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WOMEN’S INSTITUTES – PART TWO

Township of Thorold 1793-1967

Page 308-9

The first Women’s Institute in the world was organized in the village of  Stoney Creek in Wentworth County on February 19, 1897, where the Farmer’s Institute had also had its beginnings.

In the autumn of 1896, a young farmer named Erland Lee heard Mrs Adelaide Hoodless give a thought-provoking address on the value and need of teaching domestic science in public schools. Her interest stemmed from the fact that she had lost an 18-month-old child due to impure milk. This prompted her to devote her time to seeking improvement in Ontario’s educational system. She strongly believed that girls should be educated to fit them properly in the sphere of life for which they were destined–that of homemaking–and this should be done by teaching domestic science in public schools.

Mr Lee was impressed by the words of Mrs Hoodless and decided to ask her to speak to the women of Saltfleet Township at the first available opportunity. The chance came in January 1897, when Mr. Lee was asked to help plan a program for the Farmer’s Institute. Several members objected to his suggestion of Mrs Hoodless as a speaker for the evening session when the women would be present, but Mr Lee invited her despite their objections.

Mrs Hoodless delivered her talk on the need for a women’s organization similar to the Farmer’s Institute but time was limited and a discussion on the subject could not be held. Mr Lee, who was chairman, asked the ladies how many would be willing to attend a meeting to deal with Mrs Hoodless’s suggestion and 35 responded and promised to be present the next Friday.

Both Mr and Mrs Lee were busy during the next week as they visited district homes, in their attempts to stir up interest. When Mrs Hoodless arrived for the meeting at Squire’s Hall, Stoney Creek, she was met by 101 women and Mr Lee, who agreed to act as chairman, thus begun the first Women’s Institute.

The purpose of the Institute was to raise the standard of homemaking, as shown by this statement recorded in the early minutes: “A nation cannot rise above the level of its homes, therefore, we women must work and study together to raise our homes to the highest possible level.”

In order to carry out the objects of the Women’s Institute six divisions were outlined, There were:

Domestic Economy, Architecture, with special reference to heat, light, sanitation and ventilation. Health, Floriculture and Horticulture, Music and Arts. Literature, education and Legislation.

It is significant to note how closely these six divisions corresponded to the standing committees of W.I. today.

Before long Women’s Institute  branches had started in many areas including Thorold Township. Many of these groups are still active today, such as those in DeCew Falls and Allanburg. Groups in Port Robinson and Quaker Road have now disbanded, while new institutes have formed, such as the branch at Singer’s Corners and the Mildred Summer’s Branch of DeCew and St Johns.

Besides taking part in many projects to improve conditions the institutes have carried out valuable research, which is recorded in their Tweedsmuir History Collections.

Dr Hugh Park

{Township of Thorold 1793 to 1967, page 139}

Dr. Hugh Park began his day by starting out early in the morning to visit the sick in his territory which included most of Crowland, Thorold and Willoughby Townships. He would return home at noon for his meal and start out again to  make as many house calls as possible before nightfall.

The winters were long and severe and it was necessary for him to keep two horses. Some winters he had to use snow shoes to get through the deep snow to treat the seriously ill.

He served as medical officer of health for Thorold Township for many years. He was a church warden for many years and was instrumental in placing the beautiful stone font in St Paul’s Anglican Church. He passed away in 1935 at the age of eighty-three.