Elsenham WI 1921 - 1934

At the first monthly meeting on 2nd December 1921, 37 members enrolled partaking of a cup of tea costing 2d a cup.  Members voted to hold monthly meetings on the third Wednesday of the month, commencing on 18th January 1922 at 2:30 where the competition was the best mince pie!

A fund-raising Whist Drive for WI funds was proposed to be held on 8th February, later deferred until April due to much sickness in the village which duly prompted the President to propose a Health Lecture at the March meeting.  Not all was doom and gloom, however, as a char-a-banc outing was suggested for which members could pay by instalments, the sum not to exceed 6/-.

By February, membership had reached 50, maybe the speakers on glass-making and needlework had proved interesting.  This being the Pankhurst era, (1858-1928) the President gave a short address on 'Votes for Women', clearly paving the way for the 'Voice of the WI'.  The Whist Drive was deferred until the Autumn.

The Summer Group meeting was held at Hunsdon in July and 44 members made the journey by char-a-banc, stopping en route to see the Church and Hunsdon House gardens.  They also enjoyed tea, the performance of a pastorial play and morris dancing.

Jam making and bottling of fruit and vegetables were high on the agenda at that time.

Success at last!  The Whist Drive was held on 31st October with profilts amounting to £3.14.0d plus 5/- from an anonymous donor for WI funds.  Flushed with these profits, it was proposed that a chimney brush be purchased for the use of Institute members.

A representative from the National Savings Committee Spoke to members on the 'Value of Money' and the Institute decided to form a Savings Associaiton.

In April 1923, members voted to go to Clacton for their summer outing and this took place in June with the coach leaving Elsenham at 08:00 and reaching Clacton at 11:30.  After tea at the Corner House at 4:45pm, the party arrived back in Elsenham at 9:30pm.

Some meetings obviously proved more popular than others, like Mr Millar from Bishops 'Stortford talking on cake making with prizes of cooking utensils being provided by Brown and Polson for the home baking competition.

At the AGM a profit of £10.5.0d was shown and it was agreed to give a Christmas tea to the school children on 'breaking up day' in appreciation of their entertainment the previous month.

A change in meeting times was arranged in January 1924 to 3.00pm with notices being given out after tea instead of at the start of the meeting.  The speaker was a representative from Brooke Bond, who kindly provided tea and biscuits for refreshments.  In March the President announced the passing of Mrs. Parish who had been a founder member of the Institute.

A sample of speakers' topics at monthly meetings included Guardianship of Children's Bill, the Victoria League Essex, Selection of Old Costumes, Hairdressing, Decorative Stitchery and Basketry.  One competition was the best polished penny! it was resolved that the hymn 'Oh God our Help in Ages Past' would be sung to open meetings and closing with the National Anthem.  The retiring President Miss Orpen was presented with a bouquet of flowers.  Meetings took their usual course throughout the year, with invitations from neighboring Institutes and gift of a 'handsome' notice board, presented to the WI by a Mr Smith.  Social time in October took the form of Musical Chairs and Sir Roger de Coverly, no sequins of 'Strictly' in those days!  The last meeting of the year concluded with games and an amusing play.

In 1926, members were again asked if they would provide the teas and refreshments for the village Flower Show, setting a long-standing precedent!  The Summer meeting was held at Elsenham Hall by kind invitation of Mr & Mrs Wilson, the 15 ladies from Stansted attended.  The entertainment included folk dancing and a sketch, acting seemed to have well and truly caught on!

The year continued with strong support with various lectures and demonstrations e.g. covering of umbrellas and song recitals as well as collecting tin foil for Saffron Walden hospital.

In 1927 two members were elected to represent the WI at the county Nursing Association in London as WI's throughout the country were quite involved and supportive to this cause.  During the March meeting members received an instructive talk and demonstration on 'invisible patching and darning'.  A Bring and Buy stall at the April meeting resulted in 10/- being donated to the Essex Federation.

Early in 1929 the possibility of forming a choir was discussed and a social was planned for the 'Old People' with entertainment when members were asked to come in pageant costume if possible.  A planned outing to Windsor had to be cancelled because the King was in residence.  The July meeting was held at The Lodge, Mrs Smallwood's garden joined by 10 members from Debden, and the afternoon concluded with a sketch performed by members.  At the October meeting members and parents were entertained by the school children under the instruction of Misses Hodgkin and Carmen.  At the Christmas Party members were entertained by the newly formed choir.

The following year progressed with a good mixture of lectures and demonstrations, outings and summer garden party ending with the Christmas party and an amusing 'Jumble Sale' sketch.

The first meeting in 1931 was combined with a social evening, again entertained with amusing sketches, singing by the choir and dancing and games.   T'he evening closed with the National Anthem.

At the choir competition, Elsenham's choir was awarded a certificate of merit for their efforts.  Requests were made for more members to join.  Interesting extracts were read from Australia and Kenya Colony regarding the Country Women of the World (now Association of Country Women of the World).  The WI had received a letter of thanks from the Chancellor of the Exchequer for their contribution of £2-4-6d proceeds from a Whist Drive!

In the sunshine of June the meeting was held at the vicarage with everyone enjoying the delights of the garden.  Similarly, the ;July meeting was held at Elsenham Hall, with Mrs Wilson providing tea of raspberries and cream.  

During the year a cake competition would be held with Borwicks Baking Powder Limited providing a case of spoons a the winner's prize.  20 entrants received a recipe book with the selected recipe, judging would take place at a social gathering.

After much discussion and voting upon, the monthly meeting was changed from the third Wednesday to the third Tuesday of the month, only to revert to the Wednesday a few months later!

Highland dancing, modern dances, songs and competitions provided entirely by the members were performed at the Christmas Party.

Suggestions for outings during the coming year was first on the agenda at the beginning of 1932.  A pageant play 'Elsenham Fair 100 Years Ago' was to be organised for the Nursing Fete on Whit Sunday.

At the Annual Meeting in 1933 the membership was 41 with an average attendance of 24.  Prizes were awarded to four members with the best attendance throughout the year, each attending 10 times.  It was agreed that in future no charge would be made for programs and these would be given free of charge on payment of subscriptions.

Tel: 07765 000807

Email:  elsenhamwi@gmail.com

2016 Created by Elsenham WI with a little help from

Carol Cramer of Vebbex Business Development & Marketing Consultancy