Cel­e­brat­ing 100 years of the WI Roots of an in­sti­tu­tion

Bangor Mail - - NEWS - BY ERYL CRUMP [email protected]­i­tymir­ror.com @Holy­head­Mail

THE first for­mal Women’s In­sti­tute meet­ing in the UK was held in Llan­fair­p­wll on An­gle­sey on Septem­ber 16,1915.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion has its roots in Canada, where the first Women’s In­sti­tute was formed in 1897 in Stoney Creek, On­tario, as a branch of the Farmer’s In­sti­tute.

Sup­ported by the Agri­cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion So­ci­ety it was founded to ed­u­cate ru­ral women and to en­cour­age them to get in­volved in grow­ing and pre­serv­ing food dur­ing the First World War.

Madge Watt, who had been a mem­ber in Canada but who had moved to Sus­sex, helped set up the Llan­fair­p­wll group in Septem­ber 1915 af­ter landowner Colonel Richard Sta­ple­ton-Cot­ton and his wife Jane in­vited her to ad­dress the women of Llan­fair­p­wll.

Pe­riod news­pa­pers tell of a “well-at­tended” meet­ing where women were taught how to pre­serve fruit and veg­eta­bles.

Chair of the An­gle­sey Fed­er­a­tion of Women’s In­sti­tute, Au­drey Jones, said: “She had been try­ing to en­cour­age women to start branches for two years be­fore she ar­rived in Llan­fair­p­wll.

“She ad­dressed a group in May 1915 and vis­ited the area again in June but it was not un­til Septem­ber that the branch met for­mally for the first time and elected a com­mit­tee.

“Af­ter that de­ci­sion was taken the first branch meet­ing proper was held on the 25th and has been meet­ing regularly ever since.”

The Llan­fair­p­wll branch now has 21 mem­bers. The branch re­tains a very tra­di­tional feel – its re­cent meet­ings in­volved talks on the RSPB, the An­gle­sey coast­line and flower ar­rang­ing.

It is one of 23 WI branches on the is­land with two new branches es­tab­lished dur­ing the course of the year.

The WI is still the largest women’s vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion in the UK with more than 212,000 mem­bers in more than 6,500 branches.

Mrs Jones has looked back over the past cen­tury to map the history of the Llan­fair­p­wll group and to mark the cen­te­nary a book chron­i­cling the first meet­ing - A Grain of Mus­tard Seed: an ac­count of the found- ing of the first Women’s In­sti­tute in Great Bri­tain - has been re-printed by the fed­er­a­tion.

It has been a busy year for the An­gle­sey Fed­er­a­tion.

“In ad­di­tion to the branch there is a small mu­seum in the build­ing and thou­sands of peo­ple have vis­ited the ex­hi­bi­tion over the year.

“This year has been par­tic­u­larly busy. We have wel­comed 34 groups from WI branches so far this year and we have four more due to visit.

“They come from all over, we’ve had groups from the Isle of Wight, Not­ting­ham and Bristol and we make each of them a meal. It takes a lot of work,” she said.


cel­e­bra­tions, added Mrs Jones, have been con­tin­u­ing through­out 2015 and will cli­max for the An­gle­sey Fed­er­a­tion with a din­ner in Trearddur Bay.

“We’ve had var­i­ous events this year and many have been mem­o­rable. We linked up via satel­lite to the AGM held in the Royal Al­bert Hall from Llan­fair­p­wll but we de­cided on a din­ner in Septem­ber.

“We also de­cided to raise money for a nom­i­nated char­ity and we’ll be hand­ing over a cheque to a Wales Air Am­bu­lance rep­re­sen­ta­tive dur­ing the evening,” she said.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the An­gle­sey WI log on to thewi.org.uk or phone 01248 717600.

An early meet­ing of the Llan­fair­p­wll WI, circa 1920. Right, she sign on WI HQ

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