The very first branch of the Women’s Institute in the United Kingdom was formed 104 years ago this week in a small village with a very long name, Llanfair PG, on Anglesey. Originally formed in Canada in 1897, the WI arrived in the UK in the middle of the First World War, where it came under the auspices of the Board of Agriculture, as the movement was seen essentially as a way of getting women in rural areas to engage in providing more food for the wartime table. Post-war it swiftly moved away from its roots in the Board, federations began to be set up, and in 1919, it essentially became the movement that we know today.
A few years ago, a local branch of the WI came to the University Library to have a look at some of our collections, and I was involved in finding music items of interest to show our visitors. As well as our usual musical suspects (guaranteed to delight just about anybody!), I had a look for Women’s Institute related items, and was surprised to find the important part that music had played, particularly in the early days of the movement.Continue reading