The WI archives contain a brief history of the WI movement from its origins in Canada in 1897 and the first WIs in Britain in 1915, up to the present day.

The material is presented as a time line. After a short piece about the origins of the movement, the time line has been divided into decades. At the beginning of each decade there is a brief summary of events, setting the scene and giving the context to what was happening in the WI during those years. For each year there are headlines for the main events. For many of these events, or people, further information is provided on a linked page, just click on the section underlined.

If you you have an archive query or would like further information about the history of the WI, please get in touch with the Communications Department using the contact form here.

These archive documents have been kindly compiled by former NFWI Hon. Archivist Anne Stamper, who has drawn on previously published material including copies of the WI's original monthly magazine Home and Country, which dates back to 1919, and other documents deposited in the NFWI archives.

The NFWI and Denman archives are deposited at the Women's Library, which has recently moved to its new home at the London School of Economics (LSE) library, where forms part of a major collection and is accessible to the public The material is now included in the Genesis project, a mapping initiative to identify and develop access to women's history sources in the British Isles. The searchable index is available at and information is also available on

The records of many individual WIs and federations are deposited in their local County Record Offices, where they can also be accessed by the public, though it is usually wise to order them in advance.

Contact the NFWI

  • Phone: 020 7371 9300
  • Open hours: 9am–5pm Mon–Fri
  • Address: 104 New Kings Road, London SW6 4LY

Or fill in the contact form... to email a specific department