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Surrey WI - Join the club

PUBLISHED: 12:26 02 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:29 09 June 2014

The Surrey Federation of WIs was set up over 90 years ago

The Surrey Federation of WIs was set up over 90 years ago

In the first of a new series, in which we'll be finding out about some of the county's many thriving clubs - from the world-famous to the downright quirky - we hear from the spokesperson for the Surrey Federation of WIs, Hilary Gadd

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2009


When was the club set up?
The Surrey WI was set up 90 years ago. It is part of the National Federation of Women's Institutes, which was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to be involved in food production during the First World War. Nowadays, it enables them to learn new skills, become involved in their communities and turn their concerns into campaigns.

How often do you meet?
Every WI meets 11 times a year in their local community.

What's the best thing about the club?
That it is non-religious and non-party political. Membership brings with it fun, friendship and involvement with both local and national issues.

Do you find being surrounded by like-minded individuals inspiring?
It's not just inspiring - it's really motivating as well.

How many members do you have?
The Surrey Federation of WIs has around 170 WIs with more than 6,000 members.

What is the age range of the group?
From 20 to 100 plus!

And do your members tend to meet socially outside the club as well?
Yes, outside the monthly meetings, each WI has it own social activities, outings and special interest groups.

Do you have links with other similar clubs around the country?
Many WIs have developed bonds with those in other federations, overseas WIs and other women's groups. Through the Associated Country Women of the World, it has links with nine million women in 70 countries.

Do you have any famous members?
In the formation years, Helena Auerbach (1872-1955) was a member and honorary treasurer of the Women's Suffrage Society until 1917. She then helped Madge Watt to open the first WIs in Surrey. During the past 90 years, we have members who have received honours from the Queen, scooped awards at the RHS Chelsea Show, and served as local councillors, civic dignitaries and deputy mayors. The present chair of Surrey County Council, Angela Fraser, is a WI member. We are honoured to have Sophie Wessex as a member, too!

What's the most interesting story from the group's history?
Surrey members contributed to the Second World War effort by knitting over a ton of wool into comforts for the troops - and the Cranleigh WI ran a 'pie scheme' by offering hard-working housewives a home delivery service of freshly baked pies! They also converted an empty shop into a licensed hotel and canteen for billeted troops.

...and the funniest?
Watching the faces of the public on seeing the Surrey Federation's own delectable fruit and vegetable Calendar Girls when they first appeared at the Surrey County Show!

When is your next event that is open to the public/potential new members?
Our Valentine Tea Dance in Betchworth on February 17 from 2pm to 4pm. Join us for an afternoon of music from Ray Spiller, laughter, dancing and WI tea! The price is £8. For tickets, ring 01483 233230.

If you could describe your club in five words, what would they be?
Our group is magnificently multifaceted!

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