The Baby and the Belles

Today is an important day in women’s history. Today the Women’s Institute celebrates its 100th birthday!

You’ve probably seen much in the media of late regarding this very special centenary of one of the most celebrated women’s societies in this country, but for me, the Women’s Institute helped to fill a hole in my life when I needed it most.

My WI, the Brentwood Belles, is, if I do say so myself, an extremely popular branch. It’s not uncommon for potential members to be on the waiting list for up to 2 years before space is available for new members to join. I put my name on that waiting list at a time in my life when I just felt a bit lost. I’d been made redundant, we were struggling to sell our starter home which was stopping us from starting a family, and I just felt that I needed something in my life – new hobbies, new friends? – to perk me up.

I got my place with the Belles at a time when Mr Lighty & I were struggling with infertility. That Wednesday evening once a month, when I met up with my new friends to take part in chocolate tasting, or learn how to make sloe gin, or to sing along to a ukulele band (yes our activities really are that varied!), was often the highlight in an otherwise very bleak time in Mrs Lighty’s history, distracting me from the practicalities and worries of life.

With some of my fellow Belles at our centenary dress an era party!

You can imagine then how overjoyed I was to finally come out the other side of that bleak period and go to meetings where I would be 29 weeks pregnant and belly dancing (although I’m not sure that my fellow Belles were overjoyed at the sight of a 29 weeks pregnant belly belly dancing!!)!

Today Mrs Lighty and Baby Lighty have contributed our very own little something to the history of the WI in the form of a model for the Brentwood Fimo Flash Mob Centenary Trail: mini models crafted by various members to represent the different aspects of the WI, from crafters and cake bakers, through to computer savvy users and campaigners. Of course, being a new mummy, my model had to represent the campaign for more midwives!

Models for the Brentwood Belles’ Centenary Trail – mine’s the midwife in the middle!

How lovely to be able to come full circle, and share in something so historic, and so worthwhile, with both my baby and my fellow Belles!

All of the Mini Belles together.

Some of the Mini Belles in situ as part of the trail in Brentwood High Street

So that’s why I joined the WI. And I haven’t ever looked back. It always has been a fabulous institution which has given a voice to thousands of women and causes, as well as initiated friendships, interests and education on topics that we may not have thought about otherwise. For me personally, it helped to lift me from the doldrums when not much else could, so thank you to the Belles for unknowingly playing that part in Mrs Lighty’s life!

Although I still think we should start up our own WI mother and baby group, just so that we can call ourselves the Baby Belles! πŸ˜‰ Happy 100th birthday, the Women’s Institute!

The Fimo Flash Mob and Baby Lighty!

The Fimo Flash Mob Centenary Trail of Mini Belles runs for two weeks from 16th September 2015. To take part, grab a trail sheet from either the Chicken and Frog bookshop or the French Quarter. Follow the Mini Belles’ progress on Twitter at @TheMiniBelles!Β 

Brilliant blog posts on

A Cornish Mum


0 thoughts on “The Baby and the Belles”

  1. Aww, I loved this, especially the flash mob! I have to admit to not knowing a whole lot about the WI beyond the stereotype of jam making old ladies – clearly outdated! I don’t even know if we have it in Scotland. But I’m glad (and a bit envious) that you found such support and fun when you needed it most.

    1. Thanks Sarah! It does have that stereotype but it’s also so, so much more. As well as our monthly meetings when we have an interesting talk or activity – usually something you probably wouldn’t try otherwise – we also do things for the community, such as the Fimo Flash Mob, or more seriously donating to the local
      woman’s refuge or the local food bank, and campaign on a national level for the likes of more midwives, saving the bees, organ donation etc etc. It’s a great institution, I hope it runs for at least another 100 years! Thanks for taking the time to read! #brilliantblogposts

  2. I’m popping over from #brilliantblogposts – I too joined my local WI at a time in my life when I was desperate for a group of like minded friends – 4 years on and i’ve never looked back! πŸ™‚

  3. Ah what a lovely post. I too had the WI somewhat pigeon holed for the older generation (slaps own wrist for stereotyping!!) I love the mini belles, and I think that groups like yours can make such a positive difference to their communities and the individuals that are lucky to be involved. Thanks for a great read :0) x

    1. Thank you, that’s such a lovely thing to say! We do try to do our bit for the community, and it’s definitely helped me πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post πŸ™‚

  4. I’d obviously heard of the WI but in all honesty it hasn’t really been on my radar, may have to research my local one now though πŸ˜‰
    Thanks for linking up to #Picknmix
    Stevie x

  5. I guess like many of the comments, I saw the WI as an institute for older ladies to sit around knitting and making jam but from reading your blog that clearly isn’t the case these days. I may have to look into my local branch, thanks for the insight. #mummymonday

    1. No worries, and definitely take a look! Sometimes you have to try a few branches before you find the right one, but I’m so glad I did! Thanks for taking the time to read πŸ™‚ #mummymonday

  6. How fab that so many people on here are now open to what the modern WI can offer. If no local branch – do what we did and start your own! Not for one minute did we think The Brentwood Belles would be soooo amazingly popular. When we started we thought we might attract between 30 and 40 ladies that were looking for a new adventure….96 arrived on the first night to see what we were about! it is been a wonderful journey for us all and we have been part of so many great evenings….and so varied. #proudtobepartof

  7. I’ve often thought about joining the WI and this post, I think, has given me an extra push to looking into it some more.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. πŸ™‚

  8. Oh this was a great post. I’ve just moved into a new area and looking to make new friends and hadn’t even thought about the WI. Will have to see if there’s one in my area and how I can go about joining, it might be just what I need.

    1. Definitely look into it, I’ve made some lovely local friends through it. Plus you’ll likely try activities that you wouldn’t otherwise!! Hope the move went well and that you’re soon settled πŸ™‚

  9. Aaah this is a lovely post!! They’ve literally just formed a WI group in our village β€” although I saw a pic of the first meeting and it looked as though the average age was 60. There didn’t seem to be many young faces!! I might give it a go though β€” you’ve inspired me πŸ™‚ Thanks for linking up to #TwinklyTuesday β€” much appreciated x

    1. Definitely worth giving it a go, even if you don’t like it, at least you’ll know! The Belles range in ages from 25 – 75, but that’s quite nice as we mix with all sorts and it’s very inclusive. Thanks for having me on #TwinklyTuesday πŸ™‚

      1. I can’t wait for some of the talks proposed for next year. I may have to start categorising the blog to keep track of all my different topics & WI can have it’s own section!! ☺️

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