When I write these columns for the British Columbia Women’s Institute website, I try to focus on the achievements of the many women’s Institutes that have performed notable tasks and have been highly successful.
But there have been a host of Women’s Institute branches who have come and gone over the past 110 years, and some of them have been in quite remote areas of the province. The first one that comes to mind is Trinity Valley – I can just hear some of you “Never heard of it!” I am not surprised. When we were preparing the History Book in the years 2002 to publication in early 2008, there were several like these, and although we were successful in finding material on some of them, some like Trinity Valley, have still eluded us.
What little we do know, is that this Institute was located in what we now refer to as the North Okanagan-Shuswap District. Trinity Valley Women’s Institute was formed in 1940 and operated until 1942. Like so many others that were incorporated in the years immediately prior to, and during World War 2, they fell awry of the relocation of many families in this time period. With so many men enlisting in the military, small communities suffered an outflow of residents, which also included the families of the enlistees. Unfortunately, the only physical evidence of this Institute is a small black and white photo that appears on page 110 in 100 Years of B. C. Women’s Institutes 1909 – 2009.
Some other short-lived Women’s Institutes include Milner WI in the Fraser Valley which operated from 1923 – 1926; Deerholme WI in the Duncan area of Vancouver Island which functioned from 1939 until 1941 and Burns Lake in Bulkley-Tweedsmuir – 1954 -1956. There were numerous others: Williams Lake WI opened in 1981 and went into abeyance in 1984, also Chetwynd active from 1960 to 1963. However long they served under the Women’s Institute banner, they have added to our history, and we acknowledge their contributions.
There is one other that I can tell you more about. I think everyone knows where Tete Jaune Cache is located. Although they were only active from 1946 until sometime in 1948 – 1949, some of their record has survived, and I wish to share that with you. They worked closely with their community:
- awarded a prize to the boy and girl of the school with the neatest book and another prize for the student with the best behaviour
- donated $10.00 in memory of late President Mrs. Clark to the McBride hospital which was used upon request to purchase a prenatal stethoscope
- Community Christmas tree – Mothers asked for a gift for their children, and the Institute spent about two dollars on each child.
- A member took in the child of a woman in the community who was leaving town for an operation, and another member sent a parcel of clothing to help
- They sent a letter to the Minister of Public Works regarding the road to McBride: “That this meeting go on record as imploring the Provincial Government through its Minister of Public Works to open up the road to McBride and keep it open, and be held responsible in case of complications arising though lack of needed medical assistance.”
- Aided in hot lunches in the school
- Annual community picnic with bingo and a dance
- Helped the teacher with a small picnic on the last day of school
They also offered a community social gathering, free of charge, plus the sale of sewing articles their members had made.
These groups have all passed into history, but they did their share to help make British Columbia a better place to live, and to enhance and expand their communities. Our thanks to each one of them for their efforts!
Yours For Home and Country, Ruth Fenner, Provincial Historian, British Columbia Women’s Institute
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