Women’s Institute Archive of Meeting Diaries 1933 – 2016
Many thanks to Judy Hodgetts who has worked very hard to create a lasting archive of the life and times of the East Farndon Women’s Institute. This includes photos of the actual pages from the multiple minute books for meetings from 1933 to 2016. Judy has also summarised the entries into an easy to read document that can be accessed by clicking the link below.
To give you a flavour of the full document created by Judy, please see below an extract that includes an introduction to the Women’s Institute and the summary of diary entries for 1933 to 1935.
The archive of actual diary entries has been created by photographing each page and putting them together in chronological years. As these are very large files to download, they are stored on Google Drive. If you would like access to view these files then please use the link below,
Alternatively, you can email the Webmaster, Mervyn Curtis, who will send you a link.
Document Extract – Introduction
The Women’s Institute (W I) was formed nationally in 1915. Its intention was originally 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 W I is now the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK. The W I started its group in East Farndon with a committee meeting held on April 5th 1933,and the first meeting took place on April 12th. This anniversary was celebrated every year with a birthday party, later to become a meal out.
The group met in the village hall, which was originally an old building on the site of thepresent village hall, on the first Wednesday of every month at 7.30 to 9.45 pm. The meetings always started with the singing of Jerusalem. Meetings continued throughout World War II, which shows the importance of them. The group continued until 2021, when it folded due to dwindling numbers.
The original minute books have been archived by the W I in Northampton, however the East Farndon group kindly allowed me access to them before this happened. I felt it was important to document them because the minutes of the meetings are such a rich source of social history. This is not only interesting to read now, but will also be interesting for future generations. The talks and demonstrations at the meetings were varied and interesting, covering a broad range of subjects. The competitions were fun and the members enjoyed many trips and meals out.
An annual subscription was paid by members and they also raised funds by holding events such as raffles, whist drives, rummage sales and coffee mornings. The earliest reference to the amount paid in subs is in 1981, when they were raised to £2.75. In 1991 they were set at £7.50 and in 1994 £11.60. In 1999 they were £14.50. In 2014 they were £34.70. In 2022, the annual subscription is £44.
Over the years, the funds the members raised also supported many charities and good causes, the women giving up so much of their time to help those in need. In 1954, the tradition of presenting members with birthday posies was introduced, and this carried on until 1993, when cards were given instead. Cards were also sent to members for significant life events, such as golden or diamond wedding anniversaries.
Having read the minute books, what comes across is meetings full of friendship, fun and laughter; an interest in learning new skills, visiting different places and listening to interesting talks; a strong sense of helping those less fortunate. They also had a deep respect for each other, sending fruit and flowers to members who were ill or bereaved, and the ladies always stood in a minute’s silence when a member passed away. – Judy Hodgetts, March 2022
Document Extract – East Farndon Women’s Institute Minute Book Entries 1933 -1935
36 women joined as members at the first meeting in April 1933 and by 1934 this number had risen to 44. At the initial meeting it was decided to hold a whist drive to raise funds.
Interesting talks over these years included slipper making, basket making, cake icing and First Aid. Competitions included a sweet competition, a roses and vegetable competition and a bulb competition, with all the bulbs being deep blue.
The group supported lots of good causes: the potatoes grown for the Kettering Show were given to the Cottage Hospital, the members helped the unemployed by making clothes in any way they could, they held rummage sales to help the Girl Guides and the Drama class, they held socials to support the School and Nursing Fund, a dance to raise funds for the Cottage Hospital and a whist drive in aid of the District Nursing Fund and school playground, which raised £2. 6 shillings.
The 1st birthday party was held in April 1934 and included sketches, games, dancing and refreshments. A cake was shared and the meeting was closed with the singing of the National Anthem.
In June 1935 the monthly meeting was held at The Orchards, Main Street by kind permission of Mrs Cox, and 37 members attended. Mrs Cox was married to Freddie Cox, who was the managing director of R & W H Symington, the corset factory in Market Harborough. Meetings continued at The Orchards in June for many years, held in the garden, weather permitting.