chapter  13
9 Pages

The Women's Institute

IF the Church is the oldest, the Women's Institute is the youngest village organisation of nation-wide significance. It is essentially a village organisation run for and by local people who live in the countryside. But it did not emerge spontaneously. The first Institute, set up at Llanfair p.g. in Anglesey in 1915, was on the pattern of the Canadian Women's Institute which had existed for nearly twenty years, and was carefully introduced by a Government-inspired body (the Agricultural Organisation Society). At that time, many country people saw little need for a secular women's organisation which would compete with the Mother's Union and similar Church and Chapel groups.1 Once introduced, the movement spread rapidly through the countryside-24 Institutes in 1916 rose to 199 in 1917. The total was on the way to half a million (451,000) in October, 1958. The Women's Institute movement is more than a federation of village clubs for it possesses a mystique which creates in its members a sense of belonging, and a sense of responsibility for the well-being of the village, as does no other secular organisation.