26 October 2015

The Women's Institute - My Visit to the Erland Lee Museum

For someone like me who experiences this organization through documentaries, books, and film, the whole concept of these women and all they achieve is as British as you can get.  So when my copy of Jambusters: The Story of the Women's Institute in the Second World War by Julie Summers arrived back in 2013, I was expecting to delve deeper into the world of jam and Jerusalem and other 'Britishness'.  The Women's Institute began in Britain in 1915, after the beginning of The Great War...but my eyes widened when I reached page twelve and read about Adelaide Hoodless...

'A speech she gave at a conference of the Farmers' Institute at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph was heard by Mr Erland Lee, secretary of the Farmers' Institute of Wentworth County.  He immediately invited her to speak at their next Ladies night at his institute in Stoney Creek.  Some thirty-five farmers' wives were present at the talk.  They received enthusiastically her suggestion that as the men had a Farmers' Institute so the women should consider having one of their ow.  The farmers' wives were so keen that they invited her to return the following week, on 19 February 1897.  That night the idea of a women's institute was born and a week later what became known as the 'Stoney Creek Women's Institute' was called into being and its first meeting was held.  Its motto, chosen five years later, became 'For Home and Country'.'

The homestead where that meeting took place is barely half an hour away from my house!  The idea of visiting the Erland Lee Museum was placed on the back burner but yesterday the stunning colours of Autumn and sunny blue skies were perfect for a get-away.

The humble walk to the front door of The Erland Lee Museum.

The stove in what was the original cabin built by discharged British soldier James Lee in 1808.

The 200 year old dining hutch houses plates donated by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

The cranberry glass chandelier is in the drawing room added in 1873.

The hand-woven coverlet on one of the girls' beds is American.  The border to Buffalo, NY is a mere forty minute drive away.

The 'Constitution table' where the bylaws were written that night in February 1897.  The curator told us that members of the W.I. visiting from Britain have even kissed the table!

List of Charter members.  

A photocopy of The Consitution...

...and a peek at the handwriting inside.  

I could have stood in front of one of the bookcases for ages (there was a copy of The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett).

My husband called me over while we were in the nearby barn to take a look at this group photo.  The last line made me laugh out loud.  Is the clue necessary?!

View from the parking area and the side entrance.

A time capsule in the back garden constructed in 1997 to be opened in 2047.

A view of the back of the homestead on a beautiful autumnal afternoon.

The Erland Lee Museum is well worth the five dollar admission charge.  My husband and I were there for nearly three hours and could easily have stayed longer.  This venture has certainly piqued my interest in the history of the Lee family and other founding members.  The next stop on my Women's Institute pilgrimage will be to visit The Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead in St. George.  I'm not exactly sure when that will be but hopefully within the next month.   


  1. I think you should join, Darlene! Maybe as a fully paid-up member they'd let you raid the bookcase.

  2. We're finally seeing Home Fires here and it makes me wish there was a WI that I could join!

    1. Isn't it such an excellent show, Audrey! Knitting, canning, seminars on how to deal with misogynistic husbands....

  3. I am also seeing Home Fires for the first time and loving it! Your visit sounds wonderful -- interesting and informative. What a fun way to spend a gorgeous autumnal day!

    1. I'm quite sure I read somewhere that Home Fires will be coming back for another series!
      Not only did we have the best time at the museum but there was a quaint bakery just down the road. Linzer cookies for the drive home...perfect.

  4. I love this photo essay! I think you should join, the WI too, Darlene! I am the secretary (no pink in my wardrobe!) of a new branch in Paris. I also volunteer at the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead in St. George. Do call ahead to set up a tour and I'll gladly show you around!

    1. That's wonderful, Maggie! I've just whipped off an email through the homestead's website. It would be super to meet you if we can manage a time that works for both of us. And congratulations on the new branch!

  5. Looks like such an interesting place to visit. I'm also learning about the WI for the first time through Home Fires and like Audrey commented above, I kind of wish there was one that I could join!

    1. Blogging is a great way to connect with like-minded people across the globe but when I see that so many of us are enjoying Home Fires I wish we all lived within the same city limits. Imagine how nice it would be to all get together?!