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National Federation of Women's Institutes

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 106 5FWI
Held at: Women's Library
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: National Federation of Women's Institutes
Date(s): 1915-2004
Level of description: fonds
Extent: 285 A boxes, 8 OS boxes (plus 45 T boxes, 50 A boxes, 13 OS boxes / items uncatalogued)
Name of creator(s): National Federation of Women's Institutes
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

The National Federation of Women's Institutes (1915-fl 2008), founded in 1915, grew out of a need for a body to support women in rural communities


As at 2007 The National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) consisted of all the Women's Institutes (WIs) in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The FUNCTION of NFWI was to put into effect the wishes of the members; the means by which this is done was laid down in the Constitution and Rules.


From 1915-1917 the Women's Institute (WI) committee of the Agricultural Organisations Society (AOS), a body funded by The Development Commission was responsible for forming the first WIs in Britain. The object of the AOS was to organise farmers into co-operative societies for the purchase of agricultural requirements and for the sale of produce but there were very few women involved in this work. John Nugent Harris, the secretary of AOS, heard about the Canadian WIs from Madge Watt who was visiting from Canada. Seeing the value of the WI movement, especially in war time, to get country women working co-operatively to increase food production, he persuaded AOS to employ Madge Watt to set up WIs. The first she started were in Wales soon followed by ones in England. AOS set up a subcommittee to oversee the WI work and appointed Lady Gertrude Denman as Chair on 3 Oct 1916. In Sep 1917 the Treasury refused the AOS a further grant for WI work, realising the movement was growing they felt it more appropriate that the funding for forming new WIs should be given to the Women's Branch of the Food Production Department of the Board of Agriculture (which also organised the Women's Land Army). Lady Denman did not wish the WIs to be taken over by a government department and negotiated an arrangement whereby the Board of Agriculture would fund the forming of WIs but the WIs, once formed, would be self-governing. Ongoing support and policymaking would be done by a separate organisation - a National Federation of Women's Institutes. On 16 Oct 1917 delegates from the 137 existing WIs were invited to a meeting at which they agreed to the setting up of the NFWI, its Constitution and Rules. They also elected a CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF MANAGEMENT. This was subsequently renamed the NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE. At the first meeting of the Central Committee of Management Lady Denman was elected Chair. As well as the elected members the committee included appointed representatives from various government departments that provided financial support or had similar interests to the newly formed NFWI

In 1917-1918 these representatives were: Miss Talbot OBE - Board of Agriculture; The Hon Mrs Hanford - National Union of Women Workers; Mr J Nugent Harris, Mr GF Hooper and Mrs Roland Wilkins - AOS

1918-1919 representatives: Miss Talbot CBE - Board of Agriculture; The Hon Mrs A Lyttelton DBE - Board of Agriculture; Mr S Bostock, Mr GF Hooper, - AOS; Lady Cowan - National Council of Women Workers.

1919-1921 representatives: Miss Talbot CBE - Ministry of Agriculture; The Hon Mrs A Lyttelton DBE - Ministry of Agriculture; Mr S Bostock- AOS

1921-1922: Dame Meriel Talbot - Ministry of Agriculture; The Hon Mrs A Lyttelton DBE - Ministry of Agriculture; Mr ATA Dobson - Ministry of Agriculture; Miss Purves - National Association of Landswomen; Mr S Bostock- AOS.

The National Executive Committee continued to have representative members until incorporation in 1990. For example in 1988-1989 the representative members were: Mr CJ Hancock LLB BA ALA - Department of the Environment; Dr JM Graham - Principal Medical Officer, Department of Health and Social Security; Mr J Coe - Chief Information Officer, Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food; Dr D Hibbert - HMI, Department of Education.


From 1915 - 1917 The WIs adopted rules based on the Canadian model and agreed that they would: "a) Study home economics; b) Provide a centre for educational and social intercourse and for all local activities; c) Encourage home and local industries; d) Develop co-operative enterprises; e) Stimulate interest in the agriculture industry"

From 1917-1919, under the Board of Agriculture, WIs concentrated on food production to help the war effort.

