1914 Wiggins Cottage beside the "Pink Palace"


Marmora Herald Dec. 22, 1910 -

Mrs. Woelard of Toronto, organizes a branch of the Women's Institute for Marmora at a meeting in the Town Hall on Tuesday evening,  Dec. 20th.  The following officers were elected:                                        President- Mrs. Vernon Pringle Vice-President - Mrs Joseph Shannon,  Sec-Treasury -  Miss Bernice Pearce

APRIL 14, 2000 The 90th Anniversary


Mrs. Charles (cora) Bleecker

Mrs. Charles (cora) Bleecker

The origins

1897 - WI Founded in Canada

A portrait of womens' rights advocate Adelaide Hunter Hoodless hangs inside the front door of her childhood home on Blue Lake Road east of Paris, Ont. (MICHAEL PEELING/QMI Agency) toronto sun

The first Women's Institute was formed in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada as a branch of the Farmer's Institute, inspired by a talk given by Adelaide Hoodless at a meeting of the Farmer's Institute. The Toronto Star wroteon Dec. 7, 2013

  "Her life changed after the 1889 death of her 14-month-old son John, believed caused by contaminated, unpasteurized milk. Hoodless blamed herself for not knowing about the danger.  The all-too-common tragedy spurred Hoodless to action as an advocate, public speaker and organizer, aiming to educate women in a changing society where knowledge of the practicalities of “domestic science” was fast disappearing.She lobbied for the inclusion of domestic science education in schools. In 1897, she was asked by the minister of education to write a textbook for such courses."

Click here to read the whole Toronto Sun article

Local farmers Erland and Janet Lee were instrumental in setting up the new organisation. They were supported by Ontario government who appointed Laura Rose to be the first organizer in 1899. The movement brought women from isolated communities together and offered training in home economics, child care and those aspects of farming that were traditionally done by women, such as poultry keeping and small farm animal husbandry. 

(Feb. 22, 1917)

Members of Marmora Women's Institute met at the home of Mrs, H. R. Pearce last Wednesday afternoon. During the pastmonth 75 pairs of socks have been sent overseas to Marmora boys, most of them going to France. With each pair was done up a supply of tobacco and cigarettes. In December a shipment of Red Cross supplies was made which included 25 surgical jackets, 34 pairs of pyjamas and other articles. Another shipment is ready to be sent this week. Proceeds from the Home Cooking Sale, held last week, amounted to $90.40. Another ~sale is being arranged for March 3rd with. supper served in the Dunlay Block.

Although a strong supporter of women's issues and rights, Adelaide Hoodless advocated that women should support their husbands in their careers and that the role of the wife was in the home. This was in stark contrast to EmiIy Stowe and her daughter, Augusta Stowe Gullen and other suffragettes like Henrietta Edwards, Louise McKenney, Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung who fought for women's rights in Canada. Nellie McClung wrote;" Never retract, never explain, never apologize, get the thing done and let them howl".

The W.I.'s first motto was " Deeds Speak ". It was later changed to

"For Home and Country"



In his history of the Marmora W.I.,  Gerald Belanger wrote:

By the year 2000, the Marmora Women's Institute (W.I) was the oldest known women's group in the village that was still functioning and having regular annual meetings. It was first organized by Mrs. Woelard,an employee with the Department of Agriculture, Toronto. Shevisited Marmora with the sole purpose of setting up the organization and ensuring that members were elected for the various offices within the branch.
The meeting was held at the Town Hall on December 20th, 1910 and the following local women were elected to take positions in the first W.I organization in Marmora :  

Bessie Pearce, Sec. Tres.

  • Mrs Vernon Pringle (President)

  • Mrs Joseph Shannon (Cecelia McGrath)- Vice-President

  • Miss Bessie Pearce (Secretary-Treasurer).

During those early years, the Marmora W.I took advantage of the Government's offer to help them. At least twice a year the Department of Agriculture sent speakers to Marmora to inform the branch of courses offered in sewing, nursing and cooking. In the Marmora Herald, dated January 9th, 1936, Mrs Charles Bleecker (W.I President) wrote an article about the branch in which she said:

"These courses were not always a complete success for we often failed to reach or interest the very people who would have most benefited by their teaching. This failure was always a matter of discouragement in the early years "

One of the first tasks the WI.I attempted was to raise the necessary funds to buy a new piano for the Town Hall which had officially opened on July 19th, 1913. After the piano was paid for, the W.I bought dishes and kitchen utensils for the Town Hall . It must be remembered that the Town Hall at the time was the only hall available for public use and as a result almost every major event held in Marmora and Deloro was held there.

                                                              The outbreak of World War 1 (1914 - 1918), brought more work than the W.I. had ever thought possible. Large organizations like the Red Cross and the local Patriotic Society pressed the W.I for just about anything linked to the war effort.

