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History of the Fenelon Falls Women’s Institute

February 6, 2023

Fenelon Falls Women's Institute Picnic, June 23, 1959. Back: M Thomson, Mary Neate, Vi Barrett. Front: EL Maybee, R Halligan, C McGee, AJ McCallum.

From the Tweedsmuir History of Fenelon Falls (Complied by the Fenelon Falls WI)

The First 50 Years, 1905-1955

Fifty years of worthwhile history lies behind the Women’s Institute of Fenelon Falls. Our Branch was organized in 1905, by Mrs. Laura Rose Stevens, who was the first lecturer for Women’s Institutes appointed by the Ontario Department of Agriculture, and who rendered great service in building the organization in its early days.

During the years we have had 13 presidents: Mrs. Wm. Fell; Mrs. Walter Tiers; Mrs. James Lamb; Mrs. A.E. Minthorne; Mrs. I. Mackay; Mrs. Dr. Gould; Mrs. H.J. Townley; Mrs. Chas. Graham; Mrs. Wesley Pogue; Mrs. Cecil Deyman; Mrs. A.W. McGee; Mrs. James Daniels; Mrs. D.A. Scott.

16 secretary-treasurers: Mrs. Martha Cullis; Mrs. W.T. Junkin; Miss Emily Nie; Mrs. Calder; Mrs. Charles Smith; Mrs. George Pentland; Mrs. David Jewell; Mrs. John Begg; Mrs. A.W. McGee; Mrs. William Palmer; Mrs. James Halligan; Mrs. Robert Hantorn; Mrs. D.A. Scott; Miss Elva Maybee; Miss Ethel McLean; Mrs. Wm. Mallion.

We have to charter members: Mrs. W.T. Junkin of Toronto and Mrs. David Jewell, who have been an active member for fifty years.

Through the years many fine papers and addresses have been given. To mention a few: ‘Great Women of the Bible’, Mrs. Higdon; ‘Our Talents and Abilities’, Mrs. Pogue; ‘The Christmas Carols, when Written and Whom’, Mrs. F.W. Newell; ‘Education in our Schools’, Mr. Tom Carr; ‘Experiences as Doctor and Nurse in England During 5 Years of War’, Mrs. (Dr.) McAmmond; ‘Health in the Home’, Mrs. Alex Flett; ‘Talk on Stone China, with Exhibit,’ Mrs. Fred Warren; ‘African Violet Culture, with Exhibits’, Mrs. Lightfoot; ‘Life of Jack Miner’, Mrs. F.W. Newell; ‘Municipal Politics’, Mr. H.J. Townley; ‘Story of the Other Wise Man’, Mrs. Henderson; ‘Story of the Black Madona’, Mrs. T.C. Graham; ‘Patriotic Floral Emblems’, Miss Ethel McLean; ‘The Value of the Library to the Community’, Miss Irene Brown; ‘Talk on Banking,’ Miss V. McIntosh.

Debate: ‘Resolved that our Grandmothers were better citizens than the women of today’; Also ‘Resolved that Reading is more Profitable than Travel’ Henderson-McCallum, Newell-McIntosh. Judges Miss Nie and Miss Naylor.

Mr. Hicks of Lindsay gave a talk on flower culture, with a large variety of blossoms on display. Bouquets were sold and money went into our treasury. Dr. Parks from the Mental Health Association; Singer Sewing Machine Company gave us a demonstration; ‘Christmas in Africa’, Mrs. James; Pageant “Canada Calls’, put on by 20 of our members; Medical addresses by Dr. Wm. M. Graham, also Dr. G.C. Graham.

Our village history has been brought to us by Miss Bessie Nie, Mrs. H.J. Townley and Mrs. Fred Warren. Some interesting facts: The first railroad laid in 1876; Village incorporated in 1875 [1874]. St. James’ Rectory built in 1835; Maryboro Lodge built in 1838 [1837]; Presbyterian Church in 1865; Community Hall, the Bible Christian Church, 1864; first two-roomed school 1864; first steamer on Kawarthas arrived in Fenelon Falls 1861 [1851]; first work on canal started in 1882.

