The WI history of campaigning

You are a very powerful force for good in our country... from domestic violence to women's pay; from venereal disease in the 1920s to AIDS in the 1980s. That is a great tribute to the depth of your compassion, your fearlessness in tackling hard issues and the energy with which you further the cause of not just women but British society.

The Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, Prime Minister, June 2000

The WI has a long history of campaigning on a wide range of issues that matter to women and their communities. Over the past 100 years, WI members have campaigned to empower and support women within society, exerting their individual and collective influence; brought a series of controversial issues into the public domain; and brought about many changes in legislation and government policy.

In celebration of the WI Centenary we have put together a snapshot of campaign highlights, examining the WI's role promoting women's rights, fostering health awareness, encouraging sustainable development and building a fairer society.

This booklet is available to download here - 'The WI as a force for change: 100 years of campaigns'

Force for change  

Ten decades of WI campaigns - A snapshot 

The SOS for Honey Bees campaign was launched after a resolution calling for increased funding for research into honey bee health was passed in 2009. Concerned that the outlook for bees remained bleak, despite funding for research and improved awareness of pollinator declines, the NFWI later joined with Friends of the Earth to campaign for more national leadership; the National Pollinator Strategy was launched in November 2014.

In the early 1990s the NFWI joined with CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Traidcraft and the World Development Movement to become a founding member of the Fairtrade Foundation.

In 1986 the NFWI was one of the first organisations to talk about AIDS and used its unrivalled network of local organisations to educate the public and get people talking about the issue.

In 1975 the WI started informing members about the importance of breast examination and lobbying the government to set up screening clinics. A national screening programme was eventually introduced in 1988.

Members were among the first to debate the dangers of smoking when the WI passed a resolution to ban smoking in public places in 1964.

In 1954 a resolution to 'inaugurate a campaign to preserve the countryside against desecration by litter' led to the formation of the Keep Britain Tidy group and was influential in transforming litter policy following the introduction of the 1958 Litter Act.

The WI passed a resolution calling for 'equal pay for equal work' in 1943 and was represented for many years on the Equal Pay Campaign Committee.

Starting with a resolution in 1922, the WI campaigned throughout the 1930s and 1940s to increase the number of women police, lobbying the home office and winning the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The WI first campaigned on jury service in 1921, urging women to 'accept their full responsibilities as citizens in whatever way they may be called upon to serve their country' and later urging the government to open up jury service to all.