Local woman is ready to head FWIC
This year’s United Nations theme for International Women’s Day, held every year on March 8th, was “Empowering women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!”, a sentiment not unlike that of a women’s organization that is familiar to many in
the Eastern Townships: the Women’s Institute (WI). Around for a little over one hundred years, this ‘institution’, which began as a club to give rural women a place to share skills and ideas, improve their knowledge of the arts and literature, and to socialize, quickly spread across the country in the early 1900’s. The first Quebec branch was founded in 1911 right here in the Townships, in Dunham.
Not an organization to toot its own horn, most people today don’t know that it was the Women’s Institutes in Canada, early lobbyists, who were instrumental in a wide variety of improvements in Canadian society: hot lunch programs in schools; music on the school curriculum (1937); stop signs at railway crossings; white lines painted in the middle of provincial highways; mandatory stops for stopped school buses; and clear markings on products containing poison, to name just a few.
In June of this year, a Townshipper will be taking over the reins of the ederated Women’s Institutes of Canada (FWIC) , the national organization that ‘umbrellas’ the individual Women’s Institutes across the country. Linda Hoy, of Sand Hill, who was voted in as the President Elect at the 2012 FWIC convention held in British Colombia, spoke to the Stanstead Journal about how she’s been involved with the Women’s Institute and what her new role will be like.
“It all started when my Mom, Marion Annesley, who has been a member for over fifty years, joined in Kinnear’s Mills, Megantic County. After moving to the Townships in 1964, she was asked by her neighbour Isabel Butler to join the Ascot Women’s Institute. At that time this branch of the Sherbrooke County had approximately forty members. I started by helping them out with their Garden Party which was held outside where sandwiches, sweets and tea were served. It wasn’t until after my daughter was born that I actually joined - March 1984. I did not want to join an organization that I could not partic- ipate in and when you are working and the meetings are in the afternoon, well, you couldn’t go to them,” explained Mrs. Hoy.
Passionate about this world-wide organization, it didn’t take long for Linda’s involvement in the WI to grow. “I became the Branch president, then went on to the provincial level,” said Linda who served as the Quebec President for three years, from 2003 to 2006. “It was a pleasure to represent the Women’s Institute as I travelled to anniversaries in the Gaspe, Bonaventure, Chateauguay, Pontiac, Missisquoi, Brome and locally to Richmond, Compton, Stanstead and Megantic Counties. As Provincial President you represent your province at the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada board meetings held once a year.”
The FWIC President Elect has been a member of the FWIC national board since 2001. With over nine thousand members from coast to coast, this organization brings the individual women’s Institutes together in mutual support and friendship, and continues to voice the concerns of ‘country’ women to elected governments. “We still try to lobby the government about issues that concern us, like food labeling, fracking and off-shore drilling. And if there are other issues out there that affect our sisters in other parts of Canada, even in other countries, we want to hear about them because we’re there to support,” said Mrs. Hoy. “From branch to County to Province to Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada to Associated Country Women of the World - we are all part of a larger international organization for rural and urban women with 460 member societies in over 70 countries. I’ve travelled to world conferences in Arkansas, Tasmania and India.”
“We have had meetings with Federal departments like Agriculture Canada and the Status of Women in Ottawa and locally with
Heart & Stroke for a Heart Health project. We support the International Peace Garden on the Manitoba - North Dakota border with the upkeep of our Picnic Shelter since 1955. Last year we partnered with the International Peace Garden to offer a scholarship to a woman from each province, an all-expense paid leadership retreat learning about the Women’s Institute and Peace Garden through horticulture, photography, creative writing and marketing,” continued Mrs. Hoy about a few of the FWIC’s activities.
Adapting the Women’s Institute to a new generation of women may be the organization’s biggest challenge and one that Linda seems eager to face. “Because we felt that communication wasn’t coming down from the top, in the past three years we’ve really developed our presence on social media; that’s where everyone is.” The FWIC is on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and has a well-developed webpage. “At the head office of the FWIC, we gather information from the branches across the country which generates interest in what’s going on in the other branches. We also have branches in the United Kingdom that are linked with us.”
On a more personal note, Linda spoke about what being a member of the Women’s Institute has meant for her. “When I was in school I used to stutter, but with the Women’s Institute I learnt to stand up and talk to people. I loved it. My Mom is 83 years old now and she’s very proud of me. I was lucky that she used to look after my children whenever I had to go off on trips with the Women’s Institute.”
Ms. Hoy hopes that there will be many WI Quebec members at the upcoming FWIC national convention in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in June, when she will officially take up her position as national President. “I’m also hoping to arrange a live feed of the convention set up somewhere such as the Amedee-Beaudoin Centre, in Lennoxville, so local members that can’t go can watch a local girl become the president,” she added. WI members have until April 30th to register to attend the convention in New Brunswick.
Anyone interested in more information about joining a local Women’s Institute is welcome to contact Linda Hoy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Linda Hoy stands with the 911 girders at the International Peace Garden in Manitoba.
Two other active Townshippers: Sheila Needham (left), ACWW Area Canada President; and Norma Sheerer, Quebec Women’s Institute President; with Linda Hoy, at right.
Linda Hoy at the FWIC Convention in British Colombia after being elected as the organization’s next president.
Linda Hoy in front of the Peace Towers at the International Peace Garden.
Seen here at the Quebec Women’s Institute Convention, wearing their own ‘fascinator’ hats designed by the members were (l. to r.): Phyllis Dustin, Shirley Marceau, Irene Humphrey, Doreen Moffat, Gloria Hayes, Dyaene Saanum, Linda Hoy and Ann Clarke.