Marie Kenny

100 years of service in Langford

Women’s Institute has remarkable history and an impressive record of giving back

The Langford Women’s Institute celebrates a century of community and volunteer work with an anniversary tea tomorrow (Sept. 25), and everyone is invited.

“We’re hoping to get some new members and see what’s needed in the community,” says vice-president Tammy Shiells.

“We want to get our word out into the community more,” agrees president Josie Wellwood, who’s been a member for 27 years.

The Women’s Institute has been a pillar in communities across Canada and worldwide for over 100 years, and it all started with a housewife from southern Ontario, says Wellwood.

Adelaide Hoodless from Stoney Creek, Ont., realized that women in the home were more likely to remain uneducated on basic health and safety for their children and households, such as not knowing the dangers of unpasteurized milk. She set out on a crusade to improve education and support for women and in 1897, the first Women’s Institute was born.

It took 17 years for the movement to migrate to the West Coast, but when it did, Langford and South Island women took the idea and ran with it. In June of 1914, a group of 39 ladies formed the Langford Women’s Institute and immediately began making changes in their communities.

That initial group helped establish a travelling library, set up domestic science and dressmaking classes and developed an affiliation with the now-defunct Society for Prevention of Mortality of Infants.

Hoodless herself had lost a child and it seemed her passion for children’s health carried strongly through into the other groups across Canada.

During the First World War, the ladies knitted warm clothing for the soldiers, adopted a prisoner of war, and contributed in countless other ways.

Later, members petitioned the Railway Commission for cheap fares on the early lines, campaigned with Ottawa for several years to get rural mail delivery established, and a decade after they began, bought the lot at 1016 Dunford Ave. to build a hall for their organization.

The 1.5-acre plot of land, purchased for $184.08, gave the Women’s Institute a measure of security and income, as they could rent out the space to other community groups.

“It was a good time back in those days because we owned our own hall and it was paid for,” says Wellwood.

As the decades passed, the women stayed steadfastly dedicated to improving their communities. In the past 30 or so years, the group has been involved in a multitude of activities. They have:

• Donated funds and clothing to the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island (formerly Queen Alexandra Foundation)

• Donated meat every month to the Goldstream Food Bank for over 18 years

• Provided financial assistance to Ruth King elementary for food and snack programs

• Provided bursaries to Belmont secondary students who want to pursue nursing or health-related studies

• Run an annual Hats for the Homeless campaign

• Fundraised for sewing machines in Africa, clean water in Peru and tsunami relief in southeast Asia, among countless other local and overseas endeavours.

Wellwood encourages anyone interested in the organization to drop by, ask questions and enjoy a cup of tea. “I believe in it, and I think it’s a great place to make lifetime friends,” she adds.

“There will be tea, coffee, some goodies and a cake,” says Shiells. “We’ll have flyers and be able to answer questions, as well as some displays on what we do.”

The tea is from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion at 761 Station Rd., Thursday, Sept. 25.

For more information, call Wellwood at 250.478.1900.

acowan@goldstreamgazette.com