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Time in the Institute is celebrated
Two women with a century of membership between them helped Harden’s Women’s Institute celebrate its 50th anniversary today.
Janet Hill and Jean Baudouin were at the inaugural meeting of the WI group in January 1963, and have been members ever since.
The two veterans originally joined because there was nothing else for young women to do, but say as they got older the WI offered them a way of keeping active and part of the community.
They still think the movement plays an important part in modern society.
The celebration saw members enjoy cake, singing and a quiz, as well as a presentation to their longest serving members.
President Gaye Baird said the branch was a particularly popular one, adding: “When it started there were 60 members, and at one point it went down to 22. Now we have about 40. We’ve recently won awards for having the biggest increase in members for local WIs. Some have closed, but many seem to be getting more popular.
“Things have changed a lot, at first the members were all young women. Now a lot of our members are elderly. But there are some like Saltaire WI and the Baildon Belles that have a lot of younger members. It seems more young women are signing up.”
Talking about the two longest serving members, who were coy about revealing their age, she said: “Some people leave and re-join, but they have been active members from the first meeting.”
Recalling what attracted them to joining, Jean said: “There was very little for young women to do back then. It was a very quiet little village.”
Janet added: “There were a lot of members, because there was nothing else for women at the time.”
They have seen many changes over the years, but both think it is an organisation with a bright future.
Janet said: “It has a whole new image since Calendar Girls.” Jean added: “There are even waiting lists to join in some areas. They have things for young people like Zumba dancing.
“You make friendships that last for life, and have a lot of fun. It is what you make it - you can go once a month and go home straight after or you can join in and make the most of it. It is ideal for older people.”
Janet said: “We recently held a car boot sale, and I couldn’t wait for it to start. That is something I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing on my own.”
As well as its monthly meetings at St Saviour’s Church, which features guest speakers, the Harden WI holds summer outings, visits to other groups and runs Scrabble and culture clubs.