Whitby Women's Institute

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

Whitby Women's Institute

Parallel form(s) of name

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

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Description area

Dates of existence

1897-1988

History

The Whitby Women's Institute (WI) was formed in the summer of 1897, the result of a meeting convened for the women of South Ontario. Soon after, the Whitby WI held another meeting and confirmed its president and executive team, which included elected first and second vice presidents and a secretary-treasurer. At the time of its creation, the Whitby WI was the second of its kind in the world.

The first WI had been formed several months earlier in Stoney Creek, Ontario by Adelaide Hoodless. Hoodless, a wealthy mother of four residing in Hamilton, had lost her youngest son in 1889 due to an intestinal ailment caused by the consumption of impure milk. Following this, Hoodless dedicated herself to promoting domestic science education for girls and women. The WI, as Hoodless envisioned it, would unite women living in rural areas with a goal of improving their homemaking through the study of domestic science.

The Whitby WI shared the goal of its predecessor--"dissemination of knowledge relating to the home." During the second Whitby WI meeting in October 1897, 23 members heard lectures on "bacteria as they affect the home" and bread and butter making. The WI would go on to engage in lobbying activities, submitting resolutions to municipal and provincial governments, and participate in many community events. By the end of 1897, the Whitby WI’s membership had grown to 73.

All WI endeavors were orchestrated by standing committees comprising members. Committees organized lectures, prepared resolutions, participated in community activities, and created “Tweedsmuir histories,” or scrapbooks containing narratives about the region. The Whitby WI’s committees included the following: Resolutions; Home Economics and Health; Historical Research; Canadian Industries; and Citizenship and Education.

Over the years, the Whitby WI also involved itself in the regional community. The organization donated gates to Whitby Town Park in August 1932, assisted with the establishment of a local chapter of the Victorian Order of Nurses, created a rest room in the downtown area for farmers and their families (1914-1918), gave shrubs and flowers to local schools (1922), arranged for scholarships for students, operated a stall at the Oshawa fair, prepared holiday gifts for residents of care home Fairview Lodge, and raised money for local hospitals. Perhaps most significantly, the WI developed a resolution which resulted in new Ontario government regulations mandating the wrapping of all bread for sale in the province, an important sanitary measure.

The Whitby WI appears to have focused on the concerns of white, middle-class, Christian women in the region. The organization's Tweedsmuir histories demonstrate this tendency, centering on the region's white European pioneers and their descendants.

The organization disbanded in the summer of 1988.

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Relationships area

Related entity

Brooklin Women's Institute (1910-1997)

Identifier of the related entity

Category of the relationship

associative

Dates of the relationship

Description of relationship

The Whitby, Brooklin, and Myrtle Women's Institutes were operative in the Whitby region throughout the twentieth century. Myrtle and Brooklin are distinct communities in the town of Whitby.

Related entity

Myrtle Women's Institute  (1955-1985)

Identifier of the related entity

Category of the relationship

associative

Dates of the relationship

Description of relationship

The Whitby, Brooklin, and Myrtle Women's Institutes were operative in the Whitby region throughout the twentieth century. Myrtle and Brooklin are distinct communities in the town of Whitby.

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Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Description created by Gillian Dunks in December 2017.

Language(s)

Script(s)

Sources

Ambrose, Linda M. For Home and Country: The Centennial History of the Women's Institutes in Ontario. Guelph, Ontario: Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario, 1996.

Pardy, Maryn, et al. Ontario Women's Insitute Story. Guelph, Ontario: Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario, 1972.

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