Scrapbook of women’s memories

Whitwell WI are looking for new memebrs to join G130425-2b
Whitwell WI are looking for new memebrs to join G130425-2b

When it comes to history, it’s the little things that are often the most interesting.

Like the fact that back in 1982 Whitwell Women’s Institute could hire a room at the community centre for 55p an hour.

Or that in 1953 a whist drive in the village raised £11 for cancer research.

These are some of the fascinating facts which have been gathered together in an archive celebrating Whitwell WI, which was founded in 1947.

It began with 52 women, mainly farmers’ wives, who wanted to get together socially.

One of the founding members was the rector’s wife Muriel Sternberg, whose daughter-in-law Liz Sternberg, of High Street, is the current president.

Today’s secretary Vivien Rhodes, of Butt Hill, said: “There were no telephones back then so it was about companionship.”

“Women understand other women, they have knowledge to share. Whatever you are going through, it’s good to know you have somebody you can go to and share it with.”

“It’s like when you have a baby and go to a toddler group to share your experiences.”

“I joined because I had just moved to the village and thought it would be a good way to meet people.”

The archive material they are gathering is for an oral history project being put together by the Derbyshire Federation of Women’s Institutes.

The last time they did something similar was in 1965 when they produced a weighty scrapbook of material for the WI’s UK 50th anniversary.

Pauline Patterson, who has been a member since 1982, said: “People wanting to learn about social history can look at the archive and see a true record of rural life and how it’s changed.”

The WI was started in Canada by Adelaide Hoodless in 1897. She was keen to help educate women after her baby son died.

Viv said: “The WI has always been about learning and eduation, as well as the social side.”

And that doesn’t mean lessons in jam-making.

Vice-president Shirley Hill, of Beeley Close, said: “I have never made jam and I don’t bake or arrange flowers either.”

“The WI is about all sorts of things.”

A quick look at their 2013 programme proves her point.

This week’s meeting discussed the WI’s national AGM resolution, which is to support small businesses by shopping locally.

Then through the summer months they will be hearing from guest speakers about a theatre exhibition, childhood toys, and quilling, an art form used to make cards.

The coffee mornings for cancer research have also continued and nowadays raise around £1,000.

The WI meets on the second Monday of the month at the community centre.

New members are always welcome. For more information call Viv on 723437 or email