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Singleton, Sussex: First Women’s Institute Meeting

The birthplace of the WI in England that kept a war-torn nation going

In 1915, a small group of ladies met at the Fox Inn in Singleton, near Chichester, and formed the first branch of the Women’s Institute (WI) in England.

The WI movement originated in Canada in 1897. The Agricultural Organisation Society appointed a Canadian, Madge Watt, to establish Women's Institutes across the UK.

Mrs Watt formed the group with her friends in Sussex, so there was a degree of luck that Singleton became the first English WI group. That said, the women of the village were a determined bunch. They owed much to the landlady of the local pub, Mrs Lashley who gave them a place to meet.

In 1914, it was almost unheard of for women to enter public houses. But this wasn't normal life. This was a reaction to the Great War. Men were not around to do their usual tasks and the ladies needed to take action. The WI movement was born and set about tending the land and keeping a war-torn nation going.

Location: The Fox Inn at Singleton, near Chichester, Sussex PO18 0HU
Original image of The Fox Inn courtesy Janet Holt.
Current day image courtesy of Sue Coxon / The Fox Inn
Presented by Judi Spiers

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