On this International Day of Rural Women, it is fitting to focus on The Women’s Institute Exhibit at the Museum. The Exhibit holds the full and partial records for the local Institute branches of Hopetown, Middleville, Rosetta, Pine Grove and Union Hall. It also has the Tweedsmuir Histories that were compiled by members of The Women’s Institute of Rosetta and Hopetown to document the local history in their communities. These books hold many details of interest to researchers.
A little history of the Women’s Institute that grew from a rural grassroots movement to a worldwide organization:
On the evening of February 19, 1897, a group of a hundred women and one man, gathered in the Squire’s Hall in Stoney Creek, Ontario to hear a young woman speak. Her name was Adelaide Hoodless and she had an idea they thought might be worth listening to. She proposed that rural women should have an organization to study homemaking just as the farmers had to learn about agricultural information. The name of the organization was eventually decided on and ‘The Women’s Institute of Saltfleet’ was established. The woman, Adelaide Hunter Hoodless, was a wife and mother who believed early training of young girls in Domestic Science was crucial to the well being of society. The strength of her conviction was most likely borne of her own personal tragedy in the loss of a child. When she learned that her youngest son died as a result of drinking unpasteurized milk and that this was a common occurrence, she made it her life’s work to educate young mothers in this and other important domestic knowledge. She maintained that rural women should have a place to “discuss their problems and work together to improve their standards of homemaking and citizenship”. (Ontario Women’s Institute Story, FWIO) The Women’s Institute eventually spread to all the provinces of Canada and to affiliates in countries around the world.
If you want to know what was accomplished by The Women’s Institute through history, look to the records of local communities and you will inevitably find notations of many feats accomplished by this organization. The Museum recently acquired a streetlight from the early 1900s originally purchased with funds raised by the local branch of the Women’s Institute. Countless projects were sponsored and funded by the rural women who joined forces and made things happen to better their communities. They got things done. So in celebrating the International Day of Rural Women, think of the power of the grassroots movement started by Adelaide Hoodless and her legacy of service carried on by women all over the world today.
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.