Napanee Women’s Institute

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Napanee Women’s Institute

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The Napanee Women’s Institute located in the Town of Napanee, Richmond Township, County of Lennox and Addington was founded on February 2, 1921 with Mrs. Alpine Woods as the first President. This branch was a part of the Lennox District Women’s Institute. It disbanded on March 31, 1989, despite a relatively high membership level of twelve, due to an inability to fill executive positions. After disbandment, the branch donated the piano and contents of their cupboard to the Napanee Senior Citizen’s Club. The rest of their funds were donated to Senior’s Outreach Services and Lennox District Women’s Institute. The early history of the Napanee Women’s Institute is obscure as the minute books were lost in the Market Square fire of 1943. The home of the secretary-treasurer, Mrs. Katherine Powell, was destroyed in the fire, along with the minute books. Luckily, the collective memory of older members and newspaper clippings from the Napanee Beaver, which Miss Leafa Woods (daughter of the first President) had preserved, led to recovering some of the lost history. According to the Lennox District Women’s Institute Tweedsmuir, the early Presidents of the Napanee Women’s Institute were: Mrs. Alpine Woods, Mrs. James Douglas, Mrs. Ralph Ham, Mrs. Walter Exley, Mrs. J.V. Anderson, Mrs. Shore Loynes, and Mrs. Freda Lucas. According to the brief branch history of Napanee from the Lennox District Women’s Institute Tweedsmuir, the first resolution passed was to number the homes in the community in preparation for house-to-house mail delivery. The branch was dedicated to helping beyond its community walls. They raised funds for a mobile kitchen, seeds for Britain, a tractor fund, sent shipments of flour to women of Northern Greece, and made and donated layettes to Unitarian Service. “Short courses” were held on Frozen Foods, Needlework, and Rug Making. The Napanee branch was affiliated with the Local Council of Women. The Napanee branch purchased ten card tables for hosting card parties, and often lent them for functions supporting war work and later to other non-profit community organizations. Card parties were the favoured mode of fundraising for the Napanee branch; they often hosted a party once per month, especially during World War II. During World War II, the Napanee branch raised funds for the jam project, ‘Clothing for Russia Campaign’, Greek Relief Fund, Milk for Britain fund, contributed to the Ahtirka Relief Fund (a town in Russia that Napanee ‘adopted’ to help support), and they also filled ten ditty bags. They held a “short course” on Food for Wartime, which was well attended. After the war, other benefactors included: Salvation Army, Cancer Society, Danny Bell Fund, Mental Health Association, Cancer Society, Red Cross Water Safety Committee, ARC (Adult Rehabilitation Centre) Industries, Lenadco Auxiliary, Arthritis Society, Boy Scout Council, Lennox and Addington Home for the Aged, and Lennox and Addington Ontario Humane Society. Members of the community were supported during times of trouble, such as victims of fire. For many years, they donated Christmas treats to the Children’s Aid Society. In 1979, it was ‘International Year of the Child’, which the Napanee Women’s Institute decided to support by holding a special project. They donated funds and a blanket to a Vietnamese family arriving to Napanee by boat, which was sponsored by the Napanee Refugee Committee. In latter years, the executive recorded the number of visits to the sick and shut-in by the members throughout the month. The branch was involved with the Napanee Fair and the Lennox and Addington County Fair. They also served refreshments at the ploughing [sic] match. In 1924, the branch decided to purchase a gramophone for the local public school. Early on, the Secretary wrote a letter to the Napanee Town Council on behalf of the members to raise awareness for a need of a set of traffic