After the First World War ended, at the AGM in 1919, a revised form of the CONSTITUTION was agreed, which was further reviewed in 1928, 1948 and 1970. The following version was used in the 1950s and 1960s:

"CHARACTER: The Women's Institute movement is based on the spiritual ideals of fellowship, truth, tolerance and justice. All countrywomen are eligible for membership no matter what their views on religion or politics may be. The movement is non sectarian and non party-political.

OBJECTS: The main purpose of the Women's Institute movement is to improve and develop conditions of rural life. It seeks to give to all countrywomen the opportunity of working together through the Women's Institute organisation, and of putting into practice those ideals for which it stands. For the purpose of furthering the said objects, the Women's Institute shall have the power to: 1) Provide for the fuller education of countrywomen in citizenship, in public questions both national and international, in music , drama and other cultural subjects, also to secure instruction and training in all branches of agriculture, handicrafts, domestic science, health and social welfare; 2) Promote international understanding amongst countrywomen; 3) Provide a centre for social intercourse and activities; 4) Develop co-operative enterprise; 5) Receive and apply in and towards any of the above objects, and not otherwise, grants and other funds provided and sanctioned by the National Federation of Women's Institutes of England, Wales, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man (hereinafter referred to as ' the National Federation'); 6) Buy on behalf of all or any members any commodity, approved by the committee, and distribute and allot the same either gratuitously or at cost; 7) Do such other things as may be incidental or conducive to the attainment of the purpose of the Institute"

Subsequently changes were made: 1) To clarify the meaning of 'non-party political - 'This shall not be so interpreted as to prevent WIs from concerning themselves with matters of political or religious significance, provided that the views of minorities are respected and provided that the movement is never used for party political or sectarian purposes' (1971); 2) To clarify the meaning of 'countrywomen' - 'Countrywomen shall mean women living in rural areas and women living elsewhere who are interested in the promotion of the arts crafts and sciences associated with rural life and the improvement and development of conditions of rural life'.

In 1990 NFWI became Incorporated - a charitable company limited by Guarantee


'PREAMBLE: The Women's Institute movement is based on the ideals of fellowship, truth, tolerance and justice. All women who are interested in the arts, crafts, sciences and other issues associated with rural life (called countrywomen in this Memorandum of Association) may join no matter what their vies on religion or politics may be. The movement is non-sectarian and non-party political. This does not prevent WIs from concerning themselves with matters of political or religious significance, provided that the views of minorities are respected and provided that the movement is never used for party political or sectarian purposes. WIs are charitable and everything they do must be consistent with that special legal status. OBJECTS: The objects of the National Federation are to enable countrywomen to take an effective part in the improvement and development of the conditions of rural life, to advance their education in citizenship, in public questions both national and international, in music, drama and other cultural subjects, and secure instruction and training for them in all branches of agriculture, handicrafts, domestic science, health and social welfare. It exists to give all countrywomen the opportunity of working together through the Women's Institute organisation, and of putting into practice those ideals for which it stands. POWERS include: * To form, assist and advise Federations; * To form, assist and advise WIs; * To promote international understanding; * To organise conferences, course of instruction, exhibitions, lectures and other educational activities; * To publish books pamphlets reports leaflets journals films tapes and instructional matter'.

From 2000 the full Memorandum and Articles were available as a down-load from the NFWI website

From 1990 the WIs and Federations elected an Executive committee/ Board of Trustees every two years by postal ballot. In 1990 the number of Trustees was 17 plus the chair of the Wales committee ex officio and the power to co-opt up to 4 others

In 2002 a revised constitution reduced the number on the Board of Trustees to 14 including the chair of the Wales committee ex officio.


