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Chipperfield WI 80 Years Young

1st of March 2014

The Women’s Institute, W.I. was formed as a national organisation in 1915 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. will celebrate its centenary in 2015 and currently has 212,526 members in around 6,600 W.I.s. Whilst we in Chipperfield celebrate our 80th anniversary this year, nationally we are celebrating the centenary.

The W.I. plays a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities.

We work on issues of the day, including the Care not Custody campaign, ensuring people with mental health problems who come into contact with the criminal justice system get the right support and treatment. We also work to improve the lives of people with dementia. In our village we are supporting this year the Salvation Army through ‘pennies for friendship’ – saving our small change.

The W.I. is also about having fun as well as making a difference. On 20 May we plan to celebrate our anniversary in style in the Village Hall.

Austere Beginnings
On Tuesday 5 December 1933 forty women met in the Women’s Club (which was on the left-hand side of the present Social Club) and it was unanimously decided to form a branch of the Women’s Institute in Chipperfield. Thirty names were put forward for election to the committee and the ten elected were: Miss Sharpin (Kings Mead), Mrs Kelly (Chipperfield House), Mrs Loosely (The Firs), Mrs Tarver senior (Doggetts), Mrs Bidnell (headmasters wife at Redcroft), Mrs Meehan (Wood Lea), Mrs Leuchars (Copthall), Mrs Brown (4 Flint Cottages) and Miss Rivington (Little Callipers). Mrs Florence Kelly was duly elected president.

It was agreed that meetings should be held at 2.30pm on the first Friday of each month but this had to be changed because the Social Club room was only available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. At a committee meeting held immediately after the general meeting, the committee members agreed to co-opt Mrs Bayes and Mrs Jefferies (the vicar’s wife), whose names had been next on the ballot list. Miss Sharpin was appointed vice-president, Mrs Leuchars became secretary and Mrs Loosely hon. treasurer.

Mrs Meehan agreed to be responsible for teas and the charges were to be 1d for a cup of tea and 1d for a bun. Sub-committees were set up to organise entertainment, monthly competitions and a ‘give and take stall’. The tradition of singing Jerusalem was established at the first meeting in January. For the first meeting in February, Mrs Meehan volunteered to demonstrate the making of a pouffe, as there was insufficient time to organise an outside demonstrator or lecturer. The competition for February was ‘the six best uses for stale bread’. Mrs Kelly volunteered to give a silver spoon to the monthly prize winners for the first year. The committee was very busy planning the years programme which was to include a potato competition to be judged by Mr Simmonds (potatoes to be given to the hospital); an outing to the W.I. rally at Hatfield House (coach costs to be 2 shillings and 6 pence (12.5p) per head) and dress making classes to be held in the afternoon and evening. The latter were very popular and over thirty people had applied to join. The women did not wish to go to classes in the school. At the Women’s Club it cost 3 shillings (15p) for the use of a room and 2 shillings and 6 pence (12.5p) to cover the cost of coal and the cleaning of the premises. The County Council arranged the instructors for the classes.

All members were issued with a free copy of the year’s programme and Home and Country Magazine was in circulation in 1934. The annual meeting of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes was held at the Royal Albert Hall on May 16th 1934, but no one from Chipperfield attended that year due to a lack of funding.

Women wishing to join the W.I. had to write a letter of application to the committee and, on approval, each person’s name was recorded in the minute book, along with that of a proposer and a seconder. In March 1934 Mrs Laws became the one hundredth member, Mrs French the one hundred and first member and her daughter Miss Kathleen French (now Mrs Williams) became the one hundred and second member at the age of about fifteen years.

The June meeting was to be a Garden Party at Chipperfield House (weather permitting) and the programme would include a pastoral play and a parade of dresses made at the two classes.
From an article that first appeared in May 2002

And So To Today
The W.I. movement is based on ‘fellowship, truth, tolerance and justice’ and we have asked our members what it has meant to them. The responses were, ‘a place where we found friendships that lasted’; ‘where we could support each other practically’; ‘empathy from one woman to another’. All said they look forward to the monthly meetings, to listen to a good speaker or to watch a demonstration or to have entertainment. All added that they do enjoy being useful and raising funds for the village.

We have an interesting programme for this year and very much hope potential new members will come along and see what we are about. You will be made very welcome. There will be a small charge for non-members. All meetings are at 2pm in The Village Hall unless otherwise stated.
For more details re becoming a member, please phone Jennifer Khan, 01923 268204.

2014 ACTIVITIES
18 March – ‘Poetry and Prose’. Members to bring and to share their favourite pieces. The competition to write a limerick on the W.I. Raffle.
15 April – ‘Send a cow – empower a woman’. Speaker: Audrey Burr. We support women in developing countries to improve their life chances. We are part of Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW).
20 May – AGM with Ploughman’s lunch – members only. Followed by our 80th Birthday Celebration. Floral demonstration; entertainment by St Paul’s School; a celebration cake; raffle and much more.
17 June – Garden Party. An annual event in a member’s beautiful garden. Herbaceous borders, perfect lawns, trees, fish, pastoral views with cows grazing….
Delicious tea provided by the committee, Bring and Buy stall. New members very much welcome.
7 June one of our members will be attending the W.I. National Conference in Leeds. The Resolutions we have recently been voting on are: more non-acute beds in hospitals; against genitalia mutation; support for vulnerable women in danger of offending; more organ donations. One of these will be pursued at Conference.
15 July – speaker Pamela Sanderson – ‘The Old Bailey’. Pamela is a much sought after speaker and is very amusing. She conducts a mock trial with full audience participation.
August, no meeting. Instead, a coach trip to Denman College, Marcham, near Abingdon, Oxfordshire. W.I. centre for learning, founded in 1948, day schools and short residential. Life style courses for mind, body and soul. Also courses covering historical subjects, photography and digital imaging, T’ai Chi, fencing, fashion, a cookery school, music and singing.
16 September – speaker from The Boxmoor Trust. Lots of local interest. Encouragement for walkers to get their boots on.
For the 21 October and 18 November meetings we are in the process of booking speakers to talk to us History of pantomime; the N. T. work on the Ashridge Estate; the work of the Fire Brigade; are possibilities. Demonstrations of crafts and cookery. Entertainers: magician, actor, music.
2 December – Christmas Party.
For 2015 a visit to Bletchley Park is being planned and a speaker on Mata Hari also is being arranged.
We welcome suggestions and speakers for our forthcoming programme.

 
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