About the WI

The WI is the largest women’s organisation in Britain with more than 200,000 members in almost 7,000 WIs. It is an educational, social, non-sectarian and non-party political organisation.

The ideals of the WI are truth, justice, tolerance and friendship and they are just as important now as they were when the first WI started in the UK almost a hundred years ago. It exists to educate women, to expand their horizons and to develop and pass on important skills.


The WI was started in Canada in 1897 when a campaigner trying to introduce domestic science as a subject in schools and colleges addressed a meeting of more than 100 wives of members of the Farmer’s institute.

The first WI meeting in the UK tool place on 16 September 1915 at Llanfairpwll on Anglesey in North Wales. The National Federation of Women’s Institutes was formed in 1917.

National Membership benefits

As a member of the WI you will receive eight copies per year of the magazine WI Life. This will help you to keep up-to-date with current campaigns and news from WI headquarters in London. You will also receive a membership booklet each year, full of special offers and bargains.


The WI is a well respected organisation with the power to influence governments. It works hard to address current issues concerning women and the communities in which we live. Each year resolutions are put forward by the members, short-listed, debated and voted upon; and if they are passed they become a WI mandate.

You can stay informed about WI campaigns on the NFWI website.

Denman College

The WI has its own residential college in Marcham, near Abingdon. It offers course ranging from arts & crafts, though dance, health & fitness, gardening, science & technology, to sport & leisure. The college offers more than 500 courses each year and can accommodate more than 80 students at any one time. Like many WIs, Quarry provides a bursary for our members to attend courses. For further information about Denman:

Telephone 01865 391991


The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) has its own headquarters in London with professional staff who manage and co-ordinate WI affairs and offer a wide range of services to members. For further information about the WI:

Telephone 020 7371 9300

Associated Country Women of the World

Membership of the WI also brings membership of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW), linking the WI with similar schemes in seventy countries across the globe. It joins seven million members who together pledge to improve living conditions in a practical way and support basic education and local development projects to fight hunger and disease. For further information about ACWW:

Telephone 020 7799 3875


Once the war was over the newly formed WIs began to concetrate on working to improve the conditions of rural life and provide wider eductaional opportuinity for members.


During the Second World War, WIs again contributed an enormous amount to the war effort by growing and preserving food, and also helping to care for evacuees. In 1948 Denman College was opened.


Following an anti-litter campaign in 1954, the NFWI helped set up the Keep Britain Tidy organisation in 1955. Previously WIs could only be formed in communities with a population of less than 4,000 but in 1965 that rule was removed.


In 1974 the greatest ever number of WIs in the country was recorded - over 9,000. The Diamond Jubilee was celebrated in 1975 followed by the WI's 75 anniversary in 1990 with HM The Queen attending the AGM.

The WI Today

The WI celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2005. It continues to play a unique role in enabling women to gain new skills, take part in wide ranging activities and campaign on issues that matter to them. The WI is a diverse organisation open to all women, with WIs in towns, cities and villages.