From 1917 the Central Committee of Management (subsequently the National Executive Committee and then The Board of Trustees) appointed Standing Sub-Committees to consider and make recommendations regarding areas of interest and special issues within the scope of their terms of reference. The sub-committees co-opted people with specialist knowledge to give expert advice. Their recommendations and reports were passed to the Executive Committee for decision. Ad Hoc committees, and working parties were set up from time to time to complete specific tasks.

The committee structure has changed over the years, the names of the committees have been changed but similar areas of work have been covered.


In 1919 The Consultative Council was established as a forum where the National Executive Committee and the elected Consultative Council Representatives from every Federation could meet, usually twice a year, to discuss national policy and comment on budgetary and other financial matters including (from 1976) amount and division of the annual subscriptions of members.

In 1981 this body was replaced by the National Council, made up of the National Executive Committee and the Chairs and Treasurers of the Federations. The Council received reports from the Executive Committee had the power to make recommendations to the Executive Committee by majority vote. Until 2006 it met twice a year and at the spring meeting considered resolutions submitted for the AGM and advised the Executive Committee on which ones should be placed on the final agenda.


From 1917 onwards NFWI has nominated members, or employees, to represent them on other bodies with similar or complimentary interests. These people were listed in the Annual Report. Also listed there were those people who served on outside bodies in a personal capacity but reported to the NFWI.


The Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) was established in 1933, and NFWI affiliated to it and sent delegates to Area Conferences and to Triennial meetings.


When sufficient WIs were formed in a County the WIs joined together to form a County Federation. As at 2007 there were 70 county and Island Federations, each with a regional office, each level of the organisation was run by a committee of elected members. The NFWI Board of Trustees was democratically elected every two years by the members.


The first paid staff members were employed by NFWI in 1918. NFWI employed staff for the London HQ and also various specialist organisers who travelled to advise the Federations and WIs on handicrafts, agriculture and horticulture, marketing, education and general organisation matters. From 1948 NFWI employed staff at Denman College


1917-1919 - The Landswoman - (shared with The Women's Land Army)

1919-2006 - Home and Country - a subscription magazine, published monthly

2007 - WI Life - a membership magazine published eight times a year


1919 NFWI Publications Department, published leaflets and booklets providing advice to members to help them run the organisation, and also of an educational nature.

1977 - WI Books Ltd, published books and leaflets for internal use but also to sell on the open market and raise funds.

WI ENTERPRISES - incorporating the publishing activities and the production of the WI magazine as well as the trading arm of NFWI, was set up to raise funds and provide benefits for members.


1919 - First Women's Institute Market started in Lewes as an outlet for surplus produce. WI Markets spread to other areas to allow members and other share holders to market the products of their gardens, kitchens and craft skills.

In 1932 NFWI received a grant from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust to expand the markets and they were formally registered as co-operatives under the Industrial Provident and Friendly Societies Act.

Neither NFWI nor the County Federations had legal control over markets but had responsibility to encourage their formation and development and to provide education in marketing for all WI members wishing to participate

By 1992 the combined annual turnover of the Markets reached £10m and in 1995 WI Markets separated from NFWI were renamed WI Country Markets and became self-financing. In 2004 WI Country Markets Ltd shareholders voted to discontinue the use of the WI initials, at the request of NFWI, and became Country Markets Ltd. (


1915-1917 the work of forming WIs was funded by AOS. Once formed the WIs became self funded

1917-1919 the work of forming WIs was funded by The Board of Agriculture, and grants were provided for the formation of County Federations, after which they became self funded.

1920-1927 NFWI received grants for core funding from Development Commission, the amount given gradually decreased until they stopped in 1927.

1927 onward income to run NFWI came from: share of annual membership subscriptions; grant-making bodies, educational trusts; commercial sponsors; WI Enterprises trading arm; investments; gifts, donations, and legacies.


