The Women’s Institute has been described as the most important body formed in the UK during the twentieth century – of men or women.
Politically and religiously, it was entirely non-sectarian, entirely inclusive. It also looked beyond its own community, pioneering campaigns to raise awareness of others’ needs.
Despite all this, nobody has suffered more from stereotyping than the lady from the WI.
Everyone knows three things about the Women’s Institute: that they spent the war making jam; the sensational Calendar Girls were WI; and, more recently, that slow-handclapping of Tony Blair at the WI’s AGM in 2000.
But there’s so much more to this remarkable movement.
Over 200,000 women in the UK belong to the WI and their membership is growing.
It crosses class and religion, includes all ages – from students and young professionals, such as the Shoreditch Sisters, to centenarians.
The WI was founded in 1915, not by worthy ladies in tweeds but by the feistiest women in the country, including suffragettes, academics and social crusaders who discovered the heady power of sisterhood, changing women’s lives and their world in the process.
Yes, its members made jam and sang ‘Jerusalem’, but they did, and do, much more besides.
As the WI approaches its centenary, Jane Robinson explores its longevity, finds out what gives its membership such confidence, and how far its progress reflects that of the whole country.
This fascinating book reveals how they are – and always were – a force to be reckoned with.
Further details of A force to be reckoned with: a history of the Women’s Institute can be found on the main catalogue, available in ‘Catalogues’ on the Library’s website.