The following are excerpts from the book Upper North Thompson Reflections, a history book compiled by Clearwater and District History Book Committee and published in 1996. There are a handful of stories about the history of the Women’s Institute, both overall and in various areas, of which the Times has provided bits and pieces of here.
For Home and Country…And Birch Island
by Ken Madland from notes of Lois Moss et al.
The Women’s Institute movement began in Ontario in 1987 with the efforts of Adelaide Hoodless. By 1919 it had become a national organization, the Federated Women’s Institutes in Canada. Their reasons for existence were to help women in rural settings improve their domestic practices, organize communtiy improvement projects, broaden their exposure to the arts, encourage good citizenship and to advocate for women on issues of importance to them.
Tucked away in the Upper North Thompson Valley about half way between Vancouver and Edmonton is the small community of Birch Island. In early January, 1939, 18 women from this community of 150 to 175 people met for the purpose of forming a group to affiliate with the FWI in Canada. These women, mostly in their 30s and 40s but ranging in age from their early 20s to their 60s, were the wives, coworker and friends of the local general store and hotel…The original declaration application (Jan. 4, 1939) these women formulated included the following statement of purpose: “to improve conditions of rural life, so that settlement may be permanent and prosperous in the farming communties; to improve home economics, public health and child welfare, education and better schools, legislation, immigration and settlement; to encourage agriculture, home and local industries; and to promote social intercourse, mutual helpfulness and the diffusion of knowledge, to make settlers welcome and improve community conditions.”
On July 18, 1939, the Birch Island WI received its charter and was incorporated under the Societies Act…
A History of the Clearwater Women’s Institute
by Marg Bennett, 1981
The following is an excerpt of a poem written by Bennett about the Clearwater Women’s Institute
In the fall of 1930 the WI was organized.
On Jan. 3, 1931, the Charter materialized.
A Mrs. Maxwell as the first President.
Over the meetings did preside.
With Mrs. Warren as Secretary
They worked diligently side by side.
The membership was small at first.
Just eight in all I believe.
But they worked hard and soon the support
Of others they received.
The Farmers had an institute, and then the two
Joined forced to build a meeting hall of logs.
Skidded from the bush by horses.
One member helped to shingle the roof.
And others worked on it too.
The husbands’ help was enlisted.
They did have a hall, Brand New.
Meetings, dances, parties and church, all were held at this hall.
At some of the dances, it was said,
People really had a ball…
The Little Fort Women’s Institute
by Carol Scott
The Little Fort WI was formed on March 27, 1937, with a membership of 13. Mrs. Hazel Loveway was responsible for organizing this group. She was elected first president and Miss Leone Latremouille the first secretary. Keenly interested in the Institute, Mrs. Loveway gave much of her the office of president until 1943.
During World War II, members made quilts, did Red Cross sewing, donated to “Jam for Britain” and “Milk for Britain” funds, contributed many pounds of clothing to the used clothing drive and purchased three Victory Bonds besides several War Savings Certificates. They also made donations to the Red Cross and Salvation Army. When they needed money they worked hard for it with teas, dances, raffles and card games…
In 1945, the main project undertaken by the Institute was the furnishing of a ward in the new wing of the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. The Little Fort ladies contacted other Institutes on the North River suggesting the idea. The cost of the ward, $500, was donated by five WI’s, Little Fort contributing $150. In recent years, the Little Fort group makes an ongoing annual donation to the Medical Libraries of Dr. Helmcken Hospital and to the Barriere Diagnostic and Treatment Centre…
Through the years, the Little Fort WI has taken an active role in the North Thompson Fall Fair. Individually, the members have entered many exhibits in fruit, vegetables, flowers, sweing and baking categories, as well as working together for the WI display and competitions. They have also sponsored local girls for the Queen Pageant…
Since it’s beginning in 1937, more than 50 ladies have belonged to this branch. The present (1996) membership is 15.
Star Lake Women’s Institute
by Wanda Richter
The Star Lake WI has been operating since 1943. Our first president was Mrs. Betty Johnston. The Institute started with 13 members; in 1995 we had a membership of 11. We have two life members, Mrs. Hazel Small and Mrs. Susan May Hendersen. The oldest member still living (as of 1996) is Mrs. Henderson, who celebrated her 100th birthday on February 20, 1995.
Although not organized until 1943, the war record of this group is impressive, which includes 300 cigarettes a month and a parcel each year to the 15 local boys who went overseas. A Sunday school was started in Blackpool with the members as teachers. Wedding showers were given to the daughters adn granddaughters of members. Star Lake helped “both financially and with moral support” to establish the United Church in Clearwater.
Over the years, we have lost and gained many members. We have participated in the North Thompson Fall Fair, catered to many weddings and suppers. Our first bingo donations to charities now amount to over $9,000 a year. Our group donates this money to organizations that will help the people in the North Thompson Valley…We have bursaries, scholarships for sons and daughters of Institute members. Scholarships and bursaries are to help students to further their education and help with the fianances of the student.
We celebrated our 50th year with a tea at the Blackpool Hall on June, 19, 1993.