1915 the Agricultural Organisations Society (AOS) employed Madge Watt to start WIs in Britain (Aug 1915 )

1915 Madge Watt started the first WI in Britain at Llanfair PG on Anglesey (11 Sep 1915), President : Mrs Stapleton Cotton

1915 AOS started a WI sub committee (Nov 1915)

1916 (summer) Lil Nugent Harris became secretary of the AOS WI committee

1916 (autumn) AOS invited Mrs Drage and Mrs Stapleton Cotton onto the WI sub committee and Lady Denman appointed Chairman

1917 The Treasury refused AOS a further grant for WI work (Sep 1917). Responsibility for forming WIs passed to the Women's Branch of the Food Production Department of the Board of Agriculture (who were also concerned with the Women's Land Army)

1917 first County Federation formed (Sussex on 5 Sep 1917)

1917 first Annual General Meeting of WI delegates held on 16 Oct 1917

1917 NFWI formed

1917 Lady Denman Elected Chair of Central Committee of Management

1918 NFWI exhibition and sale in Caxton Hall

1918 first training school for Voluntary County Organisers(VCOs) held Burgess Hill, Sussex (on 6 - 24 May 1918)

1918 AGM decided not to form WIs in towns

1919 Home and Country published for the first time (Mar 1919)

1919 Special General Meeting agreed a new national executive committee structure (15 Oct 1919) the AGM on 16 Oct 1919 agreed new constitution and rules for post war times

1919 first Consultative Council meeting

1919 General Endowment Fund started

1920 Grant of £10,000 made from the Development Commissioners for general organisation, with promise of continuing but decreasing grants until the movement should become self supporting

1920 Guild of Learners of Handicrafts set up

1921 Endowment fund started £12,000 raised

1921 First grant received from Development Commissioners for work with handicrafts

1922 system of annual voluntary donations to NFWI funds from County Federations on behalf of WIs started

1923 AGM decided that WI membership was open to women and girls only

1923 Formation of Welsh Counties Conference

1926 Last grant received from the Development Commissions for general organisation

1926 NFWI's claim for exemption from Income Tax allowed on appeal

1928 First National Drama Festival

1928 First report on the Constitution

1932 AGM decided that fares of all delegates to the meeting should be pooled

1932 Carnegie United Kingdom Trust (CUKT) grant awarded for 3 years to organise and increase WI Co-operative markets

1933 Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) started

1939 First grant from the Development Commissioners for agricultural work

1939 Produce Guild Formed

1940 Questionnaire to WIs about experiences with housing evacuees, resulting in the report 'Town Children through Country eyes'

1940 First grant from Ministry of Food, NFWI began to administer the Ministry's fruit preservation scheme

1945 AGM instructed NFWI executive committee to establish a Women's Institute College

1946 Ministry of Food/NFWI preservation scheme ended

1946 NFWI Combined Arts Festival

1946 CUKT grant awarded to start WIs in the Channel Islands

1947 'Operation Produce' launched

1947 First WI in the Channel Islands established

1948 Denman College opened (24 Sep 1948)

1948 First grant received from the Ministry of Education of the 'development of liberal education for women'

1948 'Home Produce' Exhibition

1948 Second report on the Constitution

1949 First WI formed in the Isle of Man

1949 Federation of Wales committee set up

1950 Jersey and Guernsey Federations affiliated to NFWI

1950 National Singing Festival - 'Folk Songs of the Four Seasons' by Ralph Vaughan Williams - Albert Hall

1951 Isle of Man Federation affiliated to NFWI

1951 Denman College Endowment Fund established

1951 First WI Market Place at the Ideal Home Exhibition

1952 Crafts Exhibition at Victoria and Albert Museum

1955 AGM decision led to formation of Keep Britain Tidy Group

1957 National Drama Festival - 'Out of this Wood' commissioned Robert Gittins

1961 AGM pledges WI support for Freedom from Hunger Campaign

1961 WI Market Place at the Ideal Homes Exhibition

1962 NFWI 'Country Feasts and Festivals' competition at the Dairy Show

1963 National Art Exhibition 'Painting for Pleasure' at the Galleries of the Federation of British Artists

1965 WI Golden Jubilee celebrated

1965 AGM - rule limiting the formation of WIs to places with a population of under 4,000 rescinded

1968 National appeal for half a million pounds launched, to improve the financial position of NFWI

1969 'The Brilliant and the Dark' specially commissioned operatic sequence for women's voices by Malcolm Williamson and Ursula Vaughan Williams Performed in the Albert Hall by WI members

