Blyth Women's Institute
Blyth Women's Institute lasted 80 years
When Blyth Women’s Institute celebrated its 80th anniversary on May 3, 1990, members knew the end was near.
The once strong Branch had still been an integral part of the community, but with a dwindling membership, and many of those members aging, the final years had been a challenge.
Jean Nethery, who was president when the Blyth WI disbanded on May 2, 1991, recalled that people didn’t really want the responsibility that came with holding office. “We just couldn’t hold on.” Secretary at that time was Brenda Brooks.
Nethery said the 80th had been the milestone that the Branch stayed alive for. “It seems to me we kept talking about reaching that 80th year. We knew we couldn’t keep going.” she said. “Then we gave it one more year to tie up loose ends.”
It was May 12, 1910 when the Blyth WI was inaugurated. It was part of what was then a relatively new Canadian-based international women’s organization. Membership rose quickly in the beginning hitting 31 and by 1913 it was sitting at 50. Until 1977 that number remained almost constant.
By the 81st year there were only 14 members.
The final celebration saw the attendance of several past presidents including Audrey Walsh, Winnie Johnston, Nethery, Luella McGowan, Pat Taylor and Eunice Emke.
Five years earlier, when the Branch marked its 75th Nethery recalled pianist Ruby Philp accompanying Adeline Campbell who sang a solo.
The youngest Branch member Deb Craig (Hakkers) lit the anniversary candles. “This was quite an occasion for her grandmother Winnie Johnston. She was so pleased to have her granddaughter lighting those candles.”
Also present at the 75th was Edith Logan, a life member at the age of 100. She passed away the following year, Nethery recalled.
While its twilight years may have slowed the Branch somewhat, intitally it was one of the most active organizations in Blyth. One of its main objectives was the building and upkeep of Blyth Memorial Hall. It contributed a good deal to the Hall over the years, particularly in the lower hall and the kitchen.
The WI worked closely with the Red Cross during the years sending war parcels and was involved with the women’s exhibits when Blyth had its fall fall.
In 1950 it began sponsoring 4-H homemaking clubs for young girls as well as courses for adults.
Leaving such community activism wasn’t easy for all members. Nethery who joined in 1970, did so when a neighbour, Edna Montgomery, asked her, offering to pay her dues for a year.
Seeing the Branch fold was a sad time, admited Nethery. “Even though I lived in the country, I had gotten to know a lot of people in Blyth. I was glad to be able to meet them, whereas had I not joined I never would have. There have been lasting friendships as a result.”