About the WI

What is the WI?

The Women’s Institute (WI) is the largest voluntary women's organisation in Britain. Going into 2015, its Centenary year, the WI had 212,000 members in around 6,600 WIs throughout England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

The WI is an educational, social, non-party political and non-sectarian organisation, offering women, regardless of age or background, the opportunity of learning, campaigning, friendship and sharing - not just in traditional interests such as arts and crafts but also in the latest developments in IT, health and science.
It aims to offer women the best opportunity to make an impact in their communities, to campaign on issues that matter to them, to influence local, national and world issues affecting the social, economic and environmental life of families and communities, and to learn traditional and new skills. 

The Women's Institute (WI) was formed in 1915, to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War.  Since then the organisation's aims have broadened.

The purpose of the WI is to encourage and enable women:
  • To enhance their lives and to play their part in the community through education and public questions.
  • To improve their lives and the lives of those around them.
  • To lead fulfilling lives and to be of value in the community and nationally to influence policy/decision makers.
  • To provide a friendly atmosphere where women can be inspired and enlightened.
Women’s Institutes were originally based exclusively in rural areas, but now exist wherever there is a need, with many new urban WIs of the 21st century!  Each institute is self-governing within the framework of the WI Constitution and Rules.  Women’s Institutes are grouped to form 70 county and island federations, each with a regional office and charitable status. 



The Structure of the WI 

 The structure of the WI nationally in England and Wales (2014).

    NFWI Websites

    • National Federation of WIs (NFWI)
    • Dedicated website for WI members

    • The WI's College: Denman College

    NFWI on Facebook 

    The WI and Jam?

    The Jam connection seems to date from the First and Second World Wars when the WI had a key role in encouraging preserving food due to its initial connection with the Agricultural Organisations Society (AOS) and the necessity that as much food as possible should be grown at home when imports became difficult.  This image has stuck!  For recipes, including for jam, see:

    What is the rural connection?

    The WI was originally set up in Britain in 1915, in rural communities, to bring people together and give them education and a voice.  The modern WI continues to care about rural communities, for example the 1999 report called The Changing Village, based on responses by nearly 5000 Women’s Institutes to a survey about the state of rural services.  Concerns such as public transport, and the closure of shops and post offices, have since developed into powerful campaigns.  The WI also is part of and supports the international women's organisations Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW).

    What is WI Enterprises Ltd?

    WI Enterprises Ltd (WIE) is the trading company of the National Federation of Women's Institutes and it exists to raise revenue for the NFWI, provide benefits for members and generate funds for federations and Women’s Institutes.  WIE do this through a wide range of activities including, publishing WI Life (previously Home & Country), the monthly membership magazine, and through working with commercial partners to support the many and varied activities of the WI.  For more information see:

    What happened to WI Markets?

    The first Women's Institute Market took place in Lewes as an outlet for surplus produce.  The number of WI Markets grew in the 1920s with the support of WI County Federations.  In 1995 the markets separated from The National Federation of Women's Institutes and become self-financing.   In 2004 WI Country Markets Ltd changed their name to Country Markets Ltd. For more information see:

    Are there WIs in the rest of Britain?

    The National Federation of WIs is made up of WIs in England, Wales, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey.  In Northern Ireland there is the separate Federation of Women's Institutes of Northern Ireland (FWINI): 

    In Scotland there is the Scottish Women's Rural Institutes:

    The NFWI is connected to these organisations through the ACWW, which both these organisations are also members of.