This famed institution championing women for more than a century has a fascinating history.
Here we take a snapshot of it through these 9 fascinating facts that are bound to make the women of today stand up and take notice.
1. The WI has some thoroughly ‘finger on the pulse’ campaigns taking place
It’s been championing causes since it was formed officially in 1915 and key current campaigns include everything from reducing the amount of microplastic fibres entering our oceans (End Plastic Soup) to urging supermarkets to tackle food waste and food poverty (Food Matters) to championing the importance of Cervical Screening.
2. The WI was one of the several organisations who founded the Fairtrade Foundation in 1992.
3. There are now 100 WI Climate Ambassadors registered across England, Wales and the Islands.
4. Young women are breathing new life into the WI
Despite the misconception that the WI is for women of ‘a certain age’, new chapters started by young, urban women are cropping up all over the country including The Spa Sweethearts WI in North Yorkshire and the Shoreditch Sisters in East London.
5. Village halls have been swapped for Vino
Many WIs now choose to meet in a local pub or wine bar rather than the traditional village hall, and although traditional activities such as craft and cooking are still very popular with members (of all ages), there are many less traditional activities taking place as well, such as axe-throwing and burlesque dancing!
6. Times have changed, and so have WI members
Figures from the WI in 2015 showed that the typical WI member was just as likely to be single or cohabiting and four times as likely to be child free, as they were to identify as a housewife.
7. The WI offers wellness retreats!
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Denman — the WI’s centre for learning and residential college — offers a number of lifestyle courses including everything from creative writing to a Mamma Mia! vocal workshop and Tai Chi to restorative yoga set in stunning rural surrounds of Marcham, Abingdon, Oxfordshire. And, surprisingly, men are allowed to attend too.
8. It’s got a loyal celeb following
A-list members of the WI include TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp and renowned historian Lucy Worsley.
9. The NFWI (National Federation of Women’s Institutes) is the largest women’s organisation in the UK with 212,000 members and more than 6,000 Women’s Institutes across England, Wales and the Islands.