Country Women’s Institute

The Country Women's InstituteIn 1948 I joined the Benhar Country Women’s Institute in the South Otago Federation.This was during the War years and in a small village where there was not a lot of outlet for teenagers, this was the norm. However it set the scene for my future years in WI and I will always be grateful for the guidance and help that was given.

In 1954 I shifted to Invercargill and joined the Waihopai CWI  in Southern Southland Federation and then later when I shifted to Tussock Creek I joined the Ryal Bush CWI and am still a member .

Now in 2008 I have been a member for 60 years and loved every minute of my membership.

I hold a Good Service Badge, a Long Service Badge, and a 50 year membership Badge.

I was the first member in Southland to hold both the Good Service and Long Service Badge.

The Country Women's InstituteDuring those years many of them were spent as Secretary (often with my mother as President).    In Waihopai Institute I made the floral sprays for many years, was Drama leader, writing and producing Christmas plays as well, and secretary.

In Ryal Bush I have been secretary and I keep the scrapbook up to date.

I have had two terms of Southern Southland Federation in which I served as Link Officer, Publicity Officer and kept the scrapbook.  I love bookwork, history and English.  I have never aspired  to National Executive as another love has been homehosting and that has kept me from straying far from home in the years I was fit enough to try. Also being a farmer and with six children it’s hard to fit everything in!

While working with the Links I linked up every Institute with a link, Southern Southland was the first Federation to have this up and running. Although some over the years fell by the wayside it flourished for many years. You have to find a keen writer in the Institute to keep it going and as some of us are getting older its harder to find someone to carry on.

I had a Link Officer in South Australia, one in South England and one in North England with whom I worked. I linked up other NZ Institutes as well and have a record of them all. This was wonderful enjoyable work, it took lots and lots of time but it was worth it. I still correspond now with many members and my agents.

During my terms on Federation I initiated Hospital Gifts for members (we always visited them) and gave a donation to start this off.

For overseas visitors I offer accommodation purely for the pleasure of meeting other members.  If you are visiting NZ you are most welcome to enjoy some local hospitality. You might even find you have a link that I initiated !!  Booking by prior correspondence or email is required.

National Women’s Institute

The elected National Executive for 2010 – 2012
National President
Mrs Jeanette Andrews

Vice Presidents
Mrs Jenny Hamley and Mrs Elaine Dougherty

Mrs Alison Crawford
Mrs Elaine Dougherty
Mrs Jenny Hamley
Mrs Jenny Ward
Mrs Sue Watson
Mrs Vi Wood-Oliff


Keeping Women Safe
Working with Women’s Refuge in your area

  • donations of non-perishable food
  • donations of toiletries
  • donations of children’s knitted beanies

Check with your local branch to see what they might need and ‘Brighten a Life’

Opening Ode:

A goodly thing it is to meet in friendship circle bright, where

Nothing stains the pleasure sweet, nor dims the radiant light

No unkind words our lips shall pass, nor envy sour the mind

But each shall seek the common weal, the good of all mankind.

Our Aspirations are:

Keep us O God, from pettiness, let us be large in thought word and deed. Let us be done with fault-finding and leave off self seeking. May we put away pretence and meet each other face to face without self pity, and without prejudice.   May we never be hasty in judgement, and always generous. Let us take time for all things good, make us to grow calm serene and gentle.   Teach us to put into action our better impulses, straight forward and unafraid.   Grant that we may realise it is the little things that create differences, that in the big things of life we are one.   And may we strive to touch and to know the great woman’s heart, common to us all, and O Lord God, let us not forget to be kind.


The Structure of the New Zealand Federation in 2009
8,000 Individual members
411 Local Institutes
48 District Federations
1 National Executive Committee of 7 members

We are the largest women’s organisation in New Zealand. We began in 1921 and have remained relevant for women in town and country communities since then.

What we do:

  • Offer friendship and fun
  • Travel and walking groups
  • Get involved with our local community
  • Encourage leadership
  • Teach and share homemaking skills
  • Provide opportunities for members to be involved in choral, drama, floral art, all types of handcraft and writing
  • Help others

The Aims and Objectives of the Institute:

The main object of the National Federation is to provide an organisation that will enable women to take an effective part in community life and its development.
Aims are:

To unite the women of an area into a group with such a strong community spirit that, through their mutual interests, they will so broaden their horizons as Homemakers that the Institute motto “For Home and Country” becomes a reality, both in the home and in the community.

  1. To foster handcrafts, choral, drama and other cultural activities.
  2. To encourage participation in community affairs and a concerned interest in all aspects of national life.

How the Women’s Institute functions:

  • National Federation
  • District Federations
  • Individual Institutes
  • Individual Members.

he whole structure of the Women’ s Institute rests on the individual member, who is therefore the most important part of the organisation.

Institutes unite in all areas to form District Federations and all District Federations are united to form the National Federation.
Historical notes:
Women’s Institutes originated in Canada on 19 February 1897, in a small country centre – Stoney Creek, Ontario – as a direct result of a meeting addressed by Mrs Adelaide Hoodless. They grew and spread with astonishing rapidity, being also fostered by an enlightened Government.

In 1915, the Agricultural Organisation Society, under the Ministry of Agriculture, invited Mrs Alfred Watt to come from Canada to start the movement in England. The first Institute in Great Britain was started that year in Llanfair PG in Wales. In Scotland the movement (Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes) is no less popular and widespread.

The idea of Women’s Institutes was first introduced to New Zealand by Miss Ann Elizabeth Jerome Spencer on her return from war work in England, where she had seen the work of the organisation.

On 7 February 1921, in conjunction with Mrs Francis Hutchinson, Miss Spencer formed the Rissington Women’s Institute, Hawkes Bay; the first in New Zealand. Her hopes were fully realised as the movement spread quickly throughout the country. The first meeting was 21 February.

This Institute went into recess in March, 1988.

In 1926, the first South Island Institute was formed at Waituna, South Canterbury.

At this time, too, Federations were being formed, the first being Hawkes Bay on 27 October, 1925. Auckland followed in September 1927 and the Wellington Federation a year later in 1928.

The first Dominion Conference was held in Wellington on 1 and 2 October 1930. At this Conference it was unanimously decided that a Dominion Federation be constituted and formed.

At the 1932 Conference the official name of the organisation became The Dominion Federation of Country Women’s Institutes (Inc). This name remained unchanged until 1985 when the organisation became officially known as The New Zealand Federation of Country Women’s Institutes (Inc).

It is interesting to note that, whereas Institutes in other countries have received financial assistance from their Governments, the movement in New Zealand has been built up to its present strong position solely by the endeavours of the members themselves – a request in 1927 for government assistance being refused.

Miss Ann Elizabeth Jerome Spencer, founder of New Zealand Women’s Institutes, was awarded the OBE in 1937.

On 30 March 1950, a building suitable for use as Dominion Headquarters, Wellington, was purchased. In 1955 some accommodation was available, but in 1959 extensive alterations improved accommodation and Dominion Headquarters was named Jerome Spencer House, as a memorial to the founder, Miss Ann Elizabeth Jerome Spencer OBE.

February 1984 saw the opening of a refurbished Jerome Spencer House by the Hon J McLay. These extensive improvements and extensions, opened debt free, were made possible by the generosity and enthusiasm of Country Women’s Institute members.

At Conference July 1988 a sterling silver Presidential Chain of Office was presented by Mrs Reka Leask.

In 1998 the Mealing Room was refurbished to become the office of the National Secretary/Treasurer.

At the 2004 Conference the official name of the organisation became the New Zealand Federation of Women’s Institutes Incorporated.