Adelaide Hoodless, a Canadian leader and educationalist, is usually honoured as the founder of the Women's Institute Movement. She certainly inspired it, however, only played a limited role in its development.
Adelaide's husband John was the chairman of the local Board of Education and frequently visited schools in the city. Adelaide often accompanied him, which gave her considerable insight into the education system. As a result of her visits to schools, she came to think that the education of girls ought to be extended to include the practical skills that they would require when they grew up and ran homes and looked after families.
Adelaide was instrumental in setting up the Canadian National Council of Women in 1893 and persuaded them to back her campaign for the introduction of Domestic Science into the school curriculum. In December 1896 she spoke at a conference of the Farmers' Institute at the Ontario Agricultural College, outlining the connection between poor food, overwork and monotony with the high rate of insanity among rural people.
"...the causes are easily preventable by scientific knowledge of the various articles of food and their nutritive value, and...by the introduction of schools of domestic science in the rural districts, with lecture courses and clubs for farmers' wives, where better methods for producing good results in butter making, poultry raising, bee culture, house decoration, cookery etc. may be intelligently discussed…"
That call for continuing education for women living in rural areas had immediate results. Erland Lee, secretary of the Farmer's Institute of Wentworth County was in the audience and invited her to speak at the next 'Ladies' night' of his Institute. As a result of that talk, the first Women’s Institute was formed in Stoney Creek, Ontario (Canada).
The first WI of Great Britain was formed in 1915 at the suggestion of Canadian woman Madge Watt. The pattern of the Canadian movement was followed and the name adopted.