1969 National appeal reached target

1970 Third report on the Constitution

1970 CUKT grant for three year 'Town and Country Project'

1970 Queen Mother opened the new Teaching Centre at Denman College

1971 AGM agreed change to interpretation of the non-party political and non-sectarian rules

1971 Olive Farquharson elected world president of ACWW

1972 'This Green and Pleasant Land?' exhibition at Ideal Homes Exhibition at Olympia

1972 Produce and Handicraft Guilds ceased, to enable all WI members to share these activities without additional payment

1974 Local Government reorganisation of boundaries and NFWI decided to realign Federation boundaries

1975 WI Diamond Jubilee celebrated

1975 'Tomorrow's Heirlooms' exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute

1975 Avon and West Midlands, new Federations affiliated to NFWI

1976 AGM decided to allow the amount and division of the annual subscription to be decided in future by NFWI executive committee in consultation with Consultative Council representatives

1977 Humberside Federation affiliated to NFWI

1977 WI Book Ltd registered as a privately owned company

1978 Tyne and Wear north and South Federations affiliated to NFWI

1979 The Queen opened the Home Economics Centre at Denman College

1980 National Drama Festival 'Scene 80' finals at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Stratford on Avon

1980 NFWI Wales office opened in Cardiff

1981 Consultative Council disbanded and National Council formed

1982 'Early one Morning' composed by Antony Hopkins performed by WI choirs.

1983 WI Promotion 'Women in the Community' launched

1983 Cleveland, East Yorkshire, North Yorkshire East, North Yorkshire West, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire Federations affiliated to NFWI

1984 'WI Life and Leisure' Exhibition at Olympia

1985 £1 million appeal launched for essential repairs to Denman College and to set up .

1988 WI designed 'Countrywoman's Garden' won gold medal and the Wilkinson's sword at the Chelsea Flower Show

1990 NFWI became incorporated (company limited by Guarantee)

1990 NFWI HQ moved to Fulham;

1991 First Triennial General Meeting - Birmingham

1993 NFWI/NFU conference - 'Caring for the Countryside'

1994 'Rural Carers' conference

1995 WI Markets became independent of NFWI as 'Country Markets''

1998 'Pathway to the 21st century' launched

1999 'The Changing Village' published

2000 Prime minister Tony Blair spoke at AGM

2000 'Craft Spectacular' exhibition at Tatton Park, Cheshire

2000 NFWI web site launched

2002 'What women want' campaign

2003 'Chemicals and Health' campaign

2004 NFWI/National Needlework Archive project to record WI textiles

2004 NFWI archives deposited at The Women's Library

2005 '90@90' report published


Details of membership 1915-2005 are below. The year is given, followed by the number of WIs and then the total number of members:

1915 / 12

1916 / 37

1917 / 187 / 5,198

1918 / 773 / 12,007

1919 / 1,405 / 55,015

1920 / 1,914 / 99,418

1930 / 4,654 / 291,570

1939 / 5,720 / 331,600

1943 / 5,825 / 287,900

1947 / 6,682 / 379,000

1950 / 7,505 / 446,675

1954 / 8,178 / 467,000

1955 / 8,265 / 462,500

1956 / 8,314 / 457,000 (peak)

1960 / 8,489 / 444,737

1970 / 9,110 / 436,002

1981 / 9,306 (peak)

1985 / 9,242 / 353,502

1994 / 8,496 / 258,852

1997 / 8,047 / 257,700

2000 / 7,000 / 220,000

2005 / 6,800 / 211,000


Scope and content/abstract:

The archive consists of the records of the National Federation of Women's Institutes, including minutes, reports, organisational files, memoranda books, recipe book, personal papers of members, photographs, journals, books and objects. The majority of the working papers date from pre 1991, though there are some items (mainly publications) that date from after this period.


