The ‘home fires’ are still burning: WI centenary celebrations

ONE HUNDRED years of the Women’s Institute are being celebrated up and down the country this year. Here, the Saddleworth group takes a look back at the history of the organisation, and the events they have planned to celebrate.

The Women’s Institute began in Canada in 1897. The first WI in the UK was formed in Anglesey in 1915 to encourage countrywomen to take an active part in growing and preserving food in war-torn Britain.

WI members began to play an effective part in their communities; helping to improve the quality of life for everyone and to influence local national and international affairs.

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The Saddleworth WI presented £3,000 to their chosen charity Oldham Bereavement Support Services last year

It has evolved into the largest women’s voluntary organisation in the UK – currently there are over 212,000 members in 6,600 Institutes.

It is often unfairly associated with homemade jam and cardigans. However, as the organisation reaches the centenary year there is a new generation and more life than ever in the old order.

The strong ethos and reputation of the WI remains the same. Women join for a variety of reasons: to make new friends; to learn new skills; to take part in the wide variety of social activities on offer and to make a difference.

WI members have built a reputation as a practical, democratic and ambitious organisation that does not shy away from tricky issues. It is a powerful voice and has been ahead of its time on a whole host of issues, from domestic violence to equal pay for women; from VD in the 1920s to AIDS in the 1980s.

In the 1920s the WI campaigned for the Government to open up jury service for all so that women could fulfill their role as citizens.

Other successful campaigns include women police, disabled housewives pension, Keep Britain tidy, visiting children in hospital, organ donation, family planning services, breast cancer screening, smoking in public places, dementia friendly communities and more hospital midwives.

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Members of Saddleworth WI enjoying a day out with Saddleworth Discovery Walks

The ‘Home Fires’ are still burning bright but the modern day WI is more wine and laughter than jam and Jerusalem and continues to go from strength to strength.

Saddleworth WI are holding several events this year in celebration of the centenary.

There will be an afternoon tea dance with activities at the Civic Hall on Sunday, September 20, which will also commemorate WW1.

Then on Friday October 16, there will be a Centenary Ball at the Saddleworth Hotel with a welcome drink on arrival, a three course meal and entertainment by The Threetles.

Tickets are on sale now at £40 from Jess Moreland on 07985 938868. All profits will be donated to Funky Fitness and Fun towards the purchase of a much needed mini-bus.

The Saddleworth WI meets on the first Wednesday of each month at the Saddleworth Hotel at 7.30pm. New members and guests always welcome.

At their July meeting, the group celebrated their 7th birthday so feather boas as Boom Boom Bonita visited to share the history and mystery of Burlesque dancing.

Their guest speaker at their next meeting on Wednesday, August 5 will be Gwen Moran who changed careers from auctioneer to singer.

For further information on the WI, speakers, activities and sub-groups, visit


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