The history of Women’s Institutes

By Taylor McClure, Special to The Record

Beginning in the early 20th century, Women’s Institutes were popping up across Canada and rapidly spread to Great Britain and the rest of the world. Historically, these institutes had the common goal to educate women, more particularly rural isolated women, on issues concerning the household, the health of the family and the entire community and to advocate for the improvement of the quality of life for Canadians. After the first Women’s Institute was established in Ontario by Adelaide Hoodless in 1897, the first one in the world, initiatives quickly spread and inspired women from all over the country to establish Women Institutes in support of the families in their communities; including in Quebec. Today, there are about 33 branches of the Quebec Women’s Institute, the first of which was established right here in the Eastern Townships.
On January 27th, 1911, Elizabeth Ann Beach organized a meeting at Best’s Hall in Dunham, Quebec. Inspired by the Ontario Women’s Institute, she started a branch in her community to educate women, especially those women isolated from the major city centers who could not easily access information. For the meeting, she asked Jean Muldrew from Macdonald College if she could come and lecture on the goals of Women’s Institutes. Muldrew took interest in the Women’s Institute in Ontario and had experience writing about their work. She accepted the invitation and the first Quebec Women’s Institute was created with Beach serving as its President. Their motto: ‘For Home and Country.’ See full story in the Friday, Jan. 31 edition of The Record.

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