Grasmere W.I. 1919-2019

Grasmere WI was founded in February 1919.

Grasmere WI is one of the oldest in the country, and in February 2019 we celebrate our 100th birthday..

Margaret Holden has researched the history of Grasmere WI, and has produced a wonderful scrapbook of memories and photos, which she presented to the WI . The book is  kept in the Jerwood Centre at Dove Cottage, as part of the village archives. 

The piece below about the founding of Grasmere WI was written by retired President Jennifer Hardisty. Winetrseeds is still her family home, and the Mr Wilson mentioned in the article is Jennifer's great grandfather.

Grasmere Women’s Institute  -  1919

Exactly a hundred years ago great changes were happening.  The war had ended and men were returning home
to the valley from a life of fighting in France.  The Women’s Rights Movement was gathering force and many women were reluctant to give up their newly found freedom.

The founders of the Grasmere Women’s Insitute were the Badley sisters who lived at Winterseeds and their friends.  These ladies were instrumental in keeping the Home Fires Burning. 

One particular task they organised was the collection of sphagnum moss for surgical dressings for the wounded. 

Ample supplies were available on the fells, especially in bogs such as Blind Tarn.  Many villagers assisted them in the gathering of this moss.  

The ladies knitted and sewed for the soldiers, organised food parcels and other comforts and were constantly thinking ahead to the time when the men would return.  

They  were also  making provision for the needs that would then arise.  Grasmere Citizens Social events began  as it was felt that the returning men would be in need of some entertainment following their years spent away in France.  

The sisters, Mary and Laura Badley recognised that homes would be needed for the families of the returning servicemen and embarked upon their own programme of cottage building.  They put up funds for the houses built at Grandy Close.   John Wilson, the owner of their home Winterseeds was a well known local builder who  provided the land where he built the homes.  He is still remembered by the first tenants as he collected the rents.

The Chance family also provided new homes when they built the first two Great Cross houses as a memorial to two of their sons lost in the War. 
The Village community then saw to the housing needs  themselves. 
These two far seeing ventures were  probably providing  the very first affordable housing in the valley.

By 1919 the world was in the grip of an influenza pandemic which was to claim more lives than had been lost in the war.  Not all the men
had arrived home.  Some were still away in France or were still held as prisoners of war.  The winter was recorded as particularly cold
with heavy snow storms. 

The Badley sisters had long been committed to the Women’s suffrage movement.  They were also aware of a new movement.  The National Federation of Women’s Institutes which gave women increased freedom and the chance to meet others socially across class boundaries.  Women had a new confidence gained by their efforts during the war when the men were away fighting.  They had demonstrated their ability to cope and nationally, the time was right for this new movement to blossom.

As the war drew to its close and with the imminent return of the men, Mary Badley judged that the time was right for the women of Grasmere to have the opportunity to belong to this movement with its joint aims of education and social action.  The Women’s Institute would empower them to take on new roles and responsibilities. 

Grasmere WI was born.  The first ever meeting was held in Winterseeds kitchen, the Badley sisters home at the time. 
They met with a group of their friends and neighbours, as we all have done ever since.


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