Organizing Rural Women: The Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario, 1897-1919

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McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, 2004 - Social Science - 240 pages
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In Organizing Rural Women Margaret Kechnie looks at the history of the Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario, popularly known as the Women's Institutes (WI), from the time the first branch was formed at Stoney Creek in 1897 until federation in 1919. Kechnie challenges the popular mythology that the WI began when Adelaide Hoodless called on farm women to organize and received an overwhelming response. She reveals that Hoodless had little to do with founding the WI, that early response to the organization was both disappointing and discouraging, and that for the first thirty-four years of its existence the WI was led by men, who defined the constitution of the organization and set many of its policies. In order to ensure the success of the WI the Ontario Department of Agriculture provided funds to hire organizers and the organization was encouraged to develop branches outside farming areas, even if this meant ignoring the needs of farm women. By the end of the World War I the WI had become one of the largest women's organizations in the province but was widely known not for its emphasis on scientific home management but for its community activism.

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Thorneloe College, Laurentian University

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