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It was never really about Jam and Jerusalem – it was more about animal skin curing, organising cricket matches and first aid.

Last week Helmdon Women’s Institute celebrated 90 years of giving women an education, friendship and a special place in the community.

Although the branch now has only 15 members in a nationwide organisation that is sometimes seen as outdated, Helmdon WI claims to be a group for the 21st century, campaigning in parliament for clear food labelling and environmental issues but also offering enjoyable activities.

It once boasted 100 members.

“They were a very busy group with 40 to 50 ladies at meetings and held parties for 50 children,” said current president Louise Stothard.

“We held a speical anniversary party to mark the 90th year of Helmdon WI and I took along the original minute books from 1921 to 1926.

“We learnt how members had demonstrations on glove making, papier mache and ironing starched collars and learnt about poultry

keeping and sick room nursing.

“The branch often gave donations to the Horton, Brackley and Northampton hospitals, the village Reading room fund, the churchyard extension, the Manfield Crippled Home and in 1922, a hundredweight of coal to needy villagers.

These days, the branch continues to hold meetings with guest speakers, cookery demonstrations, quizzes and even Citizens’ Advice Bureau visits.

“We help out with various village events, have had a float for the  carnival and enjoy visits and socials, as well as getting involved with many wider projects through the national WI movement,”  said Mrs Stothard.

Last Wednesday’s celebrations were marked by menbers getting decked out in period dress and a beautifully iced cake was made to mark nine decades of the village WI.

The ladies enjoyed a three course supper provided  by the committee and the party was entertained by Natasha Thompson who sang songs from the 1920s and talked about the era.

The Banbury Guardian – 17 March 2011 



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