In a spur of the moment decision last Monday morning, Gemma and I agreed to go to the Wandsworth WI meeting on Tuesday evening. My only previous experience of the WI comes in 3 forms; firstly my Grandma Joy was the treasurer at her local group, secondly the calendar girls film – there is actually a copy of the calendar that film is based on, at my Grandma/Grandad’s house and thirdly, I remember they saw this comedy singing pair once and they had written an incredibly catchy song starting called “The WI Calendar” – see here.
Anyway, jokes, birthday suits and making jam aside, the WI has an incredible 100 year history and is becoming more relevant for the younger generations – hence mine and GJ’s participation this week during which we made some gorgeous floral crowns (we’re going to be so fresh this festival season).
I did a very brief read online about the history of the WI, as I realised I didn’t actually know the history! In fact back in 1915 when the first WI was set up, it’s key aims was to revitalise rural communities and to encourage women to be more involved in producing food during WW1. Since then it has become the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK, and the aims and goals of it has completely changed; now with a focus on learning new skills and supporting key initiatives in the community. There are over 200,000 members of over 7,000 WI groups!
1/ The community grew rapidly during the first world war, by the end of 1919 there were 1,405 WIs across the UK.
2/ In 1924, Jerulsalem was sang for the first time at the AGM, a tradition that has continued to this very day.
3/ A resolution was passed at the 1931 AGM, to provide better medical supervision of pregnant women in rural areas.
4/ One of the resolutions at the 1943 AGM was a demand that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work.
5/ In 1954 the Queen Mother, who was a WI member attended that years AGM.
6/ 1969 saw the number of WIs across the country grow to 9,051.
7/ ‘The great jam debate’ took place in 1979, when the National Federation of the WI successfully campaigned for the law to be changed, allowing WI members to exempted from having to register their kitchen with the local authority before being allowed to see jam to the public.
8/ 10 years later. the WI magazine celebrated it’s 70th anniversary with extracts of earlier magazines entries.
9/ The year before I was born, the WI celebrated 75 years, with the Queen attending the AGM.
10/ In 2007 the original WI magazine Home&Country was replaced by WI Life
More recently, as mentioned above a lot more modern WI groups have opened across cities and the younger generation are embracing them with activities each month such as wine tasting, jewellery making, poker school and more! This month we made floral headdresses, with Helen Cranmer, a florist from London. Below are some photos from the session, where we threaded wire through some gorgeous flowers and leaves, wrapped them around a wire and created fresh flower head gear – which we subsequently wore on the train/tube home!
If you’re interested in joining, and not only making a difference in the community / society with such a huge network of people then visit the website right here – http://www.thewi.org.uk/