Stowupland's Women's Institute (WI)

Twenty years after the Women’s Institute movement first started, Stowupland held its first meeting in  1939. The main purpose for the WI was ‘to improve and develop conditions of the poor’. For several decades it was known as Stowupland and Creeting St.Peter WI .

In its early years the WI met in the B.B Hut before moving to the Village Hall.

In 2021 local women took the decision that they wanted to terminate their affiliation to the National Federation of WI . Locally the general feeling was that NFWI had done little to support our group through Covid-19 and it was ill advised in expecting members to pay their normal annual subscriptions.

But the spirit of the WI lived on and on September 9th 2021 former members gathered together for the first meeting of a new women’s group, Stowupland’s ‘Ladybirds’  for friendship, tea  and discussions.ladybird

Their first president of Stowupland and Creeting St Peter’s WI was Mrs Forrest. She is seen here in 1952 with her daughter Mrs Hilda Stearn from Sheepcote Farm who was a later president. The occasion was the handing over of the position of secretary from Miss Abbott to Mrs. Lufkin.

It was the first time that the tablecloth was used at a meeting. It had been designed and embroidered by WI members on fabric donated by a member. Below are some of the motifs used in the design. After more than 50 years it was still doing well but the group decided to replace it with a new one and preserve the old one.

Black and white image of 4 ladies
Mrs Stearn, her mother Mrs Forrest, Mrs Lufkin and Miss Abbott
black and white image of tablecloth

Black & White image of the 1952 WI table cloth. In 1952 the group had a profit of £1 7s 9p so they decided to go ahead and buy the materials to embroider a table cloth.  A Mrs Own donated a futher 12s towards the costs. A Mrs Barnard volunteered to do the embroidary. Each corner roundal carries the signature of the members, and at the top are stitiched some lines from the hymn Jerusalem.

WI embroidered logo in colour
WI Logo
embroidered signatures
Roundel with some of the members signatures

During the 1940s the WI both nationally and locally provided a support network for those women who remained at home, in the main these were older women or younger Mums with children under 14. Younger women without children ‘were called up’ to serve in the forces or to do essential war work such as munitions, engineering and of course the Land Army.

WI meetings aimed to ‘provide a centre of tranquillity…in a sadly troubled world… providing a space where members could find rest, leisure and a certain amount of security and social contact.’

Local women made jam, canned fruit, collected eggs for local hospitals, looked after the evacuee children, knitted, shared ideas on ‘make do and mend’ cooking with rationing and so much more. I understand they even they were also proud of their choir.

These notes have been taken from a 2008 report by Jennifer Broster on The Role of Women’s Institutes in World War II, with particular reference to East Suffolk Federation of Women’s Institutes. In 2009 the original document along with Stowupland’s ‘Dixie Can sealer and 9 cans’ was deposited with the Ipswich Museum.

WI Certificate, March 2000

In 2000 the ladies of Stowupland and Creeting St Peter WI put together a folder for ‘The Millennium Challenge Landscape Recording Project 1999’.

Members wrote down their thoughts about the village, others typed pieces of  verse or contributed photos.

Judy Clarke wrote an interesting piece on everyday life in ‘ 20th Century Stowupland’.

In March 1999, residents and members gathered in Stowupland cemetery to plant a Millenium Oak

The ladies concluded with their hopes or fears for the  future. They hoped Stowupland would retain its ‘village identity’ that farms would ‘continue to prosper’ and not ‘sell their land for new housing’ and that ‘provided we continue to support our local facilities we may maintain our village status, for a while anyway, and not just become a suburb of Stowmarket’.

In 2002 members of the group decided that the time had come for Stowupland and Creeting St Peter to form their own separate groups.