We have taken advantage of many conferences and short courses, made available through the department. Our women have learned to make dresses, gloves, moccasins, slip covers, and have learned weaving and many other crafts helpful to the homemaker. We have also sponsored Girl’s Club work. Through two wars our Women’s Institute rendered service in providing for the needs of those in the armed forces, and giving assistance to the people of countries which suffered from the ravages of war.

Every worthy cause was given aid. Russian relief when our members sorted and packed bales of clothing; Greek relief fund; Princess Alice fund; United Nations appeal; United Emergency fund for Britain; Tractor and flour for Greece; Donation re: Loom for Korea; Donations to Red Cross and Red Shield; CARE parcels to Berlin; Hurricane relief fund; Sick Children’s Hospital; Canadian appeal to Children’s fund.

Local causes we have supported include: Pillars for cemetery gates; Donations to cenotaph; Bought community Hall piano and furnishings, much of the money being raised by serving suppers, booths selling hot dogs, tea and coffee at street dances and in the skating rink at hockey matches. We raised $550.00 for the cemetery vault. Have $200.00 in trust for Lindsay Hospital and donated blankets for same.

Each year we sponsor a Tag Day for the blind, and have a sale of Blind Crafts. Our members assisted with Chest X-Ray Clinic, canvassing town, and acting as secretaries the day of the clinic. The first clinic held here too in the district when 1780 people registered, taking three days.

We gave gifts to war brides. Had a booth of V.E. Day, the only place on main street open, where people could get a cup of tea. One of our members served as representative on War Time Prices and Trade Board, also representative on the Citizens Rehabilitation Committee for post war work. We served on Ration Coupon Books; Blood Donors Clinics; Co-operated with Historical Society on putting on display.

We have a member on the municipal council, a member in the Lindsay Hospital Association, one on the Advisory Board of the Lindsay and Haliburton Division of the Canadian Institute for the Blind and one on the Cemetery Board; six members from our Community Hall Board.

We have had serious times when we have all worked hard, but worked together. Then we have had enjoyable times, which we shared together, such as grandmothers’ meetings when members came in old time costume, put on the program and enjoyed a pot luck supper. One grandmother told of watching the first train come into Fenelon Falls. We have enjoyed games, contests, spelling matches. Our annual picnic, which for years was held on Mrs. Fred Warren’s lawn, was a happy event. The first District Annuals used to be held in Fenelon Falls, and were held at this same house, then the Robson home. Valentine parties, with husbands as guests, and pot luck supper. We entertained sister institutes, and had fun at Hobo Teas, with pleasing financial results.

We always send a delegate to Toronto Convention. Chartered a bus to attend Canada Day, with the Associated Country Women of the world met at the Maple Leaf Gardens. Attended the 50th Anniversary of the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario, held at Guelph.

We had a tour through our Botany Spinners plant. We enjoyed a sale of articles from the attic, with amateur auctioneers. We have bazaars, summer fairs, and a booth on the 12th of July. Our good cheer committee is always on the job remembering the sick, shut-ins and bereaved folk. We are fortunate in having a good pianist and song-leader to add zest to our meetings.

We are proud women today; proud no only because we are members of the Fenelon Falls Women’s Institute, but because we belong to the Federated Women’s Institute of Canada, the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario, and also to the world organization, the Associated Country Women of the World.

These 50 years have been of achievement and progress. But we must not rest upon the laurels won. We must turn our faces to the future, realizing that there are greater tasks ahead. We need more members, young, strong, willing women who will take up and carry the torch older members are forced to lay down.

Lest us today pledge ourselves to do all in our power to help build a better community, a better country, a better world. Only our best is a worthy contribution from Institute women.

