Eight women have clocked up a combined 410 years of loyal service to their respective Women's Institutes, which they say are as relevant today as when they joined decades ago.

Esther Knight of the Papatawa WI has been a member for 60 years.

"I was married on Queen's Birthday weekend in the June and my dear mother-in-law said, 'you must join the WI'. I got the message so in August I joined," Mrs Knight told the Dannevirