A week ago, Kate Belair and I had our Women’s Institute Information Open House at the Arlington Hotel. It was a huge success with much excitement and delighted feedback.
Especially from the women at the provincial head office who came to offer support. Kate and I met with them for dinner ahead of the meeting. “How are you doing?” I asked Kate. “Nervous,” she said. “What if no one comes?” I shared her worry. It was a bitterly cold night. Threats of snow squalls. Who would want to be out on a night like that?
Almost 100 women, as it turned out. Doors opened at 7:00 and the women were lined up already. So many, in fact, we had to ask the gals who were already WI to meet elsewhere in the hotel to free up space.
We held the meeting in “Hiram’s Tavern”, the cellar bar of the hotel. It is a period pub, with coarsely plastered walls, wooden beams and sturdy walnut tables and benches. Kate and I and our volunteers (bless them!) set up while the visitors enjoyed their drinks.
Kate started the event by taking roll call. She named the names of a dozen women or so. These familiar local names were those of the charter members who formed the first Paris WI in 1905. As she called out Mrs. George Guthrie, Miss Lottie Deans, and so on, a hush fell on the room. It was almost reverent.
Both Kate and I spoke about how we came to learn about and admire the Women’s Institute. Then I put my PowerPoint presentation skills to the test. Yeah, still some work needed there, but Kate helped me get through it. Besides, the audience was a kind and forgiving bunch.
The group learned about the organization. Who, what, and why. In a nutshell – the “who” is “you” and the “what” is anything you want it to be. Arts, gardens, food, health, family, the environment, the community. The WI is an inclusive bunch – all ages, all interests, and “all shoe sizes.”
Why WI? It is an established, non-profit organization with the force of 9000 women in Canada and hundreds of thousands globally. The Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) is the global network of women’s groups. We even have connections with the UN.
We are known historically as “hobbyists and lobbyists” Adelaide Hunter Hoodless, one of the co-founders of the WI, lobbied for pasteurized milk after she learned that poor industrial hygiene was the cause of her infant son’s death. More recently, WI’s have been the motivating force behind reduced speeds in school zones and nutritious food choices in school cafeterias. The Niagara WI’s saw a need for a university in their area so they lobbied for one. Brock University is the result.
I said to the audience, “In the UK, there are over 220,000 members and there are new branches starting up every day. The movement is huge over there. I want some of that.”
In other business, Dana Gignac spoke about our first fund-raising event. We will be holding an accessory swap March 28 at the T.B. Costain Community Center in Brantford. We collected two hampers of non-perishable food items for the “Northern Neighbours Program” and we had a couple of craft tables set up, too. It was our intention that the women would try their hand at a Valentines fortune cookie during the final thirty minutes of the evening. As it turned out, our guests were too excited to focus on crafts. The place was a-buzz with women talking and sharing ideas.
The excitement carried over next day on our group’s Facebook page. Already 40 women have RSVP’d for the March 12th meeting.
I think we’re on to something. Something BIG!
It was an incredible night. The reason was two-fold: an overwhelming response from the public which was met by the outstanding service of the staff at the Arlington. The gallery below is composed mainly of images courtesy of Sara Naim, FWIC’s Craft Advisor. You can see more of her work on her blog Kisstorta.
Categories: In Other News