Now the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK, the WI currently has 212,000 members in around 6,600 WIs, with 25,635 new members joining last year alone.
The first Women’s Institute was formed in 1897 in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada. Inspired by a talk given by Adelaide Hoodless at a meeting of the Farmer’s Institute, local farmers Erland and Janet Lee were instrumental in setting up the new organisation that brought women from isolated communities together.
The UK WI movement was formed in 1915 to encourage women to help grow and preserve food to increase the supply during the First World War. The first UK WI at Llanfair PG, on Anglesey, North Wales was formed on 16 September under the auspices of the Agricultural Organisation Society (AOS). The AOS Secretary, John Nugent Harris, had appointed Canadian Madge Watt to set up WIs across the UK. The first WI in England was Singleton WI in Sussex (see www.thewi.org.uk/centenary/centenary-timeline#Origins).
The WI Centennial Fair is the peak of the WI’s 2015 centenary celebrations. Held at the Harrogate International Centre from 3–6 September, the fair offers a great day out for members and non-members alike, providing an unmissable opportunity to sample fabulous food and drink, take part in over 150 seminars and workshops and enjoy a unique shopping experience from nearly 300 exhibitors. Visitors to the fair can also be inspired by Dr Helen Pankhurst and Bill Oddie, pick up lifestyle tips from Carol Smillie, Dr Hilary Jones and Aggie MacKenzie and enjoy other celebratory performances.