“For Home and Country”: Champion Women’s Institute

When the Champion’s Women’s Institute (WI) disbanded in the 1980s, it was the longest running organization in Champion’s history. The first meeting of the WI had been held in Miller’s Hall on 14 July, 1915, with Mrs. Seal as the first president.

First Women's Institute Camping Group (from Cleverville Champion History Book)

In 1897, Adelaide Hoodless founded the first Women’s Institute in Canada, in Stoney Creek, ON. Hoodless believed that women could work together towards the goals all rural women, families, and communities held in common: better health care and sanitation standards, improved social services, and access to education, particularly in home economics. By 1913, Women’s Institutes were established in rural communities in all Canadian provinces.

Champion’s Women’s Institute was active for almost 70 years, through peacetime and two World Wars, with a strong emphasis on community service and personal growth for rural women. During the wars, WI members worked with the Red Cross in sewing and knitting for soldiers, along with other patriotic volunteer activities. In the Dirty Thirties, the WI was particularly active in raising money for families in need, providing relief when necessary, and contributing to the health and security of women and children by undertaking such activities as the “Baby Clinic” and the Ladies Rest Room.

The Champion Chronicle, April 9 1931

The Champion Chronicle, Sept. 10 1931

The Champion Chronicle, Aug. 13 1931

A commitment to education for women was central to the aims of the WI. The Champion Chronicle tells us that many speakers and teachers visited Champion at the request of the WI, and members heard such lectures as “The New Type of Secondary Education,” “Early Pioneer Days in the West,” “How to Relax,” “Canadianization,” and “The League of Nations.” Clearly Champion’s women were eager to learn as much as they could, not only about home economics and motherhood, but also about politics and international affairs.

Through the WI, the women of Champion contributed much to the community and to the province. Delegates from Champion often travelled to WI meetings in Carmangay, Kirkaldy, Lethbridge, and to meetings of WI branches around the province. Their community service and educational efforts worked to make Champion a better community.

Champion Women's Institute 60th Anniversary, 1975 (from Champion and District History Book)

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