Kirby Muxloe Women's Institute
KM Womens Institute

Introduction

In 1915, the Women’s Institute was formed in England. The Leicestershire and Rutland Federation dates back to July 1918 and Kirby Muxloe W.I. opened its doors in 1927, welcoming new members to join what would become an active and long-standing organisation. From its inception to the current day, our WI has witnessed, and through its resolutions had direct involvement in, significant social changes.

To celebrate the 90 years of our W.I., some members have engaged in preparing three books depicting the history of our organisation from its inception to date. Book 1 concentrates on the years 1927 to 1977 and has been compiled from research and interviews with long standing members of our W.I. For many years, the W.I. opened the meeting with the singing of “Jerusalem”, followed by the business of the evening and concluding with a social half hour of games and the singing of the National Anthem.

When the original hand bell ringing group started, an elderly man with a wheel barrow used to collect old newspapers around the village. The money from the papers helped to fund the purchase of hand bells. These bells came from Holland and were very expensive, but were used regularly at venues all over Leicester.

Speakers and Demonstrations

It was noted from the minute books that outside speakers did not appear very often, although a Dr. Hilary Wallace appeared on two occasions to give talks on sex education of children. She stressed the need for plain speaking, more family life, more hobbies in the home life and not so much passive entertainment. Views about this are still being discussed by experts today.

A talk was given by the president of the Glenfield W.I. stressing the importance of using the talent we had amongst our own members. She handed out strips of paper and each member had to act what was written on them. This revealed some interesting and credible talent.

During the war years the presentation was usually about renovating old and tired clothes or how to produce a jumper from oddments of wool. Due to continued rationing, demonstrations on cake making would always follow the economical recipe route.

A Memorable Figure

One of our members was Pam Peckham, who had a dog called Sam. Pam was a vivacious amateur actress, who used to walk around in jodhpurs and would flick her cigarette ash into the turn ups of her jodhpurs. She was very busy with the W.I., organising plays and readings and entering the W.I. into competitions, of which some were plays. We usually did well in these competitions. Sadly, she was a member for a very short time and after two years, she died of a brain seizure

Phyliss Clarke remembered

Phyliss was, at one time, our Secretary and for most of her years as a W.I. member, she was our pianist too. She played “Jerusalem” every month on a variety of pianos. On at least one occasion, the piano refused to play properly and on lifting the lid to investigate, she found a large furry foreign body!

Further investigation revealed that the body was a fox fur, left behind by a member of the Kirby Players.

- Courtesy of Jan Timson

Competitions

In the early stages of the W.I., prizes would be awarded at the end of the year for members who had attended all monthly meetings during that year. Buttonholes were presented to the committee in most years as a way of thanking them for their effort. Monthly competition winners would receive a silver spoon, except that in 1942, due to the war, the W.I. was unable to purchase silver spoons and gave saving stamps instead.

One of the most ingenious ideas for a competition was “The most articles in a matchbox” - the winner, Mrs. Furborough, had 100 articles - It had to be seen to be believed! Mrs. Furborough joined the W.I. in 1929 and a copy of her membership can be viewed in Book One.

Outings And Celebrations

The first recorded outing was in 1928. Transport was an open-top converted lorry, run by a local company. Unfortunately we have no record of the events of the day, although the picture of the outing is in Book One, where you will also see a picture of an outing to Windsor in June 1947, showing four ladies of the W.I. suitably dressed for the occasion. It is difficult from the stern expressions to know if they were enjoying themselves!

Our Principles

At the beginning of the war, the National Federation were very concerned that members would not continue to support their local W.I. and they sent a special message stressing the importance for the W.I. movement to continue. From the minutes of that period and the interviews and memorabilia. we have found it was clear that the W.I. was a very busy and cohesive organisation. Their patriotic and steadfast commitment in working tirelessly for the war effort was outstanding. They enjoyed lots of easy entertainment and not only made their own, but had some extremely talented people as members. The founder members and people who have followed in their footsteps have left a legacy of which any member today should be proud.

In 1954, Mrs. Davis gave an interesting talk on the movement entitled “Freedom and Friendship without Friction”. She stated that the W.I. does things democratically - that we have no freedom without discipline, rules are necessary and members should always say it in the room, at the meeting, not air their grievances on street corners, or at bus stops.

Our 30th Birthday

The 30th birthday party was minuted as an evening to remember. The photographs in Book One show a very happy group of members at their tea party. Guests included the County Chairman, the past County chairman, other Presidents of the Forest Group and our past Presidents. The annual report of the secretary on the 30th anniversary year included an extract from a letter from a past president who was unable to attend the celebrations, but who was pleased to hear that our institute had maintained the fervour of the early years in providing an opportunity to meet together for the purpose of enjoyment and for the benefit of the village and its members. She recalled the friendship of the earlier years and the happy times she had, and hoped that the institute would continue to grow and prosper. This statement fully expresses the underlying principles of our movement and is still a fitting comment to all our endeavours over 90 years. We hope that our members who are now celebrating 90 years of the KMWI will hold the same sentiments. If you have a chance to view Book One, we hope you will enjoy it and we thank you for reading this.