AGM - Annual General Meeting

AOS - Agricultural Organisation Society

BBC - British Broadcasting Corporation

CECG - Consumer in the European Community Group

COFACE - Council of the Committee of Family Organizations in the European Community

ECG - Education Coordinating Group

EEC - European Economic Commission

NFWI - National Federation of Women's Institutes

UDACE - Unit for the Development of Adult Continuing Education

VAEF - Voluntary Adult Education Forum

VCO - Voluntary County Organizer

WI - Women's Institute

WVS - Women's Voluntary Service

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The overall collection is arranged into subfonds reflecting the 7 core functions of the National Federation of Women's Institutes over its history: Policy, Administration, Organisations, Public Affairs, Education, Agriculture and Publications. Policy regarding the various facets of these functions (which are reflected in the arrangement of sub-subfonds within the collection) were directed and supervised by various subcommittees. These subcommittees were, in turn, served and supported by discrete administrative departments that created their own individual records in the course of their work. These records are arranged in series according to the format of the record.

Where evidence of original file references remains, the files have followed this arrangement. The rest of the material generated by NFWI departments which no longer have reference numbers have been arranged according to the creating department, at the end of theseries of refernce number in order of date of creation. The latest filing systems applied to the NFWI files appear to have been based around combinations of letters which indicated the file's subject matter. Consequently, the main areas of activity were: A: Executive and HQ; AB:Executive and Council Work; ABB: Constitution work; ABD: Terms of Reference and Standing Orders; ABH: National Council papers; ABJ: Consultative Council; ABM: Federation Officers matters; ABN: Groups in Federations; AC: Office and Administration; ACB: Financial matters; ACC: Office Staff; ACE: Events and Projects; AD: Organisation; ADB: VCOs; AE: Retained or 'Historical' files; AEC: Dealings with other organisations; B: Promotion; D: International; DA: United Nations (UN) and International Organisations i.e. ACWW; DB: European work; E (with one numeral): Environment and public affairs; EA:EB: E (with 3 numerals): Education; F: Agriculture; FA: Royal Shows; FX: Markets and Agricultural education; G: Markets; GA: Individual Markets; GX: Rural and Agricultural Education; H: Home Economics and Crafts General; HB: HBX: Education in Home Economics and Crafts; HX: Education in Home Economics and Crafts; I: International; J: Music and Drama; L: Press Office; LA: Press Office and Executive matters; LC: Press Office and Denman; LD: Press Office and International; LE: Press Office and Public Affairs; LF: Press Office and Agricultural Matters; LG: Press Office and Markets; LH: Press Office and Craft and Home Economics Work; LJ: Press Office and Combined Arts/Music/Drama/etc; LN: Press Office and Home and Country; LQ: Press Office and County Press Officers / Organisation; LZ: Press Office and Executive Members and NFWI History; N Home and Country; P Printing/ WI Books; PA Organisational material; PJ Publicity Material; Q Organisation; QD Wales.

