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A Force To Be Reckoned With: A History of the Women's Institute [Paperback]

Jane Robinson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
Price: 7.49 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

6 Sep 2012

Everyone knows three things about the Women's Institute: that they spent the war making jam; the sensational Calendar Girls were WI; and, more recently, that slow-handclapping of Tony Blair.

But there's so much more to this remarkable Movement. Over 200,000 women in the UK belong to the WI and their membership is growing. They cross class and religion,include all ages -from students and metropolitan young professionals, such as the Shoreditch Sisters,to rural centenarians -with passions that range from supporting the 1920s Bastardy Bill (in response to a wartime legacy of illegitimate babies) to the current SOS for Honey Bees campaign.

It was founded in 1915, not by worthy ladies in tweeds but by the feistiest women in the country, including suffragettes, academics and social crusaders who discovered the heady power of sisterhood, changing women's lives and their world in the process. Certainly its members boiled jam and sang ' Jerusalem ', but they also made history. This fascinating book reveals for the first time how they are - and always were - a force to be reckoned with.

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A Force To Be Reckoned With: A History of the Women's Institute + The Womens Institute (Shire Library)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (6 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844086607
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844086603
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 18.6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane was born in Edinburgh and brought up in North Yorkshire. After reading English at Somerville College, Oxford, she became an antiquarian book dealer, and later a writer. Her eight books to date have been critically acclaimed, and have confirmed her as one of our most engaging and original social historians.

Jane lives near Oxford with her husband and - during university holidays - her two sons. She writes full time, apart from when she's happily travelling to give talks or broadcasts about her books, or working one day a week at Somerville College as an assistant archivist.

Learn more about her books, work in progress, and future speaking engagements on www.jane-robinson.com, where you can also send her a message.

Product Description


'A witty, informed and continuously entertaining account' --Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times

'Thanks to Robinson's wide-ranging research and stylish writing, A Force To Be Reckoned With is a spirited and engaging read' --Lara Feigel, Observer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A fascinating book celebrating the 'the most important body formed during the twentieth century' - the Women's Institute

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Force To Be Reckoned With 6 Oct 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
Having loved Jane Robinson's previous books, particularly the excellent Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education, I was looking forward to reading this book. Again, the author looks at history from a women's perspective - in this case she turns her attention to the Women's Institute. Described as the most important body formed in the UK in the 20th century, it has suffered from stereotyping and is seen as a group of, somewhat frumpy, women who bake cakes and make jam. In fact, the Women's Institute was founded in 1915 by suffragettes, academics and social crusaders, to give women a voice.

The roots of the Women's Institute actually begin in Canada, with Adelaide Hoodless, whose youngest child died from drinking contaminated milk. She wanted to give girls practical training in household science. She supported the Women's Institute all her life and died on the speakers platform in 1910. There were already early forms of the WI in England, all described in this excellent book. However, it was not until Madge Watt arrived in the UK from Canada in 1913, committed to establish the movement, that it really became widespread in England. It was a long road, but the autocratic, impatient and overbearing, Mrs Watt was determined. She wanted to transplant the WI from Canada to the Motherland, but struggled with the class system and trying to stop the wide range of women from "bickering themselves out of existence."

The WI was extemely important in both the World Wars. In WWI, when German submarines blocked imports into Britain, they were literally needed to help feed the country.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A force to be reckoned with 7 Jan 2012
By Mrs B
An excellent, informative and amusing view of the history of the Women's Institute. The biographies of the founder members in both Canada and the UK were most interesting. This book also highlights the principles of the movement and brings you up to date with current thinking. Most enjoyable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, witty and very informative 24 Nov 2012
I took this out of the library in order to research some information about Gertrude Denman and the formation of the Women's Land Army. By page 10 I had ceased reading it for research purposes and read it for pleasure! Not that my research was unrewarded - its just written in such an engaging, frank style (the occasional authorial "asides" are particularly entertaining)- that I more or less forgot to take notes along the way. Am I, as a mere man, allowed to say that I really enjoyed learning about the determined (and sometimes formidable) women who created the WI? Before I realised it, I was nearly 2/3 of the way through, having read on far beyond the point at which my research dictated that I should stop. Its not often that I read something so funny that I have to stop and laugh out loud, then tell other people in the room what has amused me, yet I did it several times with this book (the Nellie Melba "jelly" anecdote is already a firm favourite, no pun intended)

If Jane Robinson always writes like this, then her other books will be on my "wish list" very soon!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All you didn't know about the WI 8 Jan 2012
By franny
I found this book to be quite unexpectedly funny and inspiring. The early pioneers of the WI were amazing women with vision, energy and egaliterian attitudes which I had not realised underpinned the movement. It informed my appreciation of membership today and I would recommend it as a good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting stuff! 4 Aug 2013
By Emma
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having recently joined the WI, I wanted to find out something of the history.This is an interesting insight and written with clear affection and humour. A good read
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WI myths put to rest 29 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a WI member I am often asked about the Jam and Jerusalem culture. This book dispels the myths and the ideas some younger people have. The book is fun to read and full of information. Right from the "A Dozen Ways to Kill an Institute" comedy drawings and how not to be a good member list right at the very front, (Every WI member will recognize people in that list) the book is a pleasure to read. I enjoyed it immensely and found answers to questions I still had, even as an office holder in my own WI. The WI IS a force to be reckoned with and inside the pages of this brilliant book you find out just how strong that force can be. I recommend it to all WI members and anyone who wants to know more about the past, present and possibly the future of the WI.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Force to be Reckoned With 17 Nov 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Being a WI member I had read about this book and I am quite pleased I bought it Have heard good results from other members
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The W.I. 26 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a comprehensive history of the W.I. I thought I knew all about it, but have learned so much from just browsing. It is well written, and puts the facts in a very interesting way.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
This was a gift for my mother in law who is a stalwart of the WI she loved learning something of the history and evolvement of the movement great success
Published 1 month ago by M. P. Booton
5.0 out of 5 stars very interesting
This is T
the best book I have read about the Women's Institute. Not to be missed if you are a member or just interested.
Published 4 months ago by honey
3.0 out of 5 stars Intersting book
I have yet to finish reading it, but am enjoying it a lot, why did I not come across it before?
Published 4 months ago by SARAH tufffs
2.0 out of 5 stars This book drove me nuts!
It goes on and on and on and on and on. Got sooooo mad with it that as I turned one of the pages, I ripped the page out. Good to skim but then one for the charity shop!
Published 8 months ago by Gillybee
5.0 out of 5 stars Womens Institute
An excellent book with much information not known before written with thought and compassion
an enjoyable read particularly about the two World Wars
Published 11 months ago by Doreen Bath
5.0 out of 5 stars WI Member lot of research has gone in to it
WI Member! Lots of reasearch done so lots of History which is fascinating. Best book I have seen re our history
Published 12 months ago by H A Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars A great history of the WI
Interesting and informative story of the WI. A must for anyone interested in Britain's social history, or with an interest in the WI.
Published 14 months ago by JR
4.0 out of 5 stars Much more than Jam
I learned a lot abut WI and the growth of the organisation . Every member should read it to learn its history.
Published 14 months ago by Moon and stars
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Although I am a WI member I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in social history, the two world wars and womens role throughout the 20th century. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Ann Hall
5.0 out of 5 stars I never knew that
An excellent book about the WI movement. I actually hear Jane speak and decided to put her book on my wish list for Christmas and bought it for one of my daughters to give me.
Published 16 months ago by jacey
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