Tribute to BCWI


Women's Institute

I thought you might enjoy this tribute to the BCWI. It was a speech given by Katrine Conroy in the Legislature for this year’s Women’s Institute Week.

This week is also Women’s Institute Week and will be celebrated across Canada. The organization is summed up in the words “Women interested, informed and involved in building a better tomorrow.” Here in B.C. the Women’s Institute started over a hundred years ago in 1909 as a means to provide support to rural women who were new not only to Canada and B.C. but to rural life as well.

Most women were isolated, and the monthly meetings provided a social outlet,  access to home and farm skills plus a means to discuss how their communities could be improved. The women worked to get services such as schools, halls, local libraries, travelling health nurses and dentists. They were instrumental in the establishment of public health units province wide.

WI with Dresden Plate Quilt

They started the first buy-B.C. campaign in the 1930’s; successfully lobbied for changes to the Dower Act, rewritten in 1947 so a husband needed his wife’s consent to sell the family home; and were instrumental in naming the Pacific Dogwood as a provincial flower.

Although society today reaps the benefits of the hard work of the early pioneers, the Women’s Institute does not rest on its laurels. Communities throughout B.C. benefit from the ongoing work of the members, and they continue to support B.C. Children’s Hospital and the Queen Alexandra Centre here in Victoria.

Throughout their history members have lobbied politicians of all levels regarding isssues of concern. Resolutions from the Women’s Institute have included returning the 1 persent property transfer tax to communities to help construct low-income housing and to reasses the needs of those who live on disability pensions or social assistance.

Today the resolutions include: no Site C dam on the Peace, the risk to B.C. of offshore oil and gas drilling, and protecting ourB.C. water supply for our children and grandchildren.

The Edgewood branch in my constituency has been operating since 1926. Some of their members contacted me with their recent concerns, and I wanted to share with the House their service. Rachel Echert has been a member for over 40 years; Penelope Penner, 44 years; and Rosalea Nesbitt has been a member of the Women’s Institute for 63 years.

I ask the House to join me in thanking these women and all the women of the Women’s Institute for their years of commitment to our communities and the province.


Katrine Conroy is the MLA for Kootaney West and is the caucus whip for the NDP Opposition Caucus. She lives with her husband, Ed, in Pass Creek where they run a successful ranch breeding prize winning Polled Hereford cattle.

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