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.
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!
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!
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! 😉 Happy 100th birthday, the Women’s Institute!
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!