Lo­cal woman is ready to head FWIC

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier

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 lh­fwic@gmail.com

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.

Pho­tos cour­tesy

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.

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