The Hantsport W. I. came into existence in 1915 in the Presbyterian Church. Their motto then as now, “For Home and Country.”
Mrs. A.O. Graham, Mrs. S. Morse, Mrs. McKeen, Mrs. William Dorman (still living), Mrs. Asa Newcombe, Mrs. Blackburn and Mrs. B. Davison were some of the Charter Members. Mrs. Sterling became a member at an early date.
This was during World War 1 and they worked hard and faithfully, making quilts, sewing, knitting for the Red Cross and helping wherever need arose.
Homemaking was perhaps the main interest at that time in its early days and many were the aids and hints for better ways and means.
They later did much for the schools, sponsoring school fairs, sewing and cooking classes before we had established Home Economics in this school.
Reclaiming River Bank Cemetery was the big project at this time. Mrs. Lyon was the leader in this work and no effort was too great for her.
Letters were written to far away relatives of persons buried there. The grounds were cleared and cleaned, water piped in, and a caretaker hired for the summer months. It was at this time I became a member and I remember the many pantry sales. In fact we had one every week (mostly beans and brown bread on Saturday) during July and August for a number of years. This project was later passed over to the town for their responsibility and a fine job they have made of it. (Note: Not the pantry sales, the cemetery).
Then came World War 11 and once again quilts, socks and comforts, so called, were the order of the day. We packed boxes for Greece and sent clothes and money here, there, and everywhere, when a call of need came. I remember when we made a great number of “ditty bags” filled with comforts for the boys at sea. (There’s an interesting story here.)
We were all knitting and some of the school girls wished to know how, so we organized a knitting class, Mrs. H.E. Cohoon and myself, at my house, where we had two groups: the small schoolers and the older girls. The little girls brought their dolls to be fitted and they knitted sweaters for them. Smart little things, they did well. The older girls made caps that were the vogue at that time.
We held a display of the finished work and presented each child with a set of knitting needles. The mothers were invited and, we thought, were quite impressed with the results.
We felt the need for a Community Centre of some sort during those days and after much talk of ways and means and pros and cons, we were at a standstill. One day at our regular meeting, my mother-in-law, Gram Harvie, said: “Why don’t we stop talking and do something! Here is a dollar to start the fund.” We immediately added our dollars and that is how our Community Centre really started.
The Town gave us the swamp behind the Anglican and Catholic Churches and a right-of-way into it and the women and any of our men folk we could wangle into helping had it partially cleared.
By dint of much hard work and in many and devious ways we had raised the goodly sum, to us, of 2,000 dollars. We were full of zeal and ideas, then along came the chance to purchase the property where the present Centre is, so it naturally passed out of our hands. We turned in our $2,000 gladly, asking only for the privilege of having one of the rooms for our own use.
We started a museum and collected a good number of interesting things. We held displays and teas. However, lack of interest on the part of outsiders caused it to die a natural death. It was too big a venture for us to swing on our own.
We were responsible for the clock on the new post office, the hand rail down the centre of the steps, the stamp vending machine and the big bell on the old school.
At our request the land in front of the railway station was cleared and made into an attractive garden plot. During the war we leased a strip of land from the D.A.R. between Prince and William Streets and rented it out for vegetable garden plots.
We had an active Garden Club. That was a real pleasure.
Also during the war years we sponsored and chaperoned dances for our young folk and the troops stationed in Windsor and the British boys on leave. They were a real success and we felt quite proud of ourselves for the way they were conducted.
Then of course, you all know about the three editions of Miss Hattie Chittick’s book of Hantsport. We were able to give financial assistance to enable the book to be printed. It was such a success the first edition was sold very quickly. This began in 1954. In 1964 the demand for Hattie’s book was still strong so we had it re-edited and reprinted and on sale once again.
After 50 years we feel that it is a good thing to bring our past into review and our great and real sorrow is that in Hantsport, as we grow older, there is not one interested person to carry on our work and keep alive this branch of the largest and strongest women’s organization in the world. Some six million members all striving for Home and Country, and within its membership and leadership, many of the leading personalities of the day. Our Queen, I believe, is still a member.
We have had good times, growing older together. Bus loads of us have gone places, we have picnicked and been in parades in fearful and wonderful costumes. All in all we are indeed grateful for our 50 years in the Hantsport Women’s Institute.
Written by Zella Harvie for 50th Anniversary: 1915 – 1965