On this day in history : 16th September 1915 – Britain’s first Women’s Institute is opened in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobllllantysiliogogogoch, Anglesey, Wales….

Women’s Institute building in Llanfairpwll, dating from 1915 – the oldest in Britain. Photo credit : Robin Drayton CC BY-SA 2.0

Since that time the W.I. has grown to become the UK’s largest women’s voluntary organisation with over 6,300 branches and more than 212,000 members….

Originally the W.I. was established to teach and encourage rural women to grow and preserve food to help feed the nation during the war years…. Women got together to share their skills – something that is still a very important part of the organisation today….

Meiford W.I. making jam as part of the Ministry of Food fruit preserving scheme, in 1941 – National Library of Wales – Public domain

It was during the 1920s that many W.I.s formed choirs…. An amateur musician from Shropshire, W.H.Leslie, acted as an advisor to the formed music committee…. He then asked his friend Sir Walford Davies, who was a composer, conductor, musician and advisor to the BBC, to write an arrangement of ‘Jerusalem’ especially for the W.I. choirs…. The song was deemed as an appropriate choice to encourage women to actively take a role in public life….because of its association with the fight for women’s rights and the Suffrage movement….

W.I. stall, Cirencester, 1933 – no known copyright restrictions
Women’s Institute members bottle jam in Rowney Green, Worcestershire, 1943 – From the collections of the Imperial War Museums

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