The two remaining Women's Institute (WI) groups in the Chignecto area held their annual convention on Saturday in Cape Tormentine.
Marking 100 years of service in Canada in 2011, the Woman's Institute in New Brunswick has some 1,000 members registered in various branches across the province. Its international affiliation, the Associated Country Women of the World, boasts some nine million members in 74 countries.
In Canada, the Women's Institute was formed in 1897, just one of the organizations formed through the initiative of Adelaide Hoodless, one of Canada's most creative social reformers in the early years of the last century.
In New Brunswick, the first group was organized in Andover, followed closely by others all over the province, including the local areas of Port Elgin in 1911, Upper and Middle Sackville in 1912, Point de Bute and Sackville in 1913, Spence Settlement around 1915, Little Shemogue in 1921, Baie Verte in 1939, Bayfield-Tormentine in 1949, and Cookville-Midgic and Murray Corner in 1955.
In the 1920s the New Brunswick government appointed standing committees in the areas of education, home economics, public health and child welfare, legislation and immigration and, with the direct input of the Women's Institutes around the province, those groups worked tirelessly to bring about positive changes.
Yearly conventions were held, and continue to be held, where WI delegates from across the province meet to discuss programs of concern. Provincial exhibits were also held where members would present their handicrafts for display and judging.
In the Tantramar area the ladies of the local Institutes were as busy as their counterparts across the province. Today the many groups have one-by-one been disbanded until currently there are but two remaining; Murray Corner and Cookville-Midgic.
Joining the members of the two groups at Trinity United Church on Saturday were former members, guests, special guests including Tantramar MLA and N.B. Minister of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Mike Olscamp and his wife Karen. Guest speaker was Dona Chapman, a one-time member of the Port Elgin WI who earlier this year celebrated her 95th birthday.
Chapman gave a brief talk about the early years of the WI in Port Elgin, recalling the many projects carried out in support of Canadian troops serving overseas and the many items of clothing and household items knitted or sewn for people living in war torn areas across the world during WWII.
"I recall knitting these long, dark blue scarves for sailors and helmet liners for soldiers. When the call came that certain items were needed our members would immediately get to work making them. I had four little children of my own at the time but in the evening I would work on the various items the WI was doing at the time. One time I remember making six pairs of children's pyjamas, working very late at night to finish them. That was just some of the things that the WI members did," she recalled.
During the day-long event members held their annual business meeting with discussions ensuing on several important initiatives. However, the day was not meant for work alone and members gathered for a hearty noontime meal, followed by fund-raising auction and lively entertainment provided by Cookville-Midgic members.
Marking the 100th anniversary of Women's Institute in Canada, all participants were presented with a Women's Institute local history/cookbook compiled by Murray Corner WI member Rose MacLelland.
New members are always welcome and interested individuals are asked to contact local members for more information.