A Force to be Reckoned With

A Force to be Reckoned With: A History of the Women’s Institute by Jane Robinson was engaging and easy to get through, with lots of interesting details. I was struck by how many of the early WI campaigns could easily be current ones (eg from the 1920s: housing, child maintenance, STDs, animal rights, education and community policing). This raises interesting questions about how much of a shared social experience and common interest women continue to have.

I would have liked less on leading personalities and more on the Post-WW2 period, plus perhaps a bit more critical depth. Was the WI between 1960-99 really as dull and retrograde as it is sometimes made to sound in the single chapter that covers this 40 year period of enormous social change? And to judge by this account the main development over the most recent 15 years has been the WI discovering that sex sells! But I did like the description of the slow hand-clapping of Tony Blair’s speech.

I’m left wondering what individual institutes were getting up to over the course of the WI’s long history, not just when they did something exceptional, but under normal circumstances.


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