This year is the centenary of the UK Women’s Institute, the first ever meeting of which was held at Llanfair PG in Anglesey in September 1915.
One hundred years later, the Women’s Institute continues to play a key role at the heart of rural life.
The WI has a fascinating background and was originally formed to help our country cope with the devastation and food shortages as a result of the First World War. Submarine blockades prevented food being brought in to the country so it was essential that as much food was grown – and preserved – at home. The new organisation turned out to be highly successful and it encouraged women to take up hobbies, develop skills and opened up educational opportunities.
The WI continued this proud tradition through the Second World War and it played a major role in organising the evacuation of children from cities to less dangerous areas. It also played a pivotal role in the development of the new Women’s Land Army which provided women labourers to replace men who had been called up to the military. I have had the honour of meeting many veterans who served in the Women’s Land Army when presenting them with their special commemorative Women’s Land Army and Women’s Timber Corps badge.
The core values of the WI - putting other people first, working together, practising thrift in hard times and a lively positive attitude even during crises has inspired generations.
Today, there are about a dozen branches active throughout Dacorum which hold regular meetings, including supper clubs, walks and educational visits, as well as raising money for charitable causes. They are friendly groups with lots to offer, and I would encourage people to consider joining. You can find information about your local WI group at www.thewi.org.uk
I congratulate the WI on making its centenary and I hope the local branches continue to thrive long into the future.