Members of the Triangle Women’s Institute at Grasmere’s Pioneer Hall on September 24. (Image courtesy of Mary Giuliano)

Members of the Triangle Women’s Institute at Grasmere’s Pioneer Hall on September 24. (Image courtesy of Mary Giuliano)

Grasmere gathers to celebrate 85th anniversary of Triangle Women’s Institute

Contributed by Mary Giuliano

Saturday September 24,2022 saw family and friends of all ages gather at the Grasmere Pioneer Hall to celebrate the 85th Anniversary of the Triangle Women’s Institute. The walls of the hall were filled with photos and memorabilia and included a continuous slide show of past and present events.

Judy Lou McDonald was master of ceremonies and began by revealing Queen Elizabeth II was a member of the Sandringham Norfolk, England chapter attending meetings and functions until her passing, her group members stated she was, “Simply One Of Us”.

In Canada the Institute was started by Adelaide Hunter Hoodless who has a connection to the area as guest Julie Laird said that “Hunter is the grandmother of my cousin Harold”.

Judy Lou provided a brief history of the organization stating that in the early 1930’s the ladies from Grasmere, Roosville and Western Pine met every two weeks at each other’s homes taking along their children, a covered dish for lunch and household sewing. They also took the suggestion from the local Farmer’s Institute that they form a Women’s Institute. On August 11,1937 the first meeting took place, with Emma Black of Grasmere elected president, Isabella McDonald of Roosville vice- president, and Anne Morrow of Western Pine secretary/treasurer. Georgina Brown, Rose Campbell, Martha Crompton, Margaret Galbraith, Mary Gorrie, Margaret Gorrie, Mary Hark senior, Mary Hark junior, Bessie Jamieson, Mary Lancaster, Alice Lancaster, Irene Letcher, Lillian Miller, Marguerite Price, Mary Roo, Alice Sinclair, Mimi Taylor, Kathleen MacDonald, Laura Baird, and Patience Bare formed the original group.

One of first tasks was to select a name and Triangle was chosen as best representing their area. The first fundraiser was a dinner for the Farmer’s Institute that netted the newly formed organization a whopping $40 to start them with a good financial base. Other projects followed with Christmas gifts for seniors and shut-ins, quilting for needy families and hospital patients, donations of good used clothing for Unitarian Service Committee, donations to the Sewing Machine for India fund, for training centers in Ceylon, knitted squares for Zambia and money sent to aid flood victims. TWI was awarded the USC Scroll of Honour in 1979 for outstanding contribution to the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada. Letters and parcels were sent to servicemen overseas during war years and welcome home parties held for local servicemen returning home. The list of contributions is long including aiding with the purchase of first BC Children’s Hospital and outfitting the nursery at the Fernie Memorial Hospital with baby layettes, night gowns and receiving blankets greatly appreciated by new parents.

Quilts and other crafts have won prizes in district competitions and the PNE. For years the institute served meals during the cattle sale at Elko BC with members trekking through dirt roads and staying at the stockyards cooking in tents often in icy rain or snow. Later a grant allowed for a dining hall to be built, this work has been discontinued since the cattle sales at Elko are no more.

A long-term project was achievement of a hard surface road between Roosville and Elko. It took 20 years of requesting it and finally on September 1958, 240 officials and guests were treated to a hot lunch at the opening ceremony. Next project was October 1958 when after much work the ladies were successful in having hydro power brought across the border from Lincoln Electric Co- operative of Eureka, Montana. Another project was to get telephone service in the 1960’s and the building of a new hall.

Their Mission statement “Working to Build a Better Tomorrow for Family and Community,” and their motto “For Home and Country” is still followed. In 2000 a community library was added to Pioneer Hall and with assistance of grants from CBT and RDEK renovations have increased the use of the hall. Raffles, quilts, potluck suppers and bursaries to Fernie Secondary and Jaffray Schools, sponsorship of 4-H club and with the CBT Energy Sustainability Grant in 2019 a 16.5 kilowatt solar system producing 17 kilowatts of AC power annually covering 70% of the Hall’s current energy consumption was installed. This they say allows them to focus their fundraising efforts for other community initiatives while reducing the impact on the environment.

Thanks to CBT funding and Columbia Basin Institute of Regional history a TWI website has been produces with articles, videos and photos that is accessed at http:/www.trianglewomensinstitute.ca

This year their Popular Snow Flake Luncheon and Bazaar is back on November 5 from 11:30 to 2:30. There are 15 members with 11 active ones. This was a relevant organization when it first began and is still today.

Area B Director Stan Doehle spoke joking that he wasn’t campaigning. (He is acclaimed) congratulated them on 85 years saying this was quite a feat to continue for so many years, mentioning how the institute is across Canada and how Lita Salanski won first prize at the PNE for her knitted sweater.

Past Director and UBCM president Heath Slee thanked McDonald for the history lesson saying it was a good look back on the number of people who worked in this organization and how much they achieved. Kaileen Gervais from CBT also congratulated them on the anniversary and on their sponsorship of the 4-H club.

It was also mentioned that several descendants of the original founding members were in attendance to mark this occasion.

85 years of contributing to “Home and Country” by several generations of families is indeed remarkable, Congratulations Triangle Women’s Institute and wishing you many more years of successful and generous volunteer work.

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