The Fiftieth Anniversary, June 28, 1955

On Tuesday afternoon, June 28th, 1955, a very enjoyable time was spent in the Fenelon Falls United Church, when the fiftieth anniversary of the local Women’s Institute was celebrated. Over 100 ladies registered and Rev. Wm. Patterson, pastor of the church was present. Members from the Branches in East Victoria were guests, also Mrs. Geo. Lee, District President of East Victoria, and Mrs. Wessels, District President of West Victoria.

Mrs. O.W. Rolph of Orono was guest speaker, and gave a very inspiring talk on Institute work. Mrs. W.H. Burns, Provincial Board member, from Beaverton was also present and spoke briefly. Musical numbers were given by Mrs. Tedford of Cedar Villa Lodge, who sang two solos, ‘My Task’, and ‘The Lost Chord’; also a trio, Mrs. Sims, Mrs. Vesey and Mrs. Graham, who sang, ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’ and ‘The Perfect Day’. The music was under the direction of Mrs. W.T. Roberts, with Miss Elva Maybee at the piano.

The history of the Fenelon Falls Women’s Institute was prepared and given by Mrs. A.W. McGee.

Mrs. John Barrett presented corsages to all presidents, past and present; daughters of deceased Past President; to guest speakers, guest soloists; District President of East and West Victoria; a former board member, Mrs. N. Perrin of Cameron; and our own Charter Member, Mrs. David Jewell.

Mrs. J.D. Thomson gave the report of the courtesy committee and the meeting closed with the National Anthem.

All retired to the Sunday School room, where Mrs. Roberts led in community singing, using songs of fifty years ago. Rev. Wm. Patterson spoke for a few minutes giving encouragement to members of the Women’s Institute to carry on, and make life in our community richer, fuller, better. The President, Mrs. D.A. Scott, then presented Mrs. Jewell, Mrs. Jordan, and Mrs. Warren with certificates of Life Membership in the organization.

Mrs. John Barrett and her committee of young women served dainty refreshments. Tea was poured by Mrs. Wesley Pogue and Mrs. C.P. Deyman. The three storey birthday cake, made by Mrs. Jordan, was cut by our charter member, Mrs. Jewell, and served to an appreciative crowd.

The fiftieth anniversary of the Fenelon Falls Women’s Institute came to a close, marking a mile post in the history of this village that will long be remembered.

The Fenelon Falls Women’s Institute, 1955-1967

Since 1955 we have continued to serve our community but with a shrinking membership. So many younger women work or are interested in activities in connection with their children in school and sports, and very many of them have become curling enthusiasts.

The sale of Blindcraft is still our main project of the year and in 1967 sales were close to $500.00. Mrs. A.W.McGee continued to lead in this worthwhile work and Mrs. D.A. Scott serves on the Board of CNIB in Lindsay Area.

In 1961 the White Cane Club (Lindsay) came over one pleasant evening and were served a delicious dinner by our members, after which an hour of entertainment was enjoyed. A bus trip to Ottawa, May 31, 1961 was enjoyed by 40 members and friends. Mrs. G.H. Palmer was President. Short courses continue to be of interest, but fail to increase membership.

For Centennial Projects we donated 3 picnic tables for use on the Museum Grounds and commissioned David Jones, a local man of talent to paint a picture of Fenelon River below the Falls. At the first Council meeting in 1967, Miss Nell Simpson, our President, and other interested board members attended and made the presentation. In July we assisted the Museum Board directors and ladies of the Catholic Women’s League in serving tea and coffee and old fashioned cookies to the very many people who attended the Garden Party on July 4th on the Museum grounds. Many of our members and others were there in old-time costumes, adding to the success of the day.

Mrs. J.E. McIlwaine, Mrs. Geo. Palmer and Miss V. McIntosh were in costume for the parade July 1st in a truck bearing the insignia of the W.I. and a sketch of the Museum, to which over a period of years our group has contributed $1000.00 and well as much hard work and interest.

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