by Jeanne Lambert
One of the longest standing sisterhoods in the world, founded in Ontario and now worldwide, is celebrating a major milestone. From the first meeting in Stoney Creek, Ontario, on February 19, 1897, to today’s global network of branches, Women’s Institute (WI) has continued to provide a social connection, education source, and community service opportunity for women. Since founding, the mission and vision of the organization rapidly spread, as women everywhere embraced the movement for a better future for their family, their communities, and themselves. Now, in the era of social media, and particularly during the pandemic, women are feeling isolated in a different way. WI answers this need.
Over the years, the WI has been at the forefront of multiple causes. The original goal of WI was to teach women how to keep their families healthy and well fed. Naturally, these educational gatherings also offered a much-needed social connection. By hosting community dances and card parties, they began to raise money and support community work, then, later, the war effort. Most recently, WI has embarked on education campaigns around such topics as gender, Indigeneity, and Black history, and have undertaken campaigns to eradicate Lyme Disease and advocate for victims of human trafficking. WI branches are members of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW), which holds consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Local branches meet monthly, often with a guest speaker or group activity. Meetings include social time and a short business session to plan ongoing community involvement, support, and advocacy. Women are looking for a break! The regular meeting is time they can take for themselves to connect with friends and get to know new people. Women of every age and stage gather to support each other and their communities.
Despite the challenges of pandemic restrictions in the past two years, new branches are being formed by women who are interested in supporting and inspiring other women in their communities. Online options also are happening. If you’d like to start or find a branch near you, please go to fwio.on.ca, or contact your local WI Branch – Bishop’s Mills Women’s Institute on Facebook, or contact Jeanne at [email protected].