1. A birthday worth celebrating
Now in its centenary year, the Women's Institute (WI) has 212,000 members in 6,600 groups across the country. The Queen has been a member since 1943, a royal connection dating back to Queen Mary's membership in 1919.
Despite its reputation as a stalwart of village fetes with its homemade jam and cakes, the WI has more radical roots. It was formed at a time when British women were struggling for equal status and gave them an opportunity to have their voices heard at a national level on issues that mattered to them.
Discover what the WI has done for women over the last 100 years and how it has helped shape the country we live in today.
2. Laying a new path for women
The first WI opened on the Isle of Anglesey in 1915 to help combat food shortages during World War One. But as the organisation grew, its aims broadened and it was soon providing women with a place to socialise, learn new skills and take action on behalf of their communities to improve life in Britain.
3. INTERACTIVE: Cakes and Campaigns
Members of the WI have spoken out on some controversial issues, lobbying governments to make changes that would create a fairer and safer country. Click below to discover how the WI’s campaigns have helped shape modern Britain.
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4. The jam busters
The WI’s reputation for making huge quantities of jam, which then appears on market stalls countrywide, has partly defined the WI in the eyes of the public. But its proficiency for jam-making has more noble origins than you may think.
We need your jam!
When World War Two broke out only a quarter of our sugar was grown domestically and the war waged against British merchant shipping curtailed imports. To tackle hunger and support rations, the government had to find ways of increasing domestic food production.
So just three days after war was declared, the WI was called upon to help keep the people of Britain on their feet. Having gained a reputation for food production during World War One, the rural women of the WI were tasked with picking fruit, which may otherwise have been left to rot, and turning it into jam and preserves.
By the end of World War Two, the WI’s contribution to the war effort saw it running over 50,000 preservation centres, providing each adult with half of their annual jam ration, along with vital vitamins.
5. What are the women of the WI doing now?
The WI continues to play an important role in communities across the UK. Find out what some of the groups are working on today.