Women’s In­sti­tute: a Spring­dale tra­di­tion of con­fi­dence-courage-unity

Nor'wester (Springdale) - - FRONT PAGE -

Nov. 6, 1937 at 4:30 p.m., a meet­ing was held for the pur­pose of or­ga­niz­ing the Ju­bilee Guild in Spring­dale.

Miss Mar­garet Tomp­kins, a field worker from Ju­bilee Guild Head­quar­ters in St. John’s, was present to as­sist the 25 mem­bers present.

A card­ing ma­chine was voted to be the first in­vest­ment. Sev­eral lo­cal men were asked to meet for the pur­pose of con­struct­ing a weav­ing loom, and 12 or­ders were sent for glove­mak­ing ma­te­rial. It was then de­cided to plan a mem­ber­ship drive.

The Ju­bilee Guild was formed in Spring­dale, just two years af­ter the launch of the or­ga­ni­za­tion in New­found­land by Lady An­der­son.

Mag­is­trate Ted Rus­sell ini­ti­ated the re­quest that a guild be formed here.

A scroll list­ing the names of the 57 char­ter mem­bers hangs in the Women’s In­sti­tute room to­day.

One of the char­ter mem­bers, Win­nie Spencer, a life mem­ber, holds the record as the long­est mem­ber — 67 years. An­other char­ter mem­ber, Jessie Young — one of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s most cel­e­brated mem­bers — was ac­tive from 1937 un­til her death in the fall of 1993. She served as pres­i­dent for 24 years. Among our cur­rent mem­bers, Cleo Gil­lard has sur­passed 50 years and Mary Pel­ley is near­ing 50 years.

Mem­ber­ship zoomed to 121 the first year. Dues were just 25 cents a year. In 1968, the name Ju­bilee Guilds of New­found­land and Labrador was changed to New­found­land and Labrador Women’s In­sti­tutes. As such, the group be­came af­fil­i­ated with the na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion, Fed­er­ated Women’s In­sti­tutes of Canada (FWIC), and an in­ter­na­tional body, As­so­ci­ated Coun­try­women of the World (ACWW).

Over the years, meet­ings were held at Locke’s Store (now The Flo­ral Bou­tique), the school hall, the for­mer and cur­rent town halls, and the Lions Den. At times, dur­ing re­lo­ca­tion the work­room was moved to dif­fer­ent places, in­clud­ing the homes of its mem­bers.

Orig­i­nally, items such as a card­ing ma­chine and a spin­ning wheel would be kept in a mem­ber’s home down east for a month or so, then moved to the cen­ter or west end of town. Some mem­bers even raised sheep to pro­vide their own wool for card­ing, spin­ning and weav­ing. In 1938, over 800 pounds of wool were carded.

The monthly meet­ings were a time of learn­ing and shar­ing — not only ideas, but also friend­ship and to pro­vide a help­ing hand. Cook­ing, bak­ing, and craft demon­stra­tions were very pop­u­lar. Home nurs­ing was also im­por­tant in the early days, but once the hos­pi­tal was built in the com­mu­nity, the need was not as great.

Fundrais­ing was dif­fi­cult. How­ever, mem­bers plunged in to raise money for equip­ment and to meet the group’s ex­penses. Through such dili­gent ef­forts over the years, the group now has a work­room filled with sev­eral looms and other equip­ment for mem­bers’ use. An emer­gency fund was built up from lunches and ice cream sold at monthly meet­ings. It was used to help peo­ple in need.

When the cur­rent town hall was built in 1980, a room was pro­vided down­stairs, and the group moved into the lo­ca­tion that is still used to­day. It is now known as “The WI Room.” The room is open on Tues­days and Fri­days for most of the year. Monthly meet­ings are held Mon­day nights.

The Spring­dale Branch

re­ceived spe­cial recog­ni­tion as the per­ma­nent home of the “Rose Bowl.” It was awarded an­nu­ally to the guild that had the great­est in­crease in mem­ber­ship, had pro­duced the most crafts (per capita), and for com­mu­nity in­volve­ment. It was won so of­ten by Spring­dale that it was awarded to them out­right in 1977. It is still on dis­play at the WI room.

In ad­di­tion to ben­e­fit­ting its own mem­bers, the group has been quite ac­tive in the com­mu­nity. Do­na­tions have been made to the lo­cal hos­pi­tal, schools, and var­i­ous groups in town and around the prov­ince. For years mem­bers have con­trib­uted “Pen­nies for Friend­ship” for projects around the world. The group did the col­lec­tion for the Cana­dian Heart Foun­da­tion for sev­eral years. A Christ­mas party was held for se­nior ladies, un­til it was moved first to Valen­tine’s Day and later to St. Pa­trick’s Day.

From the early days of Ju­bilee

Guild, the group has ac­tively en­cour­aged train­ing for young girls. Mem­bers of youth or­ga­ni­za­tions have spent time learn­ing to weave and do leather at the work­room. Schol­ar­ships to lo­cal schools have been pre­sented since 1963. To­day, mem­bers also as­sist with the break­fast pro­gram at the lo­cal school.

The broad pur­pose of the Women’s In­sti­tute has al­ways been to give coun­try­women the op­por­tu­nity of work­ing

to­gether to im­prove the qual­ity of life in ru­ral ar­eas, and to pro­vide for their fuller ed­u­ca­tion through a wide va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties. To each mem­ber, the Women’s In­sti­tute may bring some­thing dif­fer­ent — the op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue her own par­tic­u­lar skill or in­ter­est — but, to all it means friend­ship and be­ing able to par­tic­i­pate in com­mu­nity, pro­vin­cial, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional is­sues be­yond the home and fam­ily cir­cle.


Spring­dale Women’s In­sti­tute pres­i­dent Tammy An­stey poses with its old­est mem­ber Mary Pel­ley, who has been a mem­ber for 50 years. In­ter­est­ing ex­cerpts from Spring­dale Women’s In­sti­tute minute books: Dec. 2, 1941: “...the home­nurs­ing leader was called...

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