Women's Institute volunteer enjoys socializing and giving back to Springdale community

Published on February 16, 2017

Joan Foster volunteers with the Springdale Women’s Institute, an organization in existence for 80 years this year, including teaching rug hooking. She is seen here with her piece, “Effie M. Morrissey at Battle Harbour, c. 1929.”

©Submitted photo

Joan Foster weaves her life to include time for the Springdale Women’s Institute, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Springdale woman says she learned a lot over her 35 years with the organization that is celebrating its 80th year of existence in 2017. However, her love of the group goes way beyond what she has gained from her involvement.

“I enjoy the social aspect of it,” she said. “We help out in the community with different projects.

“It’s a place women get together to share skills and learn new ones … There’s a lot of camaraderie there, and a good place to go if you just want to relax and unwind.”

There are women from 14 years of age to 90 in the organization that is one of the oldest and strongest in the province. During times when many of these institutes folded, the Springdale chapter stayed active over the years.

Weaving has been a popular activity for the members, but Foster’s passion is rug hooking. She teaches others the traditional craft her mother taught to her.

The Springdale chapter will be doing a number of things throughout the year to celebrate its 80th year— including plans for participation in Canada Day activities, hosting a provincial meeting in October, and an anniversary dinner in November on the official date of formation.

Next week, in conjunction with Women’s Institute Week, the Springdale Women’s Institute will be holding an open house and afternoon tea Tuesday from 2-8 p.m. It is free of charge, and people are encouraged to come by and learn about the organization and meet the people involved.

Foster, an anniversary committee member, says it is a privilege to be involved in an organization so rich in history.

“I think it is marvelous,” she said, proud the chapter has persevered through times in which volunteer organizations struggle with enrolment.

Women’s Institute Week is from Feb. 19-25.

Springdale Women’s Institute president Tammy Anstey poses with its oldest member Mary Pelley, who has been a member for 50 years.
Submitted photo

Women’s Institute celebrates 80 years

Nov. 6, 1937 at 4:30 p.m., a meeting was held for the purpose of organizing the Jubilee Guild in Springdale.

Miss Margaret Tompkins, a field worker from Jubilee Guild Headquarters in St. John’s, was present to assist the 25 members present.

A carding machine was voted to be the first investment. Several local men were asked to meet for the purpose of constructing a weaving loom, and 12 orders were sent for glove-making material. It was then decided to plan a membership drive.

The Jubilee Guild was formed in Springdale, just two years after the launch of the organization in Newfoundland by Lady Anderson. Magistrate Ted Russell initiated the request that a guild be formed here. Membership rose to 121 the first year. Dues were just 25 cents a year. In 1968, the name Jubilee Guilds of Newfoundland and Labrador was changed to Newfoundland and Labrador Women’s Institutes. As such, the group became affiliated with the national organization, Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada (FWIC), and an international body, Associated Countrywomen of the World (ACWW).

Over the years, meetings were held at Locke’s Store (now The Floral Boutique), the school hall, the former and current town halls, and the Lions Den. At times, during relocation the workroom was moved to different places, including the homes of its members. The monthly meetings were a time of learning and sharing — not only ideas, but also friendship and to provide a helping hand. Cooking, baking, and craft demonstrations were very popular. Home nursing was also important in the early days, but once the hospital was built in the community, the need was not as great.

Fundraising was difficult. However, members plunged in to raise money for equipment and to meet the group’s expenses. Through such diligent efforts over the years, the group now has a workroom filled with several looms and other equipment for members’ use. An emergency fund was built up from lunches and ice cream sold at monthly meetings. It was used to help people in need.

When the current town hall was built in 1980, a room was provided downstairs, and the group moved into the location that is still used today. It is now known as “The WI Room.” The room is open on Tuesdays and Fridays for most of the year.  Monthly meetings are held Monday nights.

The Springdale Branch received special recognition as the permanent home of the “Rose Bowl.” It was awarded annually to the guild that had the greatest increase in membership, had produced the most crafts (per capita), and for community involvement. It was won so often by Springdale that it was awarded to them outright in 1977. It is still on display at the WI room.

In addition to benefitting its own members, the group has been quite active in the community. Donations have been made to the local hospital, schools, and various groups in town and around the province. For years members have contributed “Pennies for Friendship” for projects around the world. The group did the collection for the Canadian Heart Foundation for several years. A Christmas party was held for senior ladies, until it was moved first to Valentine’s Day and later to St. Patrick’s Day.

From the early days of Jubilee Guild, the group has actively encouraged training for young girls. Members of youth organizations have spent time learning to weave and do leather at the workroom. Scholarships to local schools have been presented since 1963. Today, members also assist with the breakfast program at the local school.

The broad purpose of the Women’s Institute has always been to give countrywomen the opportunity of working together to improve the quality of life in rural areas, and to provide for their fuller education through a wide variety of activities. To each member, the Women’s Institute may bring something different — the opportunity to pursue her own particular skill or interest — but, to all it means friendship and being able to participate in community, provincial, national and international issues beyond the home and family circle.