-Emily Southwood –
This September, the Dewittville chapter of the Women’s Institute (WI) celebrated its 60th birthday with a festive luncheon at Walshhaven Hall in Ormstown.
Members past and present of the Aubrey-Riverfield, Howick and Hemmingford chapters were also invited to join in on the packed celebration. As the largest chapter in Quebec, the Dewittville group is very proud of its many accomplishments in fundraising and advocacy over the years, as well as the many friendships that the community has fostered. For over 100 years, WI chapters worldwide have worked together for “family, home, community and country,” and to support a global sisterhood.
The women reflected on their memories over the course of the luncheon, including how different society was when the chapter was formed 60 years ago. At the time, women weren’t generally working outside of the home, which President Joanne Cunningham qualified with, “which isn’t to say they weren’t working!” Three charter members are still a part of the group and are proud to have developed this community of rural women, thus facilitating a way to join in on new activities, share knowledge, sponsor important causes, and find female companionship.
“The WI is all about getting involved, keeping busy and getting to know each other,” past President of the Dewittville chapter Linda Janes explained and recalled the friendships she quickly formed by joining the WI when her family moved to the area from Pointe Claire. “I asked Marian Ruddock when we moved to Dewittville, “how do people entertain themselves around here?” “You need the WI,” Marian replied. “With that, I felt immediately accepted.” Linda then elaborated. “Over the years being a part of this community has meant always having someone there to help you. People reach out to you and check in.”
Local WI chapters have been the driving force behind several major movements throughout the years, including the pasteurization of milk, the correct labeling of meat, and the proper handling of bread. They have also prompted pioneer recycling programs and “well baby” clinics. Currently the chapters support breakfast and lunch programs, Christmas baskets, and many other causes within local and global organizations; they sew kits for Days for Girls and make finger puppets for the Children’s Hospital. Another facet of their mandate is to try different activities and learn a diversity of new things—from visiting a robotic fair, learning from local artists, heading out for fun at the casino, or learning all about honeybees.
The Dewittville chapter also reminisced about raising money to pay for the original construction of the local skating rink, so that the community would have a gathering place for broomball and hockey over the cold winter months. The luncheon concluded with anecdotal remarks that included many other heartfelt memories and plenty of jokes. Handmade blankets from Ellen Bulow were distributed to longtime members, and many shared their appreciation for the group recalling how deeply the WI has impacted their lives, and the lives of countless others.