May 21st 2020 marked a huge milestone for the wonderful members of Buckingham Federation of WIs (Womens Institute) says Pat Poole, County Chairman. We celebrated our Centenary having been founded on the 21st May 1920.
There are 4,000 members belonging to 119 different WIs from Olney and Sherington in the north of the county to George Green in the south and across to Chorleywood (yes, we know that is in Hertfordshire, but they didn’t want to leave us when the county lines were re-drawn!).
Disappointingly, many of our planned celebrations have had to be put on hold until next year but that hasn’t dampened our pride in being part of one of the key women’s organisations in the UK.
The first BFWI meeting took place in June 1920 at the Judges’ Lodging in Aylesbury. The Federation Chairman was Mrs. Wesley Taylor and the Federation President was the Lady Susan Trueman. The first Federation office was in the home of the Secretary, Mrs. Woodgate, at 749 London Road, High Wycombe whereas we now have our own premises on Stuart Road.
In 1920 the annual subscription was 2/- (2 shillings) which is about the same as 10p one hundred years later.
Hyde Heath WI went on an outing to Clacton in a magnificent charabanc and WIs were formed at Bledlow, Bradenham, Brill, Denham, Ickford, Milton Keynes & Broughton and Stone with Hartwell. Some of these are still in existence so happy centenary this year to those WIs too!
We’ve been very busy supporting Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, the South East Ambulance service plus many other establishments around Buckinghamshire and Berkshire with our scrubs laundry bags and buttoned headbands – almost 7000 bags have been sewn and distributed within a month! Those linen cupboards never looked so bare!
The indomitable, resilient and inspiring characteristics of the WI members are still of value now as they were 100 years ago.
The WI is a democratic, social and educational charity operating throughout England and Wales. Membership of your local WI entitles you to attend 11 free meetings a year with speakers, demonstrators or entertainment as decided by members. You also receive the WILife membership magazine, delivered to your door eight times a year. Other gatherings, such as craft clubs, ramblers, discussion or drama groups and choirs, are also often offered by individual WIs. Federation events are organised throughout Buckinghamshire and appeal to anyone with interests in art and crafts, sports and leisure, drama, public and international affairs, ecology and conservation and more.
“Help Needed” was the cry!
How the BFWI (and a dog) stepped up…
Our Bucks Federation of WI’s Resilience Officer was contacted by Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust to ask for help with making laundry bags for NHS staff uniforms.
The word went out around the County to our 119 WIs and as if by magic fabric from unwanted sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, and even from precious fabric stashes was transformed into over 6000 of the 75cm x 50cm drawstring bags, as well as countless button headbands to save sore ears. WI Members and friends took out their sewing machines and set to with their usual “can do” attitude with some having to dust the machine down and re-learn how to use it!
The bags were for staff to remove their “scrubs”, as the uniforms are known, before they leave the hospital at the end of a shift, place the clothing in the bag, and then place the bag with contents into a 60° wash at home thereby preventing cross contamination/infection from the Covid-19 virus.
At least 70 of our WIs participated, including those from Winslow, Gawcott, Beaconsfield, Speen, Chesham Bois, Thornborough Thornton, Sherington Belles, Aylesbury Town, WaterMead & Weedon, and Wendover Evening WI, amongst very many others. The Thornborough T&B WI President commented “I was overwhelmed with the generosity of local folk, inundated with sheets and pillowcases. It’s been humbling and heartening to see how folk rallied round this task”. She wanted to thank the donors as well as the sewing team as she dropped the bags off at the collection point, telling us that one sprightly 94 year old local did her bit and also made “I love NHS” bunting to hang on the tree at the end of her drive. Another member is being treated for breast cancer and was delighted to be able to “give something back” for the treatment that she is receiving.
Helping the Trust has addressed an urgent need in our community, but also provided purpose for our members at a difficult, isolating time – something humans definitely need.
We are so proud of all of our “sewists” for the production of such vast numbers of laundry bags in response to this plea, and at such speed.
For more information on the Bucks Federation of WI’s please visit