Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute
Tribute & Final Meeting

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Institute branch ceases activity

The white candle burned slowly - lower and lower - a brief interval of brightness follows and then the light is out. The organization known as the Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute, after 38 years of service to the community, closed its books and the end of an era became a reality.

Rural Ridgetown W.I. came into being March 3, 1937 at the home of Mrs. Fred Brien, Erie Street South. Twenty-five women from Scane, Reeder and Green's school sections attended the first meeting. Six charter members remain - Mrs. Fred Brien, Mrs. George Brien, Miss Dorothy Coll, Mrs. Warren Green, Miss Mabel Ramn and Mrs. John Simpson. There were 15 members at the time of the Institute's closing.

Membership reached its peak in the 1950's with 77 members.

First president of the group was Mrs. George Brien. Miss Mabel Ramn was secretary-treasurer. Miss Dorothy Coll was song leader and held that position for 38 years. Miss Grace Green (Mrs. Kelso Simpson) was the first pianist. For 35 years the Branch held its meetings in the Howard Township Hall. Prior to that time the ladies met in the member's homes. Much has been accomplished by the Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute during its rather brief but active life span. Among the many activities was the first public dinner, which was served in the Municipal Building above the Post Office. More than 200 people sat down to a full course roast beef dinner at 35 cents per plate. The dinner was sponsored by Kent Ploughmen's Association.

The first birthday dinner was served in the Morpeth Hall by Morpeth Women's Institute. This was followed by a dance with music supplied by a three-piece band which cost the R.R.W.I. the sum of $3.

Fair dinners were served for several years in a large tent on the Ridgetown Fairgrounds. Later they moved up into the new arena dining room. They were able in a short time to buy and have installed the two burner gas stove in the arena kitchen.

Their war record was outstanding - 196 quilts, 1,048 sewn articles, 538 pieces of knitting (sweaters, scarves, mitts, socks, caps, afghans), 253 pillows were made and stuffed. During the war years the ladies prepared 7,160 pounds of jam and honey. The jam was made in the kitchen above the Post Office using donated fruit. Cash taken in for war work amounted to more then $2,000.

The names of 47 boys - sons of members and families in the three communities on the Honour Roll - hang in the Township Hall. Forty-five of those boys came home and the Institute presented each with a $10 bill.

The members have adhered faithfully to the Institute objectives during the years. They have contributed in part in developing leadership, helped to identify and resolve the needs and problems in the community and have helped develop better informed, happier and more useful citizens.

The final solemn ceremony was conducted November 19 by Mrs. George Brien and R.R.W.I. president, Mrs. Jane Thomson. Two white glowing candles were in place on a white lace covered table with an arrangement of fall flowers. A memorial service with two minutes of silence being observed for the departed members was followed by a prayer composed by a later member, Mrs. E. Chambers.

One of the candles was left burning.

A fitting tribute to the Branch, the past officers and members was read followed by singing "Blest Be The Tie That Binds" and "The Lords Prayer".

Mrs. Thomson then blew out the second candle and the Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute ceased to exist.

Although the solemn ceremony brought to a close the existence of the Branch, the memories of that era will long be remembered by the members and friends of R.R.W.I.

Prior to the closing ceremony, the 15 members had had dinner at the Plaza Restaurant in Morpeth.

Ridgetown Dominion, November 19, 1975

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Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.
2004-10-29