power tools and the skills to use them.
What do you think? Is there something here that suits you? Drop us a line if you have any more questions or suggestions.
Many of us are enjoying Christmas holidays with friends and families. I have the luxury of three weeks with no school work to complete! What a relief. I am aware of the irony, then, that my mission today is to nudge you toward taking part in a FWIC essay writing competition.
Here are some others that might strike your fancy:
The Senator Cairine Wilson Competition
Entries are invited for the Senator Cairine Wilson Competition for the 2012-2015 Triennium.
In 1957 by Senator Cairine Wilson established the award for the most outstanding project in Citizenship. The current topic is Canada through the Eyes of a New Canadian.
Tweedsmuir Competitions (2012-2015) In 1945, Lady Tweedsmuir, wife of Lord Tweedsmuir who was Governor General of Canada, donated three silver cups to the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada for competitions to be held each triennium. The trophies with awards winners’ names, are displayed at the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead.
Currently there are three categories
HANDICRAFT COMPETITION Project: Table Runner
CULTURAL COMPETITION Project: A Provincial Historical Photo Story of your province
HISTORY COMPETITION Project: An Essay detailing the history of “My Family Homestead”
For details about the competitions, click herefor the FWIC website, if you wish to bookmark the link.
So, if you have some time on your hands over the holiday, or sometime during the winter, grab a tea, a plate of cookies (or two) limber up your fingers and get ready, set, create!
In her newsletter to the Quebec WI’s, Sheila Needham wrote about a craft demonstration where Norma Sherrer tought the members how to knit a star dishcloth. Today I have the instructions for you. The image below is of Sheila’s Christmas coloured dishcloth.
STAR DISHCLOTH by Norma Sherrer
#7 Canadian or #4.5 Metric (or any size you wish)
I use 17 stitches, as this makes a bigger dishcloth.
Directions call for 15 sts. (Directions for 17 sts. in brackets)
Cast on 15 sts. ( 17 sts. ) Knit 1 row.
*K 1, YO, K 12 (14) – turn, slip 1. K to end
K 2, YO, K 10 (12) – turn, slip 1. K to end
K 3, YO, K 8 (10) – turn, slip 1. K to end
K 4, YO, K 6 ( 8 ) – turn, slip 1. K to end
K 5, YO, K 4 ( 6 ) – turn, slip 1. K to end
K 6, YO, K 2 ( 4 ) – turn, slip 1. K to end
*K 7, YO, K 2 – turn, slip 1. K to end
(the K 7 is only when you use 17 stitches)
21 stitches on needle ( 24 stitches on needle )
Bind off 6 stitches ( 7 sts. ) K to end. 15 stitches on needle (17sts. on needle )
Knit back *
Repeat from * to * 11 times for 12 points. Bind off loosely. Sew together.
Pull up centre stitches tightly.
The idea to form a national group was first considered in 1912. In 1914, however, when the war began the idea was abandoned. At the war’s end, Miss Mary MacIsaac, Superintendent of Alberta Women’s Institute, revived the idea. She realized the importance of organizing the rural women of Canada so they might speak as one voice for needed reforms, and the value of co-ordinating provincial groups for a more consistent organization. In February 1919, representatives of the provinces met in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to form the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada.