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The Women's Institute: For Home & Country

Updated: May 31, 2023

The first Women’s Institute was founded in Stoney Creek, Ontario on February 19, 1897, inspired by Adelaide Hoodless, a bereaved mother whose first son died at 18 months from drinking unpasteurized milk. She was determined to educate others of this danger and headed a campaign in her city for the pasteurization of milk.

Within 10 years, more than 500 Institutes, with a focus on education, were organized across Canada, coming to B.C. in 1909 and spreading throughout the British Empire, starting in Wales in 1917.

Front page article in the Wed, Nov 03, 1909 edition of the Chilliwack Progress. (Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress Archives)

In 1914, Atchelitz Women's Institute was organized on July 22nd; the meeting being held at Atchelitz Farmers Institute on Lickman Rd. Thirty three women became members, going straight to work to support our soldiers during WWI. Care packages were made up and sent through the Chilliwack Red Cross.

News regarding the Women's Institute's activities was regularly reported in the newspaper. This one appeared in the Jan. 14, 1914 edition. (Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress Archives)

In 1923, BC Children’s Hospital (originally BC Crippled Children’s Hospital) was founded by B.C. Women’s Institute branches. From 1920 through to 1990's, the Atchelitz Women's Institute members donated money to both BC Children’s Hospital and Chilliwack Hospital, as well as home grown canned fruit, vegetables, knitted and sewn items for sale.

This Jan 22, 1920 post highlights the Women's Institute's concern for health and child welfare. (Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress Archives)

During WWII, members of the Women's Institute continued to support the war effort with bake sales and care packages sent overseas, and focus on educating women/households on how to preserve and extend food security under strict wartime rations.

Above images clockwise from top left of the Jan 14 1941, Jan 15, 1944, & Jan 26, 1944 Editions of the Chilliwack Progress. (Image credits: Chilliwack Progress Archives)

During the 1950's and 60's, the Club room hosted card parties and whist drives for the community.

From the 1960's through to the 1990's, the Atchelitz Women's Institute, along with other Women's Institutes, became well known for its elegant Tea Socials, Coffee Parties, Bridal Showers, Weddings and Community special events. Unfortunately, these were discontinued in 2001 due to declining membership.

May 17, 1960 (Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress Archives)

Mar 26, 1960 (Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress Archives)

After 2004, membership improved, so in recent years, up until the pandemic, AWI have raised significant amounts by way of a Spring Tea, Bake & Plant Sale, Pub nights at Duke’s Pub in Greendale, and Beans & Jeans Dance at the Atchelitz Farmers Institute Hall. $8 - $10K have been donated annually to local charities.

In 2022 returning to our fund raising activities, despite declining membership, AWI successfully held their very popular Spring Tea, Bake and Plant Sale in April, and a Fall Tea, Bake and Preserves Sale in October.

Mar 28, 2004 (Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress Archives)

The Mary Stewart Collect was written in 1904, and is recited at the start of every meeting worldwide; a mantra every member endeavours to live up to in daily life.

Keep us O Lord from pettiness; let us be large in thought, in word and in deed.

Let us be done with fault finding and leave off self seeking.

May we put away all pretense and meet each other face to face,

without self pity and without prejudice.

May we never be hasty in judgment and always generous.

Let us take time for all things; make us grow calm, serene, gentle.

Teach us to put into action our better impulses straightforward and unafraid.

Grant that we may realize that it is the little things that create differences;

that in the big things of life we are one.

And may we strive to touch and know the great human heart common to us all.

O Lord God let us not forget to be kind.

Active Women’s Institutes in Chilliwack are:

Atchelitz Women’s Institute meets 2nd Wednesday of month at Atchelitz Farmers Institute Hall on Lickman Rd between Sept - Jun.

Ryder Lake Women’s Institute meets 1st Wednesday of month at Ryder Lake Community Hall between Sept-Jun.

Both groups post their activities on their Facebook pages; new members welcome.


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