The Hamilton Area of the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario, containing five Districts with twenty-five WI Branches stretches from Niagara to the communities bordering Lakes Ontario and Eire and beyond. There is a diverse population in the small towns and the larger municipalities of Hamilton, St. Catharines and Brantford. The area is largely agricultural with a mix of light and heavy industry. Brock University, McMaster University and Niagara College offer educational opportunities close at hand.
The Hamilton Area has been fortunate that three new Women’s Institute Branches have been formed in the past few years -- exciting news since although the WI is not thriving as it once was it is still a vital entity to the women of Ontario!
The Women Inspiring Women branch of Paris (2015), based on the flourishing UK WI model has committed from the beginning to be what its members want it to be.
Regular small interest groups have been formed including a book, craft and dining clubs. These groups allow women to form stronger bonds than would be possible in their larger monthly meetings of forty plus members and for many members they are their favourite part of WI!
Each month a “cause” is designated and members donate items or cash as they wish. This Branch has hosted all-candidate nights for both federal and provincial elections.
The WIW WI Branch is proof that women are looking for others of like mind to make new friends and do good in their community! Check them out on their Facebook page Women Inspiring Women Women’s Institute and website www.womeninspiringwomenwi.ca to learn more.
The Women Empowered branch of St. Catharines (2016), began with only four members but their dedication and community outreach have attracted new members.
Reaching out to the surrounding area of Niagara they have held craft workshops, presented a seminar on Lyme disease, had speakers at their meetings on Mindful Clutter, Finances, Fighting Depression & Anxiety, and Mental Health & Bullying.
An annual International Women’s Day Expo is held with speakers and a wide variety of vendors. A fall event in support of the Humane Society and Animal Rescue will take place in Niagara Falls in September with over 100 vendors. Fingers crossed for the Covid-19 restrictions to be lessened!
The Janet Lee branch (2018) was initiated on a road trip to the FWIO Annual General Meeting in Kingston, Ontario, in November 2017!
The name Janet Lee was chosen since Janet has been given very little recognition for the formation of the 1st Women’s Institute in 1897. The names Adelaide Hoodless and Erland Lee are well known but Janet was also instrumental in helping to lay the groundwork and the follow up that was needed.
Permission was granted to the JLWI Branch to hold their meetings in the Carriage House on the grounds of the Erland Lee property.
Their first seminar featured Lyme Disease. Craft workshops and a presentation by Victoria Quilts Canada which provides quilts for cancer patients have taken place among other interesting topics.
Each of these three branches is providing friendship, education and a focus on their communities to their members and visitors just as the other 21 Branches continue to do, each in their own way. Hamilton Area is indeed fortunate to have both the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead and the Erland Lee (Museum) Home right in their own backyards!
Submitted by Barbara Stones, FWIO Southern Region Board Director, Hamilton Area