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