The Timaru Herald

Group has gone ‘where the need is’ for 90 years

- Joanne Holden

A women’s collective with the mantra to ‘‘go where the need is’’ will celebrate a milestone birthday this weekend.

The South Canterbury Federation of Women’s Institutes, which includes the Claremont and Pleasant Point Combined branches, will mark its 90th birthday with a luncheon tomorrow – a week after the national body celebrated its centenary in Napier.

‘‘It’s changed over the years, but it still retains the same values,’’ South Canterbury Federation president Margaret Younger said.

‘‘Hopefully there will be a lot of people getting together and chatting.’’

Younger said among the regional group’s charitable acts was knitting for premature babies at Timaru Hospital, baking more than 200 Christmas cakes for those displaced by the Kaiko¯ura earthquake in 2016, and emulating the Calendar Girls plot to raise money for the Cancer Society.

‘‘When the need is there, so are we.’’ The region’s federated group was formed on June 13, 1930, when representa­tives from the Gapes Valley, Arundel, Orari, and Woodbury divisions gathered at the Parish Hall in Geraldine to discuss merging into a big organisati­on.

At the time, women’s institutes had spread to 40 countries with more than 100 in New Zealand.

Younger, who joined the Claremont chapter in 1973, said the group remained as ‘‘friendly and supportive’’ as when she first got on board.

‘‘It was a way of meeting the women of the district,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s a worldwide organisati­on. A woman who helped bake Christmas cakes said she was doing it because her mother belonged to an institute in South Africa.’’

South Canterbury Federation secretary Anne O’Connell said her involvemen­t with the organisati­on began in Hunter, near Waimate, 62 years ago.

‘‘I’ve met a lot of wonderful women around New Zealand who I consider to be friends,’’ O’Connell said.

‘‘I find there is a very strong bond between members, and I’ve learned a lot from them. I just get this wonderful feeling that all these women in one place are there for the same reason and same goal.

‘‘One of the main things I learned was being able to get up and speak in public.’’

When she moved to Timaru after her husband’s death in 1988, the South Canterbury federation was made up of 25 women’s institutes. Now, there are two.

‘‘We have 17 members. It’s very sad, but there’s no young ones coming through to take over,’’ she said.

‘‘Personally, I will be with it through thick and thin.

‘‘I’ve really got a lot out of it over the years and wouldn’t like to see it go.’’

South Canterbury maintained a close relationsh­ip with the Waimate, North Canterbury, and North Otago federation­s which encompasse­d 20 women’s institutes.

‘‘We’re all invited to each other’s activities. It’s good to see what these other federation­s are doing because you get ideas.’’

O’Connell echoed Younger’s sentiment that women’s institutes ‘‘go where the need is’’.

‘‘I feel each associatio­n do a lot of good in the community and do different things.’’

National president Fay Leonard will attend tomorrow’s luncheon.

The Women’s Institute was first establishe­d in Canada in 1886, and imported to Britain in 1915.

The movement arrived in New Zealand in 1921.

Jerome Spencer, a former Napier Girls’ High School principal, had been driven to establish a group in her hometown after attending a Women’s Institute craft exhibition during her voluntary war service in London in 1919.

The national federation had donated groceries, dolls, emergency toilet bags, and thousands of dollars to causes around the country during its century in operation, including supporting a $15,000 medical research scholarshi­p every two years.

The national body marked 100 years with a weekend of activities in Napier last weekend.

 ?? BEJON HASWELL/STUFF ?? South Canterbury Federation of Women’s Institutes president Margaret Younger with a board at Timaru Library celebratin­g 90 years of the organisati­on.
BEJON HASWELL/STUFF South Canterbury Federation of Women’s Institutes president Margaret Younger with a board at Timaru Library celebratin­g 90 years of the organisati­on.
 ??  ?? South Canterbury Federation secretary Anne O’Connell has been involved with Women’s Institute for 62 years and counting.
South Canterbury Federation secretary Anne O’Connell has been involved with Women’s Institute for 62 years and counting.

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