Conditions governing access:

This collection is partially available for research. The catalogued portion of the collection is available for research, uncatalogued material remains unavailable. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids:

The Women's Library Catalogue

Archival Information

Archival history:

The majority of the files, books and other materials in the collection were initially held by the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) at their first Headquarters at 14 Iddlesleigh House in Victoria St, then in 26 Eccleston St. from 1921 and then in 39 Eccleston Street, London from 1926. Individual subcommittees maintained their own files relating to their work, as each subcommittee had their own office or offices. For a number of years in the 1960s-1970s, Home and Country had its own separate offices on Kings Road, before coming back into the main office. WI Books also briefly had its own office at 26 Eccleston St. Signed copies of the subcommittee minutes were initially bound together with the Executive committee minutes, while a separate copy was kept in minute books for the subcommittee, also within their offices. Separate minute books for each subcommittee were the responsibility of the administrative secretary for that subcommittee. In the 1980s, the signed minutes were kept in a separate book for the relevant sub committee, and kept with the department and copies were made for the executive committee members. The Photographic library of the Press and Publicity department was also held here. A records management system specifying retention dates and material to be permanently preserved in the archive was in place in the organisation until the 1960s.

The archives of Denman College were created and stored there in the officers of the college manager from its opening in 1948 until their transfer to The Women's Library.

When the headquarters moved from 26 Eccleston St to 104 New Kings Rd in 1991, the records were moved from the basement where they had been held as current records and placed in the garage at Denman College. The bound set of 'Home and Country' had also been deposited there at some point. This was intended to be a temporary measure. In 1991 a programme was undertaken by Anne Ballard in association with Sue Stockley and Anne Stamper (the latter in relation to the archives related to education) to weed these files with a view to their permanent preservation as the NFWI's archives. The original filing system was partially dismantled at this point and remaining papers were removed from their original files and placed in new folders according to subject matter, then labelled and annotated. The Photographic library of the Press and Publicity department remained at headquarters during this time, as did the master set of complete minutes, which was stored in the office of the General Secretary's Personal Assistant.

The first deposit of NFWI material made at The Women's archives was made on 20 Mar 2002, with regular accruals being deposited after this date. It is expected that further deposits of NFWI material will be made in the future.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The NFWI archives held at Denman College were transferred to The Women's Library on the 20 Mar 2002; those held in NFWI Headquarters in 104 New Kings Road were transferred on the 21 Mar 2002. Subsequent accessions came from Denman and the New Kings Road.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The Women's Library also holds the paper of Papers of Alice Helena Alexandra Williams (7AHW).

In Jan 2005 a search of the National Register of Archives (UK) gleaned 294 results (search for 'women' and 'institute'), primarily related to regional Women's Institutes. A small selection is indicated below. Researchers can conduct a fuller search of the National Register of Archives online at

* Anglesey Federation of Women's Institutes, Gwynedd, 1917-2002: minutes, agendas, accounts, cash books, balance sheets and reports (some records in Welsh). Anglesey County Record Office/Archifdy Ynys Mon, Ref WD/3

* Argyll Federation of Scottish Women's Rural Institutes, Strathclyde, 1925-1988: minutes. Argyll and Bute Council Archives, Ref WRI.

* Cheshire Federation of Women's Institutes, 1933-39: annual reports. Cheshire and Chester Archives and Local Studies, Ref D5641.

* Durham County Federation of Women's Institutes, 1918-1989: executive and sub-committee minutes, correspondence and printed misc. Durham County Record Office, Ref D/WI

* East Kent Federation of Women's Institutes, 1940-1999: records, East Kent Archives Centre, Ref EK/U54

* Essex Federation of Women's Institutes, 1917-1992: minutes, accounts, record books. Essex Record Office, Refs A8980 & D/Z 373.

* Gwynedd Federation of Women's Institutes, records. Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon Record Office, Ref XM10806.

* Hampshire Federation of Women's Institutes, 1920-2000: County Secretary correspondence files, yearbooks, annual reports and lists of speakers. Hampshire Record Office, Ref 51M97.

* Norfolk Federation of Women's Institutes, c1900-97: minutes, including those of constituent institutes, signature book of members attending National Federation AGMs. Norfolk Record Office, Ref SO137.

* Odiham Group of Women's Institutes, Hampshire, 1927-1991: minutes, record books and attendance register. Hampshire Record Office, Ref 114A03.

