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  • Item Category: Fraternal, Political, Organizations
  • Source: eBay UK
  • Sold Date: Jun 04,2012
  • Channel: Online Auction


Born in 1864, Erland Lee was Canadian farmer, teacher, and government employee from Stoney Creek, Ontario. He and the family settled on the Niagara Peninsula, Canada in 1792 . He cultivated the land and turned such into a prosperous farm , which he named as “Edgemont”.

In February of 1897, after hearing Adelaide Hoodless give a lecture at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph, Erland invited Hoodless to deliver a speech at the annual “Ladies Night” held by the Farmer’s Institute of Stoney Creek of which he was an influential member.

Hoodless suggested during that speech that education in domestic science might best be achieved through an organization for women similar to the existing Farmer’s Institutes for men. Erland Lee then suggested that women interested in discussing the formation of such a group might meet again the following week.

Erland and his wife Janet spent that week inviting and encouraging the women of Stoney Creek to attend the second meeting. On February 19, 1897, 101 rural Canadian homemakers agreed to create a Women’s Institute, which would become the largest international rural women’s movement ever established. Erland Lee was the only man in attendance, who acted as chairman of the first meeting.

The original Women’s Institute constitution was written on February 25 th , 1897, on the Lee’s dining room table. Erland Lee’s political and financial support of the women’s group was crucial to its expansion and success, and may be the only reason why the organisation was recognized by the Canadian government during a time when women were not considered citizens. Membership fee was set at 25 cents.

By 1900, there were 33 Women's Institute Branches and a total of 1,602 members. The first Women's Institute Convention was held in 1902 at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) in Guelph, Ontario. The British Columbia Women's Institute (BCWI) was a program introduced to the agricultural area of British Columbia in 1909. The organization experienced rapid initial growth with the inception of sixteen institutes in the first two years. The groups were seen as a viable way to alleviate the loneliness and isolation of rural women by offering lectures and demonstrations on household topics. Membership was also open to town women. The BCWI was particularly active in the first half of the century.

The 1930’s and 1940’s brought more recognition to women’s domestic abilities. During the Depression years, maintaining a self-sufficient household was an art. In the war years of the forties, not only did many women enter the work force, a number of Canadian farm women managed the practical business of farming while men folk joined the armed forces. The members of the BCWI made jam and knitted items to be shipped to England. They were active in the development of the Provincial Parks system and were instrumental in naming the Pacific Dogwood as the provincial floral emblem

The 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s were years of change - improved communication systems (though many farms still used the telephone party line), increased mobility (smoother roads, faster and more reliable vehicles) and television brought the world closer to the BC Interior. Streamlined design in home appliances and farm machinery meant a lightening of the burden of manual labour.

In North America, more women were entering the work force and there was a gradual awareness that a woman could have a role other than that of support to her husband. During this period, the BCWI maintained an active participation in community life, volunteering and fund raising for hospitals, providing school and 4-H scholarships, maintaining upkeep for local community halls, cemeteries, and heritage buildings. The Institutes also began to show a more obvious involvement in social issues, making resolutions to government and other bodies. Women were moving from the kitchen and taking a stand in the arena of social justice and social change.

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