Although WIs had already been running on the Island for a couple of years (the first WI here was formed in May 1919), it was in 1921 that it was decided to form a County Federation to support the running of the units.
First formed in Canada in 1897, the first Women’s Institute in Britain was formed in 1915. Back in 1915 the plan was to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. Since then, the organisation’s aims have broadened and the WI is now the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK.
The WI nationally celebrated its centenary in 2015 and currently has almost 200,000 members.
Across the Island, there are currently 31 WIs and they are all so different. Some are recently formed whilst others have celebrated their 100th birthday. Each WI provides women with fun and friendship plus the chance to learn new skills, get involved with their community and take part in a wide range of activities.
Over the decades there was no formal base for the Federation but within 30 years, with the support of members, the organisation was able to purchase the current offices to provide a physical building. From this base in Carisbrooke Road in Newport technical guidance, marketing support and training courses are provided. Over the years successful Tea Tents have been run for events and these have been far more than just tea and cake for those attending the events. WI members attending also sometimes provided birthday cakes and often a friendly chat facility.
For the centenary, a flower festival is planned alongside an archive display which will be on show to the general public at Newport Minster from 24th-27th November. All 31 WIs on the Island will be taking part in the flower displays and the archive display will look to highlight many of the best parts of the history. Tea and cake will be on sale in the Minster.
Other events for members throughout the coming year will include a beach party and a visit to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.
Public opening times for the archive exhibition and flower festival at Newport Minster will be 24th November 12:00-16:00, 25th November 10:00-13:00, 26th November 10:00-16:00 and 27th November 10:00-16:00.
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