In 1919 a fourteen year old girl, Margaret McGrath, with her mother, attended the Manitoba Women’s Institute provincial convention at the Agricultural College. One evening the Manitoba delegates gathered at the big ballroom of the Royal Alexandra Hotel, the same hotel at which provincial representatives from many Canadian provinces were meeting to create the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada.
Many years later, speaking about the air at the provincial meeting, Margaret, now a Women’s Institute member, and married and called Margaret Nordstrom, recalled that she felt a sense of history in the air and her mother had impressed on her the importance of what was happening at that time.
In the intervening years, Margaret had trained as a teacher and had taught in a number of locations before moving to Fort White in 1926. Here she boarded in the Nordstrom home where she met their son, Clarence. Margaret and Clarence were married in 1928 and farmed and raised their family. She joined the Teulon WI because she knew cultural activities were part of the WI program, and she was interested in needle work. In 1967 they retired to Salmon Arm, British Columbia, where she joined the local Women’s Institute.
The rest of her story, and some of which I have repeated here, you already know from reading Jean Johnson’s account of Margaret’s story in the book 100 Women of the British Columbia Women’s Institutes 1909 – 2009.
If you, like many of us, have and wear the tartan strip to display your Women’s Institute pins, then you carry with you a symbol of Margaret’s creativity and work. When the call went out from the Canadian Conference Committee who were planning the hostess activities for the Associated Country Women of the World Conference 1983, which was held in Vancouver, for ideas for the official Conference identification item, Margaret suggested a British Columbia tartan fabric be used and prepared one for the Committee to examine. The Committee was delighted, and soon Margaret and other volunteer sewers were hard at work, preparing the 2,200 strips that were suggested were needed to supply each one attending ACWW 1983. Some were left over after the Conference, and at that time the strip became the official BC Women’s Institute pin strip.
Margaret Nordstrom suggested the idea of each Women’s Institute designing and using a wall banner to identify and promote their branch. Later, the Districts also made banners, so when we gather together, even the newer members, and any guests attending our meetings can take home a visual memory of the group with which they had met. There were many more items Margaret made and donated to the Women’s Institute – at local, District and Provincial levels. If you are fortunate enough to have something in addition to the pin strip, I ask you to treasure it, for Margaret’s sewing and needlework was some of the very best our organization has produced in this province. For her service, she was presented with the Provincial Service Pin
Margaret marked her 100th birthday in 2005 (how many members, I wonder, remember signing a birthday card for her at the Provincial Convention, Penticton, in June 2005?). She left us later that year, but memories of her needlework abilities linger on – thank you, Margaret for all your contributions!
Yours For Home and Country,
Ruth Fenner, Provincial Historian, BC Women’s Institutes
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