It was 1967.
A group of women, gathered in Verna Dennis’s kitchen at Lyne Creek, decided to form a Women’s Institute Chapter.
“We met for years in Lyne Creek, but meet at the Seniors Activity Centre in Williams Lake now,” said Dennis, who has been president for 20 years.
Last Saturday women from around the Cariboo met for the annual B.C. Women’s Institute Rally, held at St. Andrew’s United Church.
Representatives came from chapters in Dragon Lake, Hixon, Kersley, Horsefly, Springhouse, 100 Mile House and Watch Lake.
Dennis said the B.C. Women’s Institute first began more than 100 years ago when a woman moved to Victoria from Ontario.
Back in Stoney Creek, Ont. the organization had got its start when the baby of Adelaide Hoodless died after drinking unpasteurized milk.
The Farmer’s Institute was already meeting, so Hoodless asked someone from the department of agriculture to speak to a group of women about new methods of dairy farming.
“They agreed to come and both the Farmer’s Institute and the Women’s Institute made resolutions to government asking that all milk being sold in Ontario be pasteurized,” Dennis said.
Since then, the WI has continued the practice of making resolutions.
Lines on the sides of the highway and photographs on driver’s licenses were two of the resolutions put forward.
More recently they’ve advocated retired school buses be painted a different colour so no one can pretend to be a school bus driver. They have concerns that more land be preserved for agriculture as well.
Ruth Kacher of 100 Mile House has been the district board president for six years and said she joined her local chapter in 1977 to do something away from her family.
“I needed something and it clicked,” she said.
As is the case with many organizations, recruitment is the biggest problem.
Provincially, the B.C. Women’s Institute was instrumental in starting Children’s Hospital in 1923 and the original Queen Alexander Hospital for Children in Victoria.
“We advocated,” Kacher said. “We’ve had quite an extensive history across the country and province.”
Jackie Martin of Springhouse reminded the WI advocated for coloured beer bottles so they didn’t reflect the sun and start fires.
The first home economic classes were also a result of the WI’s efforts, recalled Karin Forbes of Lyne Creek.
“They said if you educate a woman, you educate a family,” Martin chuckled.
Dennis said local women have made layettes for women from out of town who end up giving birth in Cariboo Memorial Hospital, and they knit caps for newborns.
Local women have also contributed to a provincial effort to make pillowcases for patients in Children’s Hospital.
“They use them to transfer their treasures when they move within the hospital,” Kacher explained.