From the organizational meeting on September 15, 1909, in a small brick house to the present time in our welcoming community centre, the ladies of our Institute have been a constant strength in our community.
From the very beginning, the WI motto has guided our Members as they strive to provide a wholesome, healthy atmosphere for their families.
Even though the roles of our Members have changed drastically during the past 105 years, WI has always accentuated “Home and Country”, with an emphasis on good nutrition. It is therefore some small comfort for Members to see many of our urban friends ‘getting back to the basics’, pursuing a lifestyle that we have always known to be beneficial. Our community has continually been a place where people care about people. Over the years, the Women’s Institute has shown this concern by being involved in a number of important projects.
During the ‘war years’, there were quilts to be made and knitting to be done for the soldiers. Canvassing for the Red Cross and the Salvation Army was undertaken and later, clothing was collected for the Unitarian Services. For many years, Codrington Women’s Institute and Codrington United Church Women shared adoption costs for several needy children in succession, through a foster parents’ plan. Assisting Northumberland County Historical Society to obtain funding for a county museum at Grafton’s Barnum House, was another important project.
In conjunction with local health units, regular T.B. X-ray clinics and well baby clinics were sponsored. Young mothers could bring their children to a central location to be weighed and discuss their progress or concerns with medical staff and other mothers in the community. In an era without Medicare, this must have been a much appreciated service, as were the medicine cabinets and supplies the WI donated to area schools.
Hot lunches were served to the school children during the winter months and before the sponsorship of the 4-H clubs, the Women’s Institute provided prizes for school fairs and for public speaking. In addition, each summer the young girls of our community were invited to a special WI meeting where they could compete in embroidery and needlework contests and they could also show their skills at baking biscuits. Music Festival support was also a long time WI tradition.
Now, the WI supports the 4-H program and provides academic scholarships at the local secondary school graduation. The tradition of helping fire victims and assisting the elderly and shut-ins is also maintained. Codrington WI also supports four cemetery boards, two local hospitals and a health centre, as well as helping with the upkeep at the community centre. For 13 years, Codrington Women’s Institute has presented ROSE programs with a variety of interesting topics such as health issues, using herbs, benefits of exercise, cooking, gardening and birding with good response from the wider community.
Bazaars, bake sales and catering at the livestock sales barn provided much needed funds for many projects during the 50’s and 60’s. More recently, our catering obligations have been reduced to agricultural annual dinner meetings and Seniors’ dinners held during the winter months.
Organizing recreational and educational activities for our community has always been important to our WI. Some earlier events included card parties, dances, plays, farm radio forum debates, ballgames, fashion shows and picnics. In the 70’s, the WI initiated the formation of a community association for the purpose of purchasing a suitable site and the construction of a community centre (completed in 1982). The WI assisted with many of the necessary fund raising events held in conjunction with this project and WI continues to support the association with ongoing activities and expenses. Our Branch donated a commemorative rock in Codrington Community Centre gardens engraved with the WI logo and date our Branch was established. This serves as permanent recognition of Codrington Women’s Institute’s contribution to our community.
Codrington WI has always championed worthy causes and lobbied for improvements, both locally and provincially. Resolutions relating to mandatory nutrition education and health benefits are presently being supported by FWIO and numerous local Branches. Each year, in February, Codrington WI participates in a Heritage Fair Weekend where local history is featured. A number of organizations, including three local WI Branches combine efforts to make Brighton’s history educational, informative and fun for all ages. The highlight on Saturday and Sunday is a Victorian Tea provided by the Women’s Institutes of York Road, Community and Codrington. Recording local history with our Tweedsmuir books is another important project for our Branch.
In the beginning, WI meetings were held during the daylight hours, and younger children were brought along. Many of our older Members have recollections of attending WI meetings as children with their mothers. During the late 50’s, with many more women entering the workforce outside the home, meeting times were changed from afternoon to evening. Senior Members of our group had the foresight and the willingness to change with the times and to consider the wishes of the younger Members. Younger Members in return, have shown a willingness to shoulder some of the responsibilities and to share the load of leading our Women’s Institute into the future.
I know of no other organization where you could find a group of members, with an age range of 20 to 80 plus years, having common interests and goals, getting together on a regular basis, working for the betterment of the community where they live – learning from each other and enjoying themselves so much.
The oldest organization in Codrington is proud that we continue to educate, activate, challenge, develop and amuse our Members and the community at large. We are indeed fortunate to be such a unique group.