lights at the Bridge Street and John Street intersection. The Napanee Women’s Institute fonds contains a photograph, which was donated in a frame, but was removed for preservation purposes. The photograph is a group shot of life members at the time. There is a note stating that it was obtained from the Mill Creek branch and it contained Life Members from different branches. The back of the photograph lists a number of names and places, although none assigned to a particular person. They are: standing: Mrs. R. Grear, Fairfield; Mrs. W. Ragan, Chaffey Locks; Mrs. C. Stevens, Elgin; Mrs. Shore Loynes, Napanee; Lillian Aylesworth, Odessa; Mrs. P. Teskley, Croydon; sitting: Miss May Johnston, Newburgh; Mrs. B. Richardson, Tamworth; Mrs. H. Jackson, Harrowsmith; Mrs. H. Blacklock, Glenburnie; Mrs. C.A. Copp, Harrowsmith; Mrs. J.B. Smith, Odessa; Willanna Clark, Odessa. Considering that one of the names listed on the back of the photos is Miss Willanna Clark, whom was granted the Life Membership Certificate in 1947, it is likely that this photograph was taken post-1947. Therefore, it is likely that the women were dressed in costume. Napanee Women’s Institute has four Tweedsmuirs in the fonds, of varying degrees of formality. The first Tweedsmuir was made with construction paper and largely consists of newspaper clippings. Of these newspaper clippings, a number of them are notices about the death of Lord Tweedsmuir, and some copies of meeting summaries printed in the newspaper prior to 1940. This evidence suggests that this book may have been compiled by Leafa Woods, as mentioned in the Lennox District Women’s Institute Tweedsmuir. This book also contains a brief house history and a few pages dedicated to executive W.I. members at the District level in 1924. Two other Tweedsmuirs are very informal, containing solely newspaper clippings. The final Tweedsmuir is the largest, most traditional, and most formal. It listed the main Conveners for the Tweedsmuirs as Mrs. Frank Genore, Mrs. E. McNeil, and Mrs. Verna Miller. A photograph of the first President, Mrs. Alpine Woods, and her daughter, Leafa, taken by F.L. Richardson (c.1900) was placed at the beginning of the formal Tweedsmuir. This photograph has been removed from the Tweedsmuir for preservation purposes and placed in a separate folder in the same carton. This Tweedsmuir includes an extensive index. It contains newspaper clippings from the first national Women’s Institute convention in 1957. There are a number of historic postcards of prominent landmarks in Napanee, published in the 1950s. This book also contains “The Story of the Hay Bay Church 1792-1964”, Centennial portraits, a number of programmes and advertisements for new major businesses within Napanee, MacPherson House, Erland Lee Home, ‘Out of the Archives’ series by James Eadie which was published in the Napanee Beaver, history of Lennox and Addington County jail in 1978, and some reports by the Standing Committee. Page 99B has an envelope pasted to the page, which held photographs. The photographs have been removed for preservation purposes and are now stored in a separate folder in the same carton. Some of the past Women’s Institute Presidents of Napanee were: Mrs. Alpine Woods, Mrs. James Douglas, Mrs. Ralph Ham, Mrs. Walter Exley, Mrs. J.V. Anderson, Mrs. Shore Loynes, Mrs. Freda Lucas, Mrs. James Haggerty (1942-1945), Mrs. (Elizabeth) Boyle (1945-1946), Mrs. Jamieson (1946-1948), Mrs. Marshal (Nellie) Hudson (1948-1950), Mrs. F.H. (Blanche) McCutcheon (1950-1953), Mrs. John (Florence) Jaynes (1953-1955), Mrs. H. (Viola) Shoebridge (1955-1956), Mrs. A. (Pearl)Young (1956-1959), Mrs. T. (Kathleen) Hunt (1959-1961), Mrs. Dave (Elsie) Andrews (1961-1965), Mrs. H.A. (Alice) Edgar (1965-1967), Mrs. Marley (Viola) Gilbert (1967-1969), Mrs. Leo (Elsie) Palmer (1969-1971), Mrs. Albert Walsh (1971-1973), Mrs. Gordon (Ida) Mack (1973-1977), Mrs. Edna Robinson (1977-1984), Mrs. Kathleen Genore (1984-1986), and Mrs. Kathleen McFarland (1986-1989).


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