Women’s Institute south Norfolk branches welcome centenary baton

Left to right: Diss mayor Keith Kiddie; Wendy Adams, Norfolk WI federation chairman; Hilda Corbitt, WI member; Sue Morgan, Diss WI president and Suzanne Ferguson, Diss vice president.

Left to right: Diss mayor Keith Kiddie; Wendy Adams, Norfolk WI federation chairman; Hilda Corbitt, WI member; Sue Morgan, Diss WI president and Suzanne Ferguson, Diss vice president.


The south Norfolk branches of the Women’s Institute welcomed a special centenary baton which is travelling around the country as the organisation prepares to mark its centenary year in 2015.

Women’s Institue fact file

• The Women’s Institute movement has its origins in Canada in 1897 and the first WI meeting in Britain was held on September, 16 1915 in Anglesey, Wales.

• The aim of the WI was to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War.

• It is now the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK with 6,600 branches in England and Wales

• The organisation has more than 212,000 members

• Its role now is to provide women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities including competitions, writing, photography and dancing

• The organisation also has a long history of campaigning on a wide range of issues. The Norfolk WI were instrumental in helping put the ‘Care not Custody’ initiative- which campaigned for services to offer safe alternatives to imprisonment for those with mental health issues-the Prison Reform Trust has worked with the WI to implement change.

• Diss WI is in its 93rd year

• There are 166 Norfolk WI branches with more than 5,000 members

Members from Diss, Tharston, Scole, Pulham, Old Buckenham, Ditchingham and Tibenham gathered at the Thatchers Needle in Diss where they welcomed the baton which has travelled 380 miles around Norfolk by bus.

93-year-old member Hilda Corbitt, who lives in Diss, was given the honour of receiving the baton, which had travelled from Norwich, from the Norfolk WI federation chairman Wendy Adams.

Mrs Corbitt, who joined the WI in 1952, said: “My neighbour and I joined and that was it. It’s the friendliness of the group.
I’m proud to be a member and you make friends with people who aren’t just from your branch but all over.”

The Women’s Institute was formed in 1915 and now has 166 branches in Norfolk which attracts a diverse range of women from a variety of backgrounds 
and it is this which appealed to committee member Jo Locke when she joined 18 months ago.

She said: “It’s meeting inspirational women. They’ve been professionals and had their own businesses and they still have so much to give. It’s fun and their energy is phenomenal.

As the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Institute nears, the centenary baton is making its way around the country for all 6,600 branches in England and Wales to see.

Starting in Anglesey, the baton was passed to Norfolk from Cambridge and is currently in Suffolk before making its way around the southern regions of England and finishing at London’s Royal Albert Hall where the WI’s national annual meeting will be held in June 2015.

There was a big turn out for the day with many dressed in outfits, including ladies maids and land girls, to represent women through the WI’s 100 years.

Diss mayor Keith Kiddie was also in attendance. He said: “The Women’s Institute is a very important part of our society. It is my pleasure to help support them. “They do a good job and they I am keen they continue their association with Diss.”

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