By Toni Williams
For five decades Lowcliffe woman Mavis Wilkins has been a member of the Women’s Institute (WI).
It’s given her life skills, an understanding of co-operation, confidence and lifelong friendship.
And the skills she learned from when she was 15 years old were still relevant to women today, despite a difference in lifestyles.
“The WI is a way of meeting people and learning new skills. Today there are still a lot of lonely people out there that need something but haven’t found it.”
Mavis has just taken over as the Mid Canterbury Federation of Women’s Institutes president but, at their recent annual general meeting, was given her 50 year pin as recognition for her time with WI.
It started when Mavis, then 15, was taken to the Rangitata WI by her mother, the late Betty Mahan, who was also a life-long member.
It was 1967.
Mavis was already familiar with the workings of the WI, as she, along with her three siblings, had spent their childhood in and around the WI, hanging with the children of other WI members.
She learned life skills including handiwork, cooking and social skills which held her in good stead.
She eventually went into nursing but kept attending WI meetings when she could.
By late 1973 she had married and moved to Lowcliffe.
“WI was something all country women seemed to go to. It was part of each district’s culture. Everybody participated,” she said.
Especially as then most women stayed at home, raised the family and were often used as the extra pair of hands on farm when needed, which was “more often than not”.
She said women were happy to gather with other rural women through the WI, who were in similar situations.
A noticeable change over the years was more women were working, whether for necessity or for career advancement.
But Mavis said the skills learned through the WI were still relevant today, with friendship, sharing of ideas and knowledge always needed.
She noted an increasing number of migrant workers settling in the district who could benefit from local insight and friendship offered through WI, especially if they were unable to drive or language was a barrier.