(image from WI website)
Above is the Women's Institute's new logo, which will become active from 1st January 2010. I have been a member of the WI for just over a year now and feel that the new logo and tag-line are a great move forward, the phrase 'Inspiring Women' describing perfectly how I feel about my experience of being a member.
My early memories of the WI involve morning visits to the local WI market whilst holidaying in South Norfolk, arriving early in order to ensure that the baked goods stall did not run out of its famous chocolate cake before we had chance to purchase one. In addition to this, cheap plants that Mum eagerly bought for the garden, local grown fruit and vegetables and home-made preserves were also on offer, though admittedly we by-passed the crocheted toilet-roll holders!
So far, so stereotypical, bearing in mind that this is an association that is over 90 years old, having arrived in Britain in 1915 with the dual aims of reinvigorating rural communities and encouraging women to become more involved in food production during the First World War.
However, there is far more to the WI than the ever-cited 'Jam and Jerusalem', and in more recent years its aims have broadened so that the WI now plays 'a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities' (WI website).
The branch I belong to, The Shoreditch Sisters, achieves all these broader aims and more. Since joining in late summer 2008 I have, amongst other things, learnt quilting, corsage making, origami and urban cross-stitch, helped create knitted characters for Playstation's Little Big Planet, been on demonstrations against domestic violence, listened to a talk by the leader of the U-Turn Project and entered into debate with the author of a recent feminist text. I do leave every meeting feeling enriched and yes, inspired, eager to try out my new skills or investigate an issue further, and so in this way the new phrase is perfect; the WI is inspiring women everywhere to broaden their horizons or learn something new.
But I also think the phrase works in another way, as an adjective. Along with everything I have learnt, I have also had the opportunity to meet some creative, talented, brilliant women that, living in the vast sprawl of often-anonymous London, I would not, probably, have ever crossed paths with were it not for the WI. So, 'Inspiring Women' too as this collective of inspirational ladies that I have been lucky enough to meet.
I am not sure which way the creators of the new logo wanted 'Inspiring Women' to be interpreted, but I don't really think it matters, it works both ways, and either way it is an apt description of a great institution that I am happy to be a part of.