THE VITTORIA WOMEN'S INSTITUTE
The first Women's Institute came into being in 1897 in Stoney Creek, Ontario, when Adelaide Hunter Hoodless suffered the loss of her first child at 18 months. Mrs. Hoodless found out too late that the milk being fed to her child was unfit for human consumption. To save others from the pain she suffered she determined to bring to all, the education necessary to prevent such tragedies.
Her opportunity came when Erland Lee invited her to address a meeting of the Farmer's Institute in Stoney Creek. Here she discussed the value of domestic science and sewing instruction in public schools. Finding the women interested, she suggested the formation of an organization of women along these lines. The outcome was the organization meeting of the Stoney Creek Women's Institute, which took place on February 19, 1897.
Today there are Women's Institute branches spread across Canada, and Ontario W.I.'s plan to celebrate their Centennial in 1997 with many special events.
Not only has the Women's Institute spread across Canada, but it rapidly spread across the British Isles and to nearly every country in continental Europe, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and India.
Through the efforts of Mrs. Fee the Vittoria Women's Institute was organized on November 15th, 1938, at the home of Mrs. J. K. McLennan, the organizing officers being Mrs. Culver and Mrs. Pow. There were twenty-two Charter members. Our first officers were: President, Mrs. Fee; Vice-presidents, Mrs. J. G. Chadwick and Mrs. W. H. Ferris; Secretary-Treasurer, Mrs. R. G. Wyckoff; District Director, Miss Pauline Wilson; Board of Directors, Mrs. Walter Gundry, Mrs. Beickler and Mrs. Guiler; Pianist, Mrs. Hood; Press Reporter, Mrs. Thomas Oakes.
At this meeting it was decided that the name of our Institute should be called "Vittoria Women's Institute". Our next meeting took the form of a Christmas entertainment at the home of Mrs. Hood, ending with an exchange of presents. For several years, our Christmas meetings were at the same hospitable home.
After the first five months, the membership had doubled to forty-four. The meetings were first held in members' homes, but later in the Town Hall where they are still held.
Mrs. Fee held the position of President until her death in 1942. The Vittoria W.I. paid tribute to her for founding the library, which was a source of much pleasure for adults and students.
Support was given to our soldiers overseas during the Second World War in the form of homemade socks, blankets, 100 pounds of sugar, jams and individual boxes to seven of our local boys serving our country. At this time we supplied the first First Aid Kit to our school and began the work of preparing for a school nurse.
Over the years, the W.I. has given to the community by way of an annual award in memory of Miss Palmer to a deserving student of the graduating class at Walsh; charitable donations to the United Way, the Christmas Panorama, Camp Trillium, the Alzheimer Support group, Women's Shelter, the Erland Lee Home and the Adelaide Hoodless Home; Walsh Fair prizes; and canvassing for the Canadian Cancer Society. The W.I. has given support towards the Boy Scout and Girl Guide House, the Vittoria & District Community Centre, the Town Hall, the Vittoria Bicentennial Committee and Lamport Gardens improvements.
In 1960 the Institute adopted a Norview resident and they assist with the monthly birthday party there. In 1967 they made a Centennial quilt with names of members, relatives and friends embroidered on it. Together with the Home and School Association in 1972 they held a Centennial Day program for the community.
A Christmas dinner and program are put on each December for the seniors of our area, and also baskets of homemade goodies are distributed to shut-ins and nursing home residents.
Among the courses in which members have had the opportunity to enroll include baking, handcrafts, needlework, interior decorating and flower arranging.
One important aspect of the Women's Institute is the local history each branch keeps of its own community. It is called the Tweedsmuir History in honour of Lady Tweedsmuir, the wife of our former Governor-General whose idea it was for the preservation of local history across Canada. Each W.I. has a Tweedsmuir History Curator whose responsibility it is to collect and record local history. The community is welcome to read or do research by contacting the History Curator.
Today the W.I. has 25 members with one life member still active, and they meet ten times a year at the Town Hall.
The Vittoria Women's Institute's goals remain the same, and the organization is very successful in meeting its objective of "personal growth" and "community action" as well as fulfilling its motto, "For Home and Country".
President - Jackie Chadwick
Vice-President - Rosemarie Smith
Secretary - Mary Ann Kleiner
Treasurer - Jane Turnecliff
Past President/District Director - Gertrude Smith