President's Message

I am honoured to have been elected as the President of FWIO at the AGM in November 2019. I am looking forward to working with our Regional Board Directors who are representing all parts of Ontario on your behalf.

My name is Mary Shortt and I am from Brighton, which is in Trent Valley Area. My first memory of WI is when I was 6 and went from the one room school to Mrs. Chatten’s house where mom was at a WI meeting. There was a skunk involved but that’s another story.

I became a Member because I wanted to be involved in an organization that advocates for and promotes education for women. It was at the Kingston Convention that I realized the potential of this organization and since then, I have remained interested in how FWIO relates to the individual Members.

Mary Shortt, FWIO President 2019-2021
Mary Shortt, FWIO President 2019-2021

Does this sound familiar? I have bone china dinnerware for 12 place settings I collected prior to being married over 50 years ago; numerous china cups and saucers I received at my trousseau tea and community shower; silverware (always tarnished) and a variety of silver and china cake plates, countless ornaments I have lovingly collected while travelling with my husband and family while he was in the armed forces; boxes and albums of photographs documenting my entire life – and my kids and grandkids aren’t interested in having any of it!

As a Real Estate Broker, I saw homes filled with beloved reminders of a life well lived and families who have little interest in keeping them. When my mom left her house to move into a retirement residence, she said “I will only take what I need and will leave the rest for you to look after”. I realized she felt obligated to look after and protect these tangible reminders of her past for her children. I recently heard the term “Proof of Life”.

You may not think this is relevant, but this is what I think has happened to our WI and while I am not an advocate for change for the sake of change; I do believe that in order to survive and grow, change must happen.

This is the last year for our current Strategic Plan and a perfect time for our Members to send ideas to their Regional Board Director and Area Voting Delegate.

What do you want our legacy to be?

Will you allow our organization to stagnate and die?

Or change to have it grow and fulfill its potential?

What do you see WI being in the future?

How do you think we should get there?

How are you going to be involved?

Let us consider why we are holding onto so many of the traditions established 120+ years ago and what we must put aside, with gratitude and acknowledgement to our past, but no longer relevant to our future?

There are three C’s in life: CHOICE, CHANCE & CHANGE. You must make a choice to take a chance to make change.

Our organization started with a group of determined women sitting around their dining room table discussing a problem in their society and how to solve it. This is called networking. We hear a lot about networking.

In this current age, we are well placed to promote ourselves as a Women’s Network. We can do and be who we were at our beginning – just differently.

Our survival depends on new membership and we could do that quickly by creating new Branches that will conduct their meetings differently. Gatherings may be less formal and focus on the topic of interest. Roll call could be simply signing in as they arrive and they might not sing the Ode, repeat the Collect, or say Grace.

But WI women will get together – either physically or digitally – and be involved in making their homes and communities better places and by exchanging ideas, they will strengthen and inspire the women in each of their areas which will benefit Women’s Institute as a whole.

I look forward to contributing in some small way to the continued growth and prosperity of WI as we continue – “straight forward and unafraid.”

Wishing everyone good health in the coming months.

Yours for Home and Country,

Mary Shortt