FOR 100 years this treasured institute has helped women to bond and support communities.
This year marks the centenary of the Women’s Institute (WI) and a national baton relay to celebrate the anniversary stopped off in Portsmouth yesterday.
It was a fitting place to meet – the Victory branch of the WI met on board HMS Victory, in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
The Victory branch is made up of six WI groups from Portsmouth, has 280 members and is headed by Patricia Jeffery.
The chairwoman of the Staunton group, Jane Pickering, passed on the baton to Patricia on the iconic ship.
The baton started its journey in Anglesey, Wales, where the first WI meeting was held in September 1915.
Patricia, who has been chairman for three years, but a group member for 18 years, said: ‘When I first moved to Bedhampton I didn’t know anyone, and so I called the WI number and recognised the voice.
‘It turned out it was one of my children’s teacher and I went along – that was 18 years ago and I’ve enjoyed it so much since.
‘We have craft clubs and do cooking, we have guest speakers discussions, so it’s always a mix of things.
‘And we have a varied age range, our eldest member is 91 years old.’
Before the Victory group took the baton, they enjoyed a lunch at the Royal Maritime Club, in Queen Street, Portsea.
After that a procession led by the Trafalgar Drummer – providing drum and fife music – accompanied the women to HMS Victory.
Portsmouth Lord Mayor, Councillor Steven Wylie, said: ‘My mum was in the WI for 40 years, so this means a lot to me.
‘It was great to see so many smiling faces and to be in such an iconic setting for the baton-passing.’
The WI came to Portsmouth more than 40 years ago when the Farlington and Forty Acres institutes were formed.
Since then, Old Portsmouth, Southsea Afternoon and Southsea Morning WIs have been set up and celebrated their 25th anniversaries last year.
North End will be celebrating its 15th anniversary next year.