Not Just Jam And Jerusalem

The Women's Institute in Chiswick is seeking new members


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Pat Davies co-founded the Women's Institute in Chiswick with her friend Dinah Garrett, over thirty years ago "because I wanted to learn how to make jam".

In fact she never learned how to make jam, and says the 'Jam and Jerusalem' image of the group is only one part what they do. There have been quizzes with the London Fire Brigade (held in their fire stations), cultural talks from experts in fields ranging from antiques to beekeeping, , outings to historic homes, along with garden parties, fundraising, theatre trips - that's just the social side.

The traditional 'teas' associated with the WI

Over the years the WI has supported women's suffrage, submitted evidence to the Royal Commission on the Equal Pay Act of 1970, campaigned to allow women to be called as jurors in the Juror's Act 1974, and campaigned for Fair Trade and lobbied supermarkets to reduce excess packaging. In Chiswick they have lobbied on parking and women's health, to name a few.

But now the WI in Chiswick say it's time to recruit new members and says they welcome women of all ages.

(l-r) Judy Dixon, Esther Rantzen and Ann Sparrow in 2013 during her visit to Chiswick

Originally set up in Chiswick as a vehicle for women 'with rural links' as an alternative to the Townswomen's Guild, the W4 branch formed thirty-one years ago was one of the first 'urban' branches of the Women's Institute in London - Chiswick is now part of the Middlesex Federation.

Members meet on the fourth Monday of the month in the Age Concern headquarters in Oxford Road north. There is the practical side (crafts) and then the social side (talks and teas), as well as Christmas lunches, garden parties and participation in the annual gathering of the WI in the Albert Hall.

But while they are often regarded as representative of the 'backbone' of English women, the Women's' Institute members are by no means shrinking violets. It was during the WI annual conference in 2000 that Tony Blair was heckled by members who told him in no uncertain terms what they thought of his attempt to present Labour party as the party of traditional values in a changing world.

“The WI has always been renowned for its vigorous campaigning…you have a formidable reputation for standing your ground and showing just what can be achieved when people come together to get things done” said Theresa May, Home Secretary in 2014.

The Chiswick WI say that members will be part of a diverse friendly group of women of varying ages and life experiences, learning and participating in different crafts. It is a very good way for women to meet other like-minded individuals and they are very welcoming to newcomers.

Forthcoming talks for next year include topics such as the work of the Victoria & Albert Museum, Bee Keeping, and The London Air Ambulance.

For details on membership contact 07905242898 or e-mail

December 21, 2015

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