The Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada was established in Winnipeg in February of 1919.As we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of that event, a glimpse of the women who have come from our province to offer themselves as representatives, and then Presidents is due.
There have been 35 women who have presided over the activities of the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada since that February in Winnipeg. They have come from all provinces, and many walks of life: the first was Judge Emily Murphy from Alberta; Senator Martha Bielish was #21 and Emmie Oddie, long-time Columnist in the Western Producer newspaper #22, but only one of them, Ellen McLean of Nova Scotia continued with the organization and served as President of the Associated Country Women of the World from 1983 to 1989!
Returning to the Women from British Columbia who have been National Presidents, there have been 4, including the current office holder.
First was Mrs. Herbert (Zella) McGregor of Penticton. Her term of office stretched from 1937 to 1941.
Mrs. McGregor was diminutive in stature, but with “a backbone of steel” – some said just the right combination for the times. She had taken voice training in her youth and made a most effective speaker. Mrs. McGregor is credited with instigating the great war effort provided by the Women’s Institutes during the six years of the conflict.
The second FWIC president from British Columbia was Mildred Roylance of Greenwood serving from 1959 to 1961. During Mildred’s presidency, FWIC moved from a biennial Convention to a triennial arrangement, and they also purchased the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead, an initiative to restore and maintain the founder’s birthplace. Also during this term, two booklets were prepared that recorded the early history of the national organization and of Adelaide Hoodless herself. Today these booklets are used as sources of accurate and authentic information on the early years.
In 1991, Jacquelyn Linde of Williams Lake became the third British Columbia Women’s Institute member to serve as National President. She will be remembered as the President who encapsulated the definition of the Women’s Institute as “The Women’s Institute is an organization that focused on personal development, the family and community action.” An FWIC Strategic Committee circulated a questionnaire to all Women’s Institutes in Canada to gather data on trends and seek member input. This was a valuable undertaking and clarified the strengths and some weaknesses of the organization.
So that brings us to the present, with Joan Holthe of Doe River now serving as National President; what she will accomplish in her term remains to be seen, but we wish her well. One thing we do know, there will be a Canada-wide Mini Associated Country Women of the World, Conference held in 2020, here in British Columbia. With the setting on the Saanich Peninsula of Vancouver Island, we are expecting good weather and lots of fun!
Thanks to these women who have served on our behalf and and contributed to the story of the Women’s Institutes in Canada. We will look forward to seeing Joan in 2020, and perhaps Jacquie as well.
Yours for Home and Country,
Ruth Fenner, Provincial Historian,
British Columbia Women’s Institute
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