Their first request was for funding to equip a hospital ship. Later the Red Cross asked for and received hospital supplies. The W.I bought large bales of flannelette and members were kept busy making bundles of pyjama suits, hospital jackets and other hospital garments. Those who could not sew, rolled bandages. Those who could not cut garments helped makeup Red Cross bags and other useful articles. By 1916 the W.I started knitting socks that were sent directly to the Veterans of Marmora and their friends who were fighting overseas. Often an S.O.S ( Send Our Socks) would be sent to the various branches and always our local W.I.  women responded.

"If you never made a sock before,  don't practise on the soldiers. If our men are worth anything they are worth the very best we can give them".

MarmoraHerald, Feb. 22, 1917: "Members of Marmora Women's Institute met at the home of Mrs. Henry R. Pearce last Wednesday afternoon. During the past month, 75 pairs of socks have been sent overseas to Marmora boys and most of them going to France."

When the W.I learned the addresses of the 120 local area Veterans stationed overseas, they made up individual parcels for them and sent them to the Front.

A typical parcel would contain a knitted wool trench cap, knitted socks or gloves, candy, chocolate bars, cans of cocoa, tea, oxo, dates, figs, pads of paper and pencils. The parcels were routinely sent out in January, March, April, June, August, September and November. The women faithfully carried this out all through the war years. The vacant Dunlay Block had been given rent free to the W..I to use during this time.

Shortly after the war ended in 1918 and the local boys started coming home, the W.I again was busy raising funds to furnish and equip a club room for the returning Veterans. The club room was located over the Connor and Jones Hardware Store (later the TD Bank).

In 1920, the W.I decided to start a Public Library. Letters were written by Mrs S. Reade (Reid), President of the W.I, to the Inspector of Public Libraries, Toronto and to the Department of Education,  inquiring as to the details involved in organizing a library for the Village. The first shipment of books for the library from the Department of Education cost the W.I $237.00. Later the  W.I. would donate one hundred dollars towards the construction of a new Memorial Building.   They had used a Victory Bond that had been purchased during the war and graciously contributed it when the final decision had been made as to the shape and form of the new building. By the end of March, 1929, the W. I.  had also raised $1,265.00 to have the clock permanently installed in the Memorial Building.

Of special pride to the local branch of the W.I is the fact that three members had become District Presidents:

  • Mrs Louis Green (Ivah Maud Reid) in 1951,

  • Mrs GeorgeEmpey(Minnie Deline) in 1974 - 75

  • Mrs Joseph O'Neill (Marie Brownson) in 1980 - 81

On November 9th, 1960, the W.I celebrated their 50th Anniversary in the Anqlican Parish Hall. W.I. chartered members, Mrs Frank Newton Marett and Mrs Charles Nichol were present. A light lunch was served while Mrs Jaireth of Madoc played a few piano solos.

The regular and annual meeting of Marmora's W.I. was held at Eileen Demorest's home on April 6th, 1999, with five members in attendance. Members had roll call, paid their membership and talked about the ways in which agriculture is changing their lives. The branch officers elected for 1999 - 2000 were; Ellenore Barker (President), Eileen Demorest (First Vice-President), Betty Houston (Second Vice-President), Ruth Moffatt (Secretary), and Minnie Empey (Branch Director) .

LIFE MEMBERS -    1936Mrs. Penner;    1945Mrs. C.A. Bleecker, Mrs. W. Grant,  Mrs. F.N. (Jane) Marett, Mrs. Charles (Ida) Nichol



A sum of money, left to the W.I by the late George Hartley, who had died on April 9th, 1962, was used to set up a bursary for the highest standing district pupil in Grade 12.  Some of the winners have been Jane Neal,Douq Howden, Avis Tokarewicz ,AnnBrady, Brian Goodchild, Janet Tomkins, Mary and Elizabeth Parcels, Jeff Rothermel, Paul 0'Connor, Dallas Stark, Robert Paranuik, Anita Tokarewicz and Patrick DoyIe.

On October 14th, 1970, the W.I met at St. Andrew's United Church Hall to celebrate their 60th Anniversary. A wooden plaque, painted in blue and gold and inscribed with their motto " For Home and Country " was made and presented by Mrs. Percy Gordon.

On November 8th, 1975, a tea and bazaar was held in the Senior Citizen's Clubroom of the Memorial Building to celebrate the W.I.'s 65th Anniversary. Mrs Ethel Nobes welcomed a large turnout for the event.

On September 28th, 1980, members met to celebrate their 70th Anniversary at the Legion Hall. Mrs Mabel Nayler, the branch's eldest serving member, outlined the work which had been undertaken during two World Wars in supplying necessities to local servicemen as well as the assistance that they had provided for their country. Mrs Nayler stated the following:

"We like to think our organization is still important. But we're no longer at the top of the heap. We have failed to attract the younger members. It's all older people now. We only have 26 members now."

To honour the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the W.I. at Stoney Creek, seven local members gathered at the home of Ruth Moffat in Marmora, on February 19th, 1997. The seven members were  Ellenore Barker, Eileen Demorest, J Betty Houston, Margaret Pasco, Minnie Empey, Ruth Moffatt and Ruby McCoy. Illness kept four members from attending.


History notes written by W.I. Members