(I believe that Margaret is referring to the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute (WRI) here)
One object brought against the speeches at the (WRI) conference is that their tone was wholly material, and that they confined themselves too exclusively to practical interests: the inference being that you cannot uplift people through practical housewifery and the bottling of fruit. There, I entirely differ. In the first place, we are not proposing directly the spiritual uplift of the rural woman. Would not that be an impertinence?
The primary object of the Institute is practical help; assistance in the management of a badly equipped home (as are so many rural houses — farms no less than cottages), suggestions for the lightening of labour, instruction in small industries of farm and home, educational facilities so far as these can be brought within the reach of those who cannot leave their homes for longer than an hour or two at a time.
The spiritual works through the material. No one can impose a spiritual stimulus — who of us is worthy to do it? — from without. It can only come to each of us through the everyday activities. The Church took centuries to learn that and has hardly learned the alphabet of it yet.
Let us strive earnestly to improve the material and social conditions of rural life, and the spiritual and intellectual will follow. We all know the dangers of too exclusive pre-occupation with practical affairs or with “spiritual.“
Life is not easy for any of us. If the institutes bring variety and interest into the lives of women in dull rural districts, they will fulfil their purpose and more will follow than we dream of at present.