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"Who, where, when and WI"

Jane Robinson has written a "funny, fascinating and affectionate" history of the Women's Institute.


Jane Robinson remembers her mother, a WI secretary, "often came home from meetings with her sides still sore from laughing".

From an Amazon review:

Having loved Jane Robinson's previous books, particularly the excellent Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education, I was looking forward to reading this book. Again, the author looks at history from a women's perspective - in this case she turns her attention to the Women's Institute. . .the most important body formed in the UK in the 20th century. . .

The roots of the Women's Institute actually begin in Canada. . .WI was transplanted to the motherland.

The WI was extremely important in both the World Wars. In WWI, when German submarines blocked imports into Britain, WI women helped to feed the country. . .With the men at war, the women became the greatest asset the Home Front had. They ploughed the land, bottled and canned fruit, knitted, taught First Aid, had a rabbit club to produce meat and skins (and not just any rabbits, patriotic ones!) and helped in numerous other ways. From 1917-1918 membership more than doubled and they began their own magazine in 1919.

Between the wars they concentrated on business, education and social help. . .

In WWII it is said the WI tipped the balance between victory and defeat, which is a major claim. However, the vast efforts of the WI helped in many ways. Apart from the famous Dig for Victory campaign, the WI organised the evacuation of children, . . .housed billeted serviceman, provided foster homes for orphans, wrote to British prisoners of war, collected salvage and fed the Home Guard, among many other things. It is actually incredible what these women achieved and what a major asset they were for the country cannot be underestimated.

The book looks at the modern years too. . .The campaigns and activists among the members, the famous Calendar Girls and the slow clapping of Tony Blair, who underestimated the audience before him. In fact, it seems many people underestimate the Women's Institute, usually at their peril. A marvellous group of women, whose core spirit is cooperation, mutual support and a good cup of tea. . .

Women of strength and depth.

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