Leisure, 1950-1970

WI social activities were often at the centre of village life

The introduction of labour saving devices & increased sanitation increased the amount of time women could spend at leisure or pursuing social activities.  Less compelled to carry out manual labour, women were also able to develop their handicraft skills because they wanted to rather than had to.

Once clothes & fabric came off the ration in May 1949, dressmaking experienced a huge surge as women sought to make their own versions of the fashions they saw in magazines, mail-order catalogues or the cinema.

Amateur dramatics were increasingly popular after the war as both men & women had more time to spare.  Repertory theatres & cinemas experienced their highest audiences.

WI memberships at their peak in the 1950s.

  • Amateur dramatics
  • Lectures & speakers
  • Handicrafts: flower arranging, dress making, knitting & crochet etc
  • Social life of the village: fairs, festivals, shows, lectures, social gatherings
  • WI Show
  • Increased communications: buses, private cars, bicycles etc

SUGGESTED SOURCES

PRIMARY SOURCES

  • Abberley WI archives
  • Worcs Federation archives
  • Abberley young Farmers archives
  • Local papers will include reports on meetings, plays & lectures
  • Photographs
  • Oral histories
  • Parish magazines
  • Home & Country magazine

SECONDARY SOURCES

  • The Living Village, Paul Jennings (1969) – compendium of WI Jubilee scrapbooks
  • Kays catalogues, http://www.worldofkays.org/
  • WI histories
  • The Repertory Movement: A History of Regional Theatre in Britain, George Rowell, Anthony Jackson
  • Family Britain, 1951-1957, David Kynaston (Bloomsbury, 2009)
  • Histories of Denman College
  • Trawl of craft publications & women’s magazines – especially Family Circle, Women’s Own & Women’s Weekly
  • Domesticating the Airwaves: Broadcasting, Domesticity & Femininity, Maggie Andrews

National Federation of Womens’ Institutes resolutions and actions

1946: NFWI hosted first Combined Arts Festival.

1950 : NFWI celebrated the beginning of the 1950s with a national music festival. Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Folk Songs for the Four Seasons was specially commissioned for the event.
The furnishing of Denman College continued with many federations making quilted bedspreads for their county bedrooms

1952: NFWI Craft Exhibition was staged at the Victoria & Albert Museum; the centrepiece was a huge wall hanging depicting the Work of Women in War, which had taken WI members all over the country four years to make.

1953: Home Acres was opened at Denman College, jointly with Berkshire County Council as a Home Economics centre, by Dame Florence Horsbrugh, Minister of Education.

1957: NWFI drama festival, Out of this Wood.

1958: A flower show was held at Denman College; & the WI had a market place at the Ideal Homes Exhibition.

1960: Housebound  Wives Register (later Housewives’ Register, now National Women’s Register), established by Maureen Nichol for ‘housebound wives with liberal interests & a desire to remain individuals’

1961: WI had a market place at the Ideal Homes Exhibition.
The Pre-school Playgroups Association (PPA) was founded

1963: The first National Art Exhibition, Painting for Pleasure, Galleries of British Artists..

1965: Golden Jubilee Year – There were numerous Golden Jubilee celebrations including a specially commissioned poem from the Poet Laureate C. Day Lewis.
WIs were invited to compile Scrapbooks of the Countryside & many of these are now deposited in the archives of Local Record Offices.

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