Alex Cor­lett cel­e­brates 100 years of the Scot­tish Women’s In­sti­tute

Alex Cor­lett cel­e­brates the con­tin­u­ing suc­cess of the Scot­tish Women’s In­sti­tute.

The People's Friend - - News -

NO doubt when Cather­ine Blair started the “Ru­ral” in 1917 (two years af­ter the for­ma­tion of the first Bri­tish WI), she would have been de­lighted to think that the Scot­tish Women’s In­si­tute would still be thriv­ing 100 years on.

In­deed, in its cen­te­nary year the In­sti­tute is once again grow­ing – and it’s adapt­ing to the times, too, with its own Face­book page and classes in ev­ery­thing from play­ing the ukulele to mak­ing cock­tails!

The prin­ci­ples re­main the same, though – that it is for all women, that it of­fers friend­ship and the op­por­tu­nity to share skills and learn new ones, both tra­di­tional and mod­ern.

The idea for a Women’s In­sti­tute orig­i­nally came from Canada, the first one be­ing formed in On­tario as a branch of the Farm­ers’ In­sti­tute. Twenty years later, Cather­ine, who was in­volved in the suf­fragette move­ment, presided over the first Scot­tish meet­ing at Long­nid­dry in June 1917 – a chap­ter of the In­sti­tute that is still go­ing to this day.

In­sti­tutes now cover the coun­try from the north­ern isles to Ar­gyll, and the num­ber of mem­bers is nudg­ing up to­wards 18,000.

The “Ru­ral” was dropped from the ti­tle ow­ing to the grow­ing mem­ber­ship in ur­ban ar­eas, and the push for a broader spread of ac­tiv­i­ties has been driven by the In­sti­tute’s own re­search. They found out that, whilst the de­mand for tra­di­tional arts and crafts is still there, there’s a strong in­ter­est in sub­jects like car main­te­nance, IT skills and DIY – with a few even look­ing to learn sur­vival skills, uni­cy­cling and con­tor­tion.

Adapt­ing has been vi­tal for the In­sti­tute, whose mem­ber­ship was closer to 50,000 in 1980, but fell sharply in the years af­ter­wards. The trend is now pos­i­tive once again, es­pe­cially with new groups like Aberdeen’s “Deen Di­vas” form­ing, whose re­cent events have in­cluded a talk on di­a­monds from a city jew­eller.

For their cel­e­bra­tions this year, each In­sti­tute held a “Tea In The Park” event on July 2, and on Septem­ber 9, the Ed­in­burgh head­quar­ters will play host to rep­re­sen­ta­tives from around the coun­try. With a range of ac­tiv­i­ties wider than ever, there’s never been a bet­ter time to get in­volved! n

The Aberdeen­shire Fed­er­a­tion’s July “Tea In The Park” event.

Win­nie knit­ting for Bar­ney and the SSPCA.

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