On Wednesday, June 1, about twenty members of the Bervie Women’s Institute(W. I.) met at the United Church to celebrate their 115th year. The Federal Women’s Institute of Ontario is celebrating 125 years. President of the Bruce County District Women’s Institute, Ellen Waye, has been a member for the past eleven years and says she enjoys being with a The Bervie W. I. group of ladies that enjoy spending time together and learning new things.
“It is a wonderful way to get to know new people that you may not have otherwise crossed paths with,” said Waye. “ I was invited by a lady I met at church and have built friendships with Women all over Bruce and Grey Counties, across the Province, Country and Internationally.”
The W. I., was established in 1897 to provide Rural Women with the opportunities for learning .The group of ladies’ meet on the first Wednesday of each month, usually at ten o’clock. They open with a business meeting then have a speaker or presentation by one of the members.
“Each member takes a turn as convener of the meeting taking care of the arrangements for the speaker or program,” said Waye. “When we have in person meetings we end each meeting with snack, tea or coffee and lots of laughs.”
They are always looking for new members and welcome any person who identifies as a woman.
In 2021they held their first in person meeting in two years at the Bervie United Church after finalizing the sale of thee Bervie W. I. Hall after 60 years. From the sale of the hall, the group decided to donate $20,000 to the Kincardine Community Hospital Foundation and $20,000 to the Huron Shores Hospice, two organizations near to their hearts.
Waye enjoyed reflecting on some of her favourite memories with the W. I.
“During the summers previous to Covid, we would take part of Lemonade and Cookies at the Bruce County Museum,” she said. “I had the opportunity to spend one Friday with Mildred (Griffith) at the Museum. Because that day there was a storm warning the Lemonade and Cookies were served in the General Store instead of the Log Cabin.”
“The Museum was started by the Bruce County Women’s Institute Branches,” explained Waye. “Each woman gave $1 to raise money to start the Museum in Southampton.”
“Another special moment was going to see a computer milking systems and one of the older members in her 90’s said ‘I never thought I would see the day that cows milked themselves’.”
Upcoming meetings include a visit to a Fish Farm, an Alpaca Farm, and a speaker from the OPP on ”Scams and how to avoid them.”
“As the president of the Bruce County District Women’s Institute, I am open to starting new Branches anywhere in Bruce County,” Waye concluded. “We currently have ten branches and all are accepting new members.”
For anyone that is interested in learning more about W. I., or to find a branch near you, please visit their Facebook page, “Bruce County District Women’s Institute.”
At their Wednesday meeting, one member, Mildred Griffith, was celebrated for 75 years with the W. I.
“Once upon a time, a teenaged girl, Mildred Barfoot, left her home at Colpoy’s Bay to start a new life in the Bervie area,” member Betty Jean White read aloud at the meeting. “She worked as a ‘hired girl’ for my mother, helping to look after me, my sister and my baby brother, three under three. I’m sure we kept her busy.”
“A young neighbour lad caught her eye,” she continued. “She married Percy Griffith and became a farm wife. She also joined Bervie Women’s Institute, like my mother and the other neighbouring farm wives. I’m not sure what activities she took part in and what positions she held, but I’m sure there were many. She was also raising a family of six daughters, who would have accompanied her to WI meetings.”
“A few years later, they left the farm and moved to Bervie to run the grocery store and restaurant at the west end of the village,” said White. “This meant Mildred was even busier, but still had time for her W. I., activities. She was actively involved with hosting card parties in the hall which the Institute branch had purchased; these were a major fund-raiser to help cover the expenses.”
When she retired from the store and restaurant, she and Percy moved into the house beside the W. I., hall,” she explained. “She then began childcare for several working moms in the area, often bringing little ones with her to the meetings. And living so close, she was constantly working on the lawn and in the flower beds, as well as cleaning windows, etc., at the hall.”
“Mildred is a history buff. She has been branch Tweedsmuir curator for many years, spending countless hours,” White recalled. “She also compiled a history of the homes and buildings in Bervie, which she presented at a couple of W. I., meetings. She has always been an eager volunteer – to bake pies, cook turkeys or whatever needed to be done for fund-rising activities. I’m sure you ladies can think of other things that I have missed, that she has done over the past 75 years that she has been a member of Bervie Women’s Institute.”
“She is an inspiration to us all,” she concluded. “Congratulations, Mildred! We are so happy that you came to this area. Colpoy’s Bay’s loss was Bervie’s gain.”