The needs of young people and children have always been close to the hearts of Women’s Institute Members. This has been shown in the founding of the two children’s hospitals in the province and in a host of other activities.
First, the members looked to their communities and found a need for entertainment and happiness for small children. This led to thousands of Christmas parties, Hallowe’en gatherings, Valentine’s Day dances and Easter egg hunts, to name a few. As the children grew, needs changed: soon the WI members were organizing Scout and Guide groups, and later 4-H Clubs. Serving as leaders, judges, instructors or what-have-you, they gave a firm basis to these groups, and many children learned skills that stood them in good stead as adults.
After establishing the two hospitals in the 1920’s, the members gathered money to provide an education for the first patient at the Queen Alexandra Solarium. Othoa “Polly” Scott had been successfully treated for tubercular spine, and with some training in office procedure, soon was earning her living. A small amount of the money designated for Polly’s education remained, and the members decided to establish a fund in her name to assist under-privileged children. Capped in 1947 at $10,000.00, over $300.00 was awarded in its first year. The fund still exists, and still offers assistance to youngsters.
From the beginning, the women have been involved in supporting schools and students. From serving on a school board, to doing janitorial work and gathering funds to provide scholarships and bursaries for students who wished to continue their education, our members have been very active over the years. By 1949 members had donated sufficient money to start giving the Memorial Scholarships – the fund was so named to honor the members who had gone before. Add to this the Branch and District Scholarships and Bursaries and the numbers of students assisted increases greatly!
In the Centennial year of 2009, more scholarships were offered. We like to support those young people who may return to their home communities to work with those they know – but this is not a criteria for selection.
Efforts in the Community
Our members understood that although a good education was necessary, there were things that were not taught in the schools, but could be taught after hours. So, we were among the first to promote 4-H Clubs, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. In every case, the women have donated money to help out – in many cases in 4-H and Girl Guides they have served as leaders, judges, chauffeurs and other roles.
Early histories of our branches show donations to playgrounds, assistance in providing uniforms for school teams and support for sporting events involving the communities young people. Sometimes they ran the concession, or provided lunches for participants.
Entertainment in the community was another venture that the women gladly addressed! Whether they were assisting the children in entertaining, or organizing a community dance, or even doing the entertaining themselves, they entered into the spirit of the event and probably enjoyed the evenings as much as anyone else. From community Christmas concerts and parties to benefits for families in distress, the Women’s Institute Members tried to remember all members of the family, and help each one, as they could. What do you remember about your parent’s or grandparent’s early years? Is there an Institute story in your family tree?
The above article was submitted by Ruth Fenner – A member of the Somenos Women’s Institute
If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it's free).