The AWI as a Social Outlet for Women

Greetings,

This is the next installment in looking back over AWI’s 125 year history. This excerpt again comes from the Many and Remarkable: The Story of Alberta Women’s Institutes by Catherine C. Cole and Judy Larmour, but from Chapter 2, “The Road to Self-Sufficiency, 1921-1928”, page 22-23.

Members of the Wetaskiwin WI Enjoyed the Jubilee Tea in George Wallis’ new garage in 1927. members in the foreground include: Mrs. Compton and Mrs. Knowlan, seated at the reception desk, Mrs. Albert Rodel at the display table, Mrs. Craig, Mrs. George Wallace, and Mrs. Burkholder seated at the tea table in the centre
The Wetaskiwin City Archives
(pg. 24).

The AWI as a Social Outlet for Women

The AWI continued to play an important roles as a social outlet for women in rural areas through the 1920s. The organization provided much of the social life for the community, and united families by hosting various events for young and old alike. The WI organized grandmother’s meetings, knitting contests for grandmothers, picnics for children, bachelors’ teas, oyster suppers, dances, and whist parties. Langdon WI was one of many that involved men in its organization. Once, the men made lunch and the women provided the entertainment for the family meal. At a meeting held by the men in Langdon, “the married men told why they were married and the single ones told why they were not,” as their roll call. Another evening the men held a kangaroo court, charging one another with “not raising a large family,” “having his supper before he came” and “growing a misplaced eyebrow.” At Rose Willow WI, “one man came out on his own and when asked about his wife, he said he had missed the last tow meetings because she was sick and wasn’t about to miss any more.” men drove their wives to meetings (and often stayed) , supported the fundraising and community development efforts of their wives, and benefited from the meetings by discussing with their wives things that the women had learned.

The women valued the social aspects of the WI, but the still had difficulty getting to the meetings because of inadequate roads. The 1927 Annual Report describes the difficulties some women had in getting to the District 3 Conference:

In the Coronation Constituency an Institute women drove herself and held her infant on her lap for twelve miles over frozen mud, a lumber wagon being the only vehicle that could come over the roads. At another place the constituency convener drove herself and a friend over seventeen miles that were considered almost impassable, to reach the conference. Nothing seems too difficult for our women to conquer.

Delays in meeting times were common as it sometimes took hours for women to negotiate washed-out bridges, “gone down” ferries, slippery hills, and other bad road conditions. Many longtime members now reflect fondly on the adventures they had getting to meetings.

Girl’s Clubs

The Girls’ Club movement grew slowly but surely to over sixty clubs in 1929. Girls’ Clubs held their own conventions modelled on those organized for the women. Isobel Noble was the convener for the Jasper convention in 1924. The girls learned how to do various arts and crafts, listened to guest speakers, and had receptions. They held competitions in cooking, sewing, essay writing, posters, mounted pictures and learned to balance clothing budget of $200. Noble encouraged the girls to know themselves, and to give of themselves. Girls’ Clubs were also involved in fundraising, supporting community projects, and visiting the sick.

The Following is from the AWI Operations Manual Published in house in 2020

ALBERTA WOMEN’S INSTITUTES GIRLS’ CLUBS

Starting in 1918 Alberta Women’s Institutes sponsored AWI Girls’ Clubs throughout the Province.  It was a project unique in Canada.

Girls’ Clubs were incorporated in 1919, by an amendment to the Women’s Institutes Act.  Girls’ Clubs followed the Alberta Women’s Institutes guidelines in programming, studying a five-point program each year.  Girls between the ages of 6 and 16 years could become members of the Alberta Women’s Institutes Girls’ Clubs.

The last Girls’ Club, K.A.R.E. (Keanna, Amy, Riley, Emily), folded in 2013.

AWI Girls’ Club Pledge

I promise to do my best for my Club, my community and my country.
I promise to work hard to keep peace and harmony in my Club.
I promise to be friendly and kind to others. {This pledge was sanctioned by AWI Council, May 2001}

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