On Wednesday, Creekside WI was invited by our twinned WI of Navan in Ottawa to “visit” the Erland Lee Museum* in Stony Creek, Ontario. This beautifully preserved farmhouse is recognised as the birthplace of the Women’s Institutes, the organisation we all belong to today.
We eagerly logged into Zoom at 8pm (3pm in Canada!) and were greeted enthusiastically by Navan President, Sue Woram and the other members. Naturally, the first questions were about the weather. Although no one ventured outside to show us, we were told it was very cold with a lot of snow there.
Ann and Linda were introduced as our President and Vice President and they described Creekside WI and the activities we normally took part in during pre-covid days. Sadly, Navan are in the same situation and are currently in lockdown too, but we all thoroughly enjoyed meeting fellow WI members through the internet, the lifeline that has kept many of us connected during the pandemic.
Jill Noakes, their Vice President, answered questions from us such as how many members they had (24) and she explained how their numbers dipped a little in the winter months of January and February as it is often too cold to turn out, we know what that is like at the moment!
Whilst we sing Jerusalem here, in many WIs in Canada they read out the “Mary Stewart Collect” and “The Ode” * which Marlene, our twinning representative, was granted the honour of reciting.
We were then introduced to the curator of the museum, Mara, who welcomed us on her first guided tour since lockdown began and also her first virtual tour. She allowed us to ask questions as she walked us round and we could request to view any artefacts that interested us. Although some objects did not originally come from the Erland Lee house, they had been sourced from the local community and were of the correct era. Members commented on the beautiful quilts and were told that they were frequently rotated from storage as they had 75 of them, several of which were made by ladies of the WI.
We were shown round the various rooms of the house including the dining room, with the original table where Janet Lee is said to have written the first Women’s Institute constitution on February 25th 1897.
All too soon the tour was over and, having thanked Mara, we chatted for a few more minutes with Navan. We all agreed that we really must zoom again and how wonderful it was to be able to stay connected with the outside world!