The Faringdon Women’s Institute was founded in May 1925 and Mrs Gladys Rose became the first president. By 1929 the membership had risen to 132. From the beginning members became involved with local activities and fundraising. In the 1930’s competitions were held to see who could grow the heaviest vegetable crop and the produce was given to the Cottage Hospital. Members also undertook to mend the linen for the hospital and this continued until the 1950’s. During the war years members preserved and canned fruit and vegetables, even buying a canning machine in order to do so. Fundraising activities, dances, whist drives, beetle drives and produce sales took place and the proceeds went to various deserving causes such as St. Dunstans, the Ambulance Fund, the Red Cross, the Cottage Hospital and the Welcome Home Fund. Members also knitted many garments and these were sent out to the Armed Forces via the Red Cross. A canteen for soldiers billeted in Faringdon was as run from the Savings Bank and evacuees in the local area were cared for.
The longest on-going commitment the W.I. has made has been to place fresh flowers on the town’s War Memorial almost continuously since 1926. On many occasions the members arranged celebration parties for children, these included King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935, King George VI’s Coronation in 1937, a Victory Day Celebration Tea Party for 500 children, Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1953 and Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 for 800 children in the Market Place. The W.I. has also raised funds to contribute to children’s charities, equipment for the Health Centre, the Corn Exchange Repair Fund, the All Saints Church Restoration Fund and Church Clock Fund, the Youth Community Service, the Swimming Pool Appeal and refurbishing the town’s Christmas lights, with events such as cream teas in the Orangery at Faringdon House and a fashion show in the Corn Exchange.
The meetings of the W.I. have been held in various venues around the town including members’ houses, Congregational Church Hall, Corn Exchange, The Elms, Mission Hall, Savings Bank, Community Centre and finally back to the Corn Exchange. The W.l. runs small classes to encourage members to make the most of their artistic and creative talents and the W.I. Market, which is held every Friday in the Corn Exchange, gives an opportunity for members and others to display and sell their produce and crafts.
The WI plays a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities. All women aged 18+ are welcome.
The renamed Folly Dollies WI now meet monthly in the Garden Room of Sudbury House.
1. The Changing Faces of Faringdon and Surrounding Villages – Book 3 p53-54. By Rosemary Church, Jim Brown, Millie Bryan and Beryl Newman. Robert Boyd Publications 2003.
2. A History of Faringdon Women’s Institute 1925-2002, 2002-2015 – Two folders packed full of press cuttings, photographs and other items; available from the FDAHS archives.