The Women's Institute was started in 1897 in Stoney Creek, Ontario by Mrs. Adelaide Hoodless, the daughter of a Canadian farmer. She gave a talk to an audience of 101 women, urging that lectures and demonstrations in domestic science and homecrafts be made available to them and this led to the formation of Stoney Creek W.I. which soon afterwards adopted the motto "For Home and Country". The movement soon gained ground in Canada, receiving help from provincial governments. In 1915 the first W.I. was formed in the United Kingdom at Llanfair in North Wales. There are now hundreds of branches all over the U.K. The aim of the W.I. is to bring women together to enjoy friendship within their local communities through regular meetings, outings, activities and projects. There are also learning opportunities to develop skills, talents and a sense of citizenship, helping us to play a part in improving the quality of life in our own community, as well as to campaign on a whole range of national and international social, environmental and consumer issues which concern women and their families. There is a Home and Country monthly Magazine which offers an exciting window on the W.I. with news, views and issues from the grass roots right through to the national and international scenes. It covers readers' interests, rural life, cookery, the environment, health, gardening, travel, topical issues, nostalgia and much more. W.I. Books cover more than 150 non-fiction titles, with home crafts, cookery, gardening, sewing, knitting, tapestry, quilting, embroidery and a wide range of other domestic topics. The Burton Bradstock W.I. was started on the 27th November 1917 and meetings were originally held in the school. Activities included lectures on good housekeeping, cookery, and handy hints such as how to make starch from potatoes. Leisure pursuits included dances for the soldiers on leave, games and listening to gramophone records. A Rabbit Club was formed and the Hon. Secretary took orders for rabbits (it is not known whether they were delivered alive or dead!). The Sales Table was aimed at helping Prisoners of War. By 1930 the meetings covered quilting, lantern lectures, paper dress parades, a poultry show, an old folks party and dancing classes. In 1931 two members, Miss Codrington and Miss Fielding provided the funds to build the existing Hall which has been owned and maintained by the W.I. ever since, with an ongoing annual succession of fund raising events. In 1933, the princely sum of £120 was raised and this was sufficient for the running costs of the Hall and the activities of the Institute. (Nowadays it costs several thousand pounds per annum which is raised by events such as a Spring Fair, coffee mornings, an occasional car boot sale and a Christmas Fair, apart from the fees received by letting the Hall to outside organisations.)
In 1999 our current membership stands at 92 with members' ages ranging from about 40 to 96 years of age, with plenty of ladies in the middle range. The Committee comprises President, Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer (presently shared by two ladies), two Vice Presidents and six other members. Areas of responsibility include Catering, Programme Organiser, Outings, Registrar and Press Officer. Our Institute also has a Hall Committee comprising 4 members, performing the duties of Treasurer, Manager and Booking Clerk. The Annual Meeting is held in November when the President is either re-elected or another one sworn in, and Committee Members may stand for another year or new members elected to replace them. The annual subscription is set by our National Federation and will cost £15.50 in January 2000. A variety of monthly activities are on offer to members at no extra cost unless materials or an outside teacher is employed. They include badminton in our Hall, tapestry, a knitting and sewing group, quilting, an art group, rambling, mah jong, an annual whist tournament, bowls, skittles and croquet. Outings by coach are organised in the Spring, Summer, Autumn and a Christmas shopping trip and guests are welcome to join in. There is an annual Christmas Lunch or sometimes Dinner and husbands and partners are also very welcome to attend. Meetings are held in the W.I. Hall, Burton Bradstock, on the second Tuesday of the month commencing at 7.15 p.m. and in November, December, January and February the meetings take place at 2.15 pm. Entertainment is provided by speakers on a wide variety of topics. Programmes in 1999 have included talks on Japanese Gardens, a Solo Trek across the Pyrenees, a collector of mother-of-pearl brought along boxes of artefacts and treasures, All Things Angora, and Milton Abbas and the Abbey. There is quite often a sales table, with a small percentage benefiting the Institute. The Flower of the Month competition awards points to the most attractive outdoor bloom, with a rosebud vase to the overall winner who holds it for a year. There is a "100 Club" which helps raise funds for the Hall, with members purchasing a number for £10 with the chance of a monthly prize of £15, £10 and two £5 prizes, and a special £20 prize is awarded in the Christmas Draw. A record of the meeting is taken by the Hon. Secretary and this is circulated to all members in time for the next meeting. The Press Officer writes a report on the meeting, which is submitted to the Bridport News and the Bride Valley News. The County Newsletter is also distributed free of charge to all members, to keep them informed of activities organised by our County Office at Dorchester. Members are encouraged to bring visitors to meetings and their first visit is free of charge. They are charged £1.50 for subsequent visits, though if they decide to join, the fee may be deductible from the annual subscription. New members joining in September receive 16 months' membership for the price of 12 months. The programme of speakers for the year 2000 will include topics such as "Newfoundland Water Rescue dogs", "Badger Watching", "Numbers are Fun", "Aspects of Safeway's" and "Life in a Victorian Kitchen", as well as a special entertainment during the Burton Bradstock Millennium Celebrations in July 2000.