Northamptonshire WI groups get ready to mark centenaries

Taken in 2014, WI members Ann Cotton, Monique Shortt, Kate Earley and Heather Piper serving tea and cakes to the bluebell walkers in Badby
Taken in 2014, WI members Ann Cotton, Monique Shortt, Kate Earley and Heather Piper serving tea and cakes to the bluebell walkers in Badby
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Six of the longest-running Women’s Institute groups celebrate their 100th anniversaries this year, as the county branch reveals grand plans for its own centenary celebrations.

The Northamptonshire Federation of the WI is planning to mark its 100th anniversary in style with a special picnic at Althorp, which the federation hopes will attract hundreds of members.

An early photograph of Brigstock WI members

An early photograph of Brigstock WI members

Three years after the very first WI was set up in 1915 in Wales, 13 WIs were formed in Northamptonshire.

Of those, six remain in Brigstock, Brackley, Wootton, Badby and Fawsley, Clipston and Hargrave – making them some of the oldest groups in the country.

Sue Kendall is the federation chairman for Northamptonshire and she said it was a triumph for women that the WI continues to exist.

She said: “To make it to 100 years is an unbelievable achievement.

Brigstock WI members on their 90th anniversary in 2008

Brigstock WI members on their 90th anniversary in 2008

“It’s an amazing feat for a women’s organisation to have got so far and it coincides with 100 years of women getting the vote.

“The WI was set up in Canada by a woman whose young son died from drinking contaminated milk.

“She was wanted to educate women on agriculture issues and it just grew from there. The mission of the WI is all about educating women.”

Northamptonshire has more than 120 groups with about 3,700 members.

The county has got behind national resolutions the WI has campaigned for, including allowing parents to stay with children in hospital, Keep Britain Tidy and the price paid to farmers for milk.

In more recent years, it has taken part in the WI’s focus on tackling loneliness and the bid to reduce plastic polluting the world’s oceans.

Mrs Kendall said: “We’ve had our ups and downs through the years and we’re trying to move away from the jam and Jerusalem idea.

“We have more modern WIs as well as the more traditional ones.

“If the movement is going to carry on, we have to get people coming in behind us.

“I think the biggest change we seen is the development of computers because it’s allowed for instant communication and to spread the word straightaway.

“Things are more flexible now because people have the means and the transport to get about.

“It also means people can get to other WI groups – I always say to people looking to join, if the first group you go to isn’t for you, try another one because each group is so different.”

The celebrations will also include trustees of the county federation visiting each of the six WIs marking their centenaries.

The federation’s all-day AGM at Kettering’s Lighthouse Theatre in November is also set to be a grand celebration, with talks by cookery author William Sitwell and television presenter Kate Humble.

Throughout the year, there will be a number of centenary items on sale along with the reproduction of a 1933 WI cookbook.