White Heat of Change, 1960-2012

The WI has always prided itself on its ability to look ahead

From the 1960s onward, the rate of change, even in rural areas, sped up enormously.  Children of farming families left the land to work in local towns and cities and for a while, Abberley was in danger of becoming a dormitory village.  

In recent years, with the rise of home and remote working, and the resurgence of interest in specialist, small-scale farming, this situation has changed and Abberley has begun once more to grow.

Some of the avenues of change that we explored in our researches included:

  • multi-generational experiences of living in Abberley
  • Why did generations leave & then return?
  • Changes to family life as women’s access to work increases (maternity leave, nurseries, family allowance, welfare)
  • Is Abberley a better place to raise a family?
  • Is life simpler & more comfortable?
  • How do villages regenerate?
  • How has rise in school leaving age affected retention of young people in village?
  • How has housing provision developed (council housing, barn conversions, farms & let properties)?
  • How is technology changing village life?


  • Oral histories
  • Local interviews
  • Invite villagers to write their own reflections to share
  • Photographs


  • Abberley WI archives
  • Worcs Federation archives
    • Census population figures (rise & fall)
    • Maps – development of housing
    • Newspapers
    • School records & achievements reported in press
    • Parish magazines
    • Records of other clubs & societies (or the decline of same)


20th century histories by Dominic Sandbrook:

  • Never Had it So Good: A History of Britain from Suez to the Beatles
  • White Heat: 1964-1970 v. 2: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties
  • State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain, 1970-1974
  • Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979

National Federation of Womens’ Institutes resolutions and actions

1968 : The WI organised a conference on the countryside at Central Hall.

1972: The WI exhibition, This Green & Pleasant Land?, took place at the Ideal Home Exhibition. The Carnegie United Kingdom Trust (CUKT) gave a grant for the Town & Country Project.
The AGM passed resolutions calling for a full free family planning service & for more nursery education for children.

1974: The AGM called for a national policy for reclamation, reuse & recycling of waste.

1975: Sex Discrimination Act passed
The AGM confirmed that NFWI ‘believes in the principle of equality of opportunity & of legal status for men & women & pledges itself to work to achieve this’.

1976: Race Relations Act passed

1983: Women in the Community campaign launched

1987: A resolution at the AGM called for better control of the credit industry.

2000 : 
The Prime Minister addressed the Triennial General Meeting & was heckled.
WIs organised a ‘Buy British, buy local’ fortnight.
NFWI Chairman of Public Affairs Jill Cobley, addressed MEPs about threats to postal services in rural areas

The Volunteers’ Hours Survey taken from 1,000 WIs, showed that their members devoted 3,477,312 hours to voluntary work each year.
During the Foot & Mouth crisis, NFWI called on Government to support family farms. NFWI invited to join the Rural Task Force.

2002: What Women Want campaign

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