Stephanie Croft

Stephanie Croft

Celebrating 90 years in Shirley

Shirley Women's Institute has been going since 1924

There is wisdom that is born from experience, and sometimes — when life is too busy rushing forward — we forget to pause and reach back into the past to learn old and possibly forgotten lessons.

In Shirley, there are a group of women who are doing just that, pausing and reaching back. As expressed by president Stephanie Croft in an article she wrote for the Rural Observer a few years back, “there is a movement among younger generations which to learn more eco-friendly, health conscious, sustainable ways of living of past generations. That this is what the revived Shirley Women’s Institute strives to do: share knowledge on healthy living practices and support community.”

This year this group, the Shirley Women’s Institute, marks its 90th birthday.

The Shirley Women’s Institute is a branch of the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada (fwic.ca). FWIC was conceived by Adelaide Hoodless in 1912, and has since expanded across Canada with 1,000 branches, and 13,000 members.

By 1919, the Institute was established, and within five years, it had travelled west and piqued the interest of the women from Shirley.

According to Croft, the Shirley Women’s Institute was founded by eight women in late October, 1924. They met at the Shirley School House, and would discuss (and advocate for) the concerns of local residents. Safer road conditions, school improvements, and health clinics were often on their list.

One of the most nationally notable influences achieved by the Shirley Women’s Institute was their success in preventing the “combining of Armistice Day and Thanksgiving Day in 1929,” said Croft in a speech she delivered to the National Women’s Institute Conference in June, 2012. “Starting with a simple resolution, this movement gained national momentum, inducing the federal government to make November 11 its own public holiday.”

This was quite the achievement, managing to circulate a petition throughout Canada at that time, Croft laughs, especially given that it was accomplished well before social media — a tool that has just recently arrived in Shirley.

By 2010, interest was ebbing.

“Three years ago, they couldn’t find anyone to take over,” recalls Croft. “There were maybe three members left.” Croft received a call from a friend who thought it might be a perfect fit for her, and it resonated. The established age of the Institute appealed to her, and the values reflected her own. She has since stepped up and has grown the membership over the past few years.

Interestingly, much of the issues that they advocated for when they first established continue to be today’s issues of concern. Dumping garbage, road safety and road conditions still prevail, says Croft. “It’s interesting that these issues have always existed in this area.”

Membership is open to all women. A perfect fit would be a woman who shares their values.

“In the past,” said Croft in conversation, “they tended to be of an older generation. But for us, I would say we are in our 30s, mostly 30s and 40s, we’re living rurally, and most of us didn’t grow up living rurally, so we have an interest in the rural lifestyle. Being more self sufficient, growing our own food, and preserving our own food, trying to make things from scratch and living more wholesomely.”

Celebrating 90 is a pretty significant milestone, and there are a few events planned throughout the year.

Some of the events planned this year include a members-only Adelaide Hoodless lunch on February 26 in Shirley. This lunch will be opened up to other south Vancouver Island WI branches, and will include a guest speaker. Later in the year, there will also be a travelling exhibit, which will be put together sometime later this summer, and a tree-planting picnic sometime in September.

As with their mandate to increase the self-sufficiency of their members, the Shirley Women’s Institute is also entirely self sustained. They raise their own funds through events, craft tables at the Shirley Market, and in the past, through the sales of a cookbook.

Membership is $42 per year, and there are currently 12 active members with a few other potential sign-ups pending. Some of the fundraisers throughout the year are used to subsidize memberships.

Any one interested in learning more about the Shirley Women’s Institute can contact Stephanie Croft at stephaniecroft@hotmail.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rachna Singh, MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, is the Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives. (Photo courtesy of flickr.com/photos/bcgovphotos)
A micro brewery is being eyed for Jordan River. However, the site where the brewery is proposed still needs to go through the rezoning process. (Black Press Media file)
Micro brewery proposed for Jordan River

Jordan River Brewing Company envisions to build wholesale, sit-in brewery along Highway 14

Traffic waits at the intersection of Highway 17 and Beacon Avenue. A study found failing levels of service at the intersection of Highway 17 and Sidney’s Beacon Avenue for multiple movements during morning peak traffic and for all left-moving traffic during afternoon peak traffic. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Province supports potential interim improvements to Sidney intersection

Province says interchange is the long-term plan for intersection of Beacon Avenue and Highway 17

Oak Bay local Lachlan Kratz (red, middle) has signed with pro rugby team NOLO Gold in Louisiana. (Contributed photo)
Oak Bay local signs with pro rugby team

Lachlan Kratz at 21 is now NOLO Gold’s youngest member

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read