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