Inauguration of W.I. Meeting – June 1917

The Goold Hall, 5 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, was packed on Wednesday afternoon when a conference to inaugurate Women’s Rural Institutes in Scotland was presided over by Sir Robert P. Wright of the Board of Agriculture. The work of organisation was undertaken by Mrs Catherine Blair of Hoprig Mains, Macmerry, who by speech and pen has been the forerunner of the movement.

Mrs Alfred Watt, MA., who is an extremely pleasant Canadian-born citizen of Scottish descent, referred to the great debt which Canada owed to Scotland. It was largely built up of Scots men and women. At the first meeting to form a Woman’s Institute, which was held in Ontario, four out of the ten present were of Scots descent.

Mrs Gooch, Tor Castle, Banavie, moved a resolution in favour of the formation of Women’s Institutes and the appointment of a provisional committee to organise the work in co-operation with the Board of Agriculture.

Mrs Blair seconded, saying that the formation of Women’s Institutes was necessary and opportune. Agricultural development depended very largely on better houses and better social conditions. Women were coming forward to take their places as citizens and these were pre-eminently women’s questions. Their movement was non-political but it was non-party. The science of politics was simply the science of national housekeeping.

Miss Shanks, Egremont (Margaret) supported the resolution as one who had plenty practical experience and an intimate knowledge of the work of the woman who takes her full share of the work of the farm.

In no industry in the world had women been so well received as in agriculture. Since the dawn of civilisation and before that, women had ever had a full place in agriculture.

Margaret’s mother, even when ill, refused to stay away from market. She said it was the only outing she got. Her mother would have favoured Women’s Rural Institutes. Their aim was to give woman her true place publicly as a citizen of the empire and not merely as mistress of a farm. (applause).

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