Last weekend (the 18th of January) saw the WI Centenary Baton arrive in Southampton! With a transport theme, the baton is travelling the length and breadth of the country to celebrate 100 years of the Women’s Institute. One of Sotonettes’ youngest members and co-founder Catriona Cooper received the baton from the longest serving member of West Houghton WI, after it arrived in West Tytherley on horseback. Test Valley and Romsey group hosted a delightful village breakfast with obligatory WI tea and coffee.
Catriona received the baton on behalf of the newly formed HamWIc group (Sotonettes WI, Shirley WI, Bassett WI and Highfield WI). The baton was then cycled to Portswood Pavilion where our members enjoyed an afternoon tea in full WI style with cucumber sandwiches, Victoria sponges, scones and of course more tea! The Sotonettes then had the honour (and responsibility) of keeping watch of the baton overnight before ceremoniously passing the baton to the Beaulieu group on Monday morning.
Continuing with the pedal power, I cycled the baton to Town Quay, where Red Funnel had very generously provided a breakfast of bacon butties for the HamWIc and Beaulieu groups. The Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Sue Blatchford, joined us to send off the baton in true style. The Beaulieu group ladies arrived on the Hythe Ferry and looked quite the part in their 1915 outfits.
Despite some not so hidden disappointment over the size of the baton (it is an official athletics relay baton in WI green!), there was an overall buzz at each of the events. As I started to relax when the formalities were coming to an end, knowing everyone had received tea, bacon butties, VIPs had turned up, and people had arrived to enjoy the occasion, it started to really sink in the significance of the day. I had been part of the WI’s centenary baton relay. I would be telling my grandchildren one day something I hope they touch on when studying women’s history in Britain.
I am proud to say I was part of something very special and important in the history of the Women’s Institute. As I said on Monday as we handed the baton to Beaulieu group, I know that I will, and hope that others will, continue with campaigning, educating and inspiring women.