September 1919: Broadway’s Women form a Women’s Institute
For women in rural villages such as Broadway, one of the greatest legacies of the First World War was the Women’s Institute Movement. One hundred years ago today, 12th September 1919, a meeting to set up a Women’s Institute for Broadway, was convened in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Broadway.
Proposed by Mrs Katrina L.H. Alexander, wife of Broadway’s GP Dr William G. Alexander1, the meeting, attended by many women of the village, was also attended by Lady Isabel Margesson, from the National Federal Council of Women’s Institutes in London, who gave a talk about the role of the WI and the growing number of WIs across Worcestershire and the country.
Lady Margesson and her daughter, Catherine, like a number of initial WI enthusiasts, had been suffragettes. Lady Margesson had chaired a meeting in Glasgow in September 1914 at which Emmeline Pankhurst had been arrested amidst ‘an outrage’, which bordered on a riot. By 1916, Isabel and Catherine were busy organising women to work on the land or in rural industries and to develop good parenting skills. They saw the WI as closely aligned to these causes.
It was unanimously agreed at the meeting that a WI for Broadway be formed and a working committee was elected to draw up a programme of lectures to be held on the first Wednesday of the month from October onwards. The membership subscription was initially set at 2s per annum and Mary Blomfield of Springfield House was appointed Secretary of the new Broadway WI. It was also proposed that discussions would take place to amalgamate the new WI with Broadway’s Women’s Social Club, after which a new Committee formed from both would be appointed in 1920.
Lady Margesson explained at the meeting that “knitting and needlework were not the only activitities of the Institute. There was boot mending, jam making and the learning of many useful tips in the management of a house or the running of a poultry farm. There would be lectures on subjects of interest such as housing, health, sanitation, concerts, whist drives and sales of work making it continually of interest.”
Meetings of the Broadway WI were initially held at Eadburgha House on the High Street. The newly formed WI flourished and became involved in many activities in the village in particular helping to improve maternal and child welfare in the village. Due to falling membership numbers, Broadway’s WI was disbanded in 2004.
Broadway History Society
1. Dr William and Mrs Katrina Alexander lived at Pond Close, Broadway.