Women's Institute Beginnings
Janet Birchmore Jan 2015
Inaugural meeting 1920
As part of the local history group and WI, I’ve been finding out how the Harston W.I. was formed, especially as this year is the centenary of the National Women’s Institute with many activities around the country. Harston’s inaugural meeting was held on Feb. 16th 1920 in the Council school. The room was filled to capacity! From the women attending, a committee was formed with
Mrs Young elected as president. Other members of the first committee included Mrs. Rowley, Mrs. Schofield, Mrs. Clarke and Mrs. Smith. It was agreed that the age of admission was to be 15yrs.
W.I. programme for meetings
The first WI meeting was held on March 3rd 1920 in the chapel schoolroom and the programme included a discussion ‘Women and the vote’, exhibition of war trophies, game of charades and refreshments. Very topical! Various rules were introduced – only people living in Harston could attend, the WI must be non-party and preserve a strictly neutral attitude, and a library was introduced with a charge of 1d.
In July 1920, a fund towards a village hall was started along with other organisations and contributors in the village. In 1925 the WI made a resolution to support ‘the new idea of rural colleges for education, including agriculture, and for social welfare’;
the forerunner of our present day village college system.
The W.I. committee arranged a wide variety of programmes for the meetings which included ‘Furnishing a cottage’, infectious diseases of children, flies and how to get rid of them, League of Nations, Lantern lecture and demonstration, local government,
care of children’s teeth, legal position of women, history of Harston (Helen Greene) and, interestingly’ Cover the Alps in a motor car’! Competitions included – best cake (costing no more than 2/-), home made xmas present, washing and ironing, and more challenging, apple and potato peeling!!