I have a treat in store tomorrow: a trip to Carlisle, to speak to the Cumbria Cumberland Federation of Women’s Institutes at their Spring Meeting. I love these occasions: the perfect cocktail of hard work and celebration with a generous dollop of frivolity and always, an excellent cup of tea. I’m going to be speaking about ‘A Force to be Reckoned With’, and stirring up a bit of solidarity with the pioneers of the WI Movement, which was founded to give women in isolated communities the confidence to speak up about things that mattered to them, to support each other, and so to change the world. I guess you could say it was the original social network.
So social networks are nothing new – the WI was founded in Canada in 1897, and in the UK in 1915 – but as our world grows more and more ‘virtual’ (and I’m a fine one to speak, with my tweets and my blogs…) I think the value of real, one-to-one, face-to-face contact grows even more precious. That’s what the WI has always been about.
‘It’ll never work without a man to run it,’ said some clever gentleman in 1915. You try telling that to the hundreds of women I’ll be meeting tomorrow!