* Romsey Group of Women's Institutes, Hampshire, 1935-2002: minute books and memoranda. Hampshire Record Office, Ref 71A02.

* Staffordshire Federation of Women's Institutes, 20th cent: records of former WI branches in Staffs. Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service, Refs D4655, D5255, D5792

* Torrington group of Women's Institutes, Devon, 1944-1990: minute book. North Devon Record Office, Ref B162.

* Twyford Group of Women's Institutes, 1922-1988: minutes. Hampshire Record Office, Ref 153M98.

* Tyneside Federation of Women's Institutes, Northumberland, 1968-2002: records. Tyne and Wear Archives Service, Ref S.WI.

As at Jan 2005 the NFWI wall hanging 'Work of Women in Wartime' which was displayed at the WI Exhibition of Handicrafts at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1952, was held by the Imperial War Museum (accession number 67/55).


The initial inspiration for Women's Institutes in the UK came from those founded in Canada, hence researchers may be interested in surviving WI archives in Canada. Examples include the following, but a number of local archives also survive:

* Tweedsmuir histories collection 1945-1990 (local histories written by local WI's). Ontario Archives, no Ref. [Ontario Archives holds some other records that mention

* A portrait of Adelaide Hoodless is held by the National Library and Archives of Canada, Acc. No. 1993-308-1

As at Jan 2005 related bodies included: British Columbia Women's Institute; Federated Women's Institutes of Canada; Federated Women's Institute of Prince Edward Island; Manitoba Women's Institute; Women's Institutes of Nova Scotia.

Publication note:

The following publications are useful for giving an initial overview of the NFWI, all can be found in the Printed Collections of The Women's Library (Many of them, particularly those from 2000-, used the NFWI Archive as their basis of research):

Andrews, Maggie, 'The Acceptable Face of Feminism' - the Women's Institutes as a social movement, Lawrence and Wishart, 1997Beaumont, Catriona, 'Citizens not Feminists: the boundary negotiated between citizenship and feminism by mainstream women's organisations in England, 1928-39' article published in Women's History Review, Volume 9, Number 2, 2000. Davies, Constance, 'A Grain of Mustard Seed', Gee and Son Denbigh, 2nd Ed, 1989Deneke, Helena, 'Grace Hadow', Oxford, 1946Dudgeon, Piers, 'Village Voices', WI Books, 1989Garner, Gwen, 'Extraordinary Women', WI Books, 1995Goodenough, Simon, ' Jam and Jerusalem', Collins, 1977Huxley, Gervase, 'Lady Denman GBE, 1884 - 1954', Chatto and Windus, London, 1961Jenkins, Inez, 'The History of the Women's Institute Movement of England and Wales', Oxford, 1953Jennings, Paul, 'The Living Village', Hodder and Stoughton, 1968Kaye, Barbara, 'The Story of Denman College 1948-1969', NFWI, 1970Kitchen, Penny, 'For Home and Country: war, peace and rural life as seen through the pages of the Women's Institutes' Magazine, 1919-1959', London: Ebury Press, 1990McCall, Cicely, 'Women's Institutes', Collins 1943 (Britain in Pictures Series)Robertson Scott, JW, 'The History of the Women's Institute Movement'. The Village Press, Ibury, 1925Stamper, Anne, 'Rooms off the Corridor, Education in the WI and 50 years of Denman College 1948-1998', WI Books, 1998Thompson, Lynne, 'The Golden Thread of Empire: Women's popular education in the Lancashire Federation of Women's Institutes 1920-1939', Journal of Educational Administration and History, 28:1, pp 44-57, 1996Thompson, Lynne, 'The Promotion of Agricultural Education for Adults: The Lancashire Federation of Women's Institutes, 1919-1945', Rural History, 10:2, pp 217-234, Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Finding aid created by export from CALM v7.2.14 Archives Hub EAD2002. Edited for AIM25 by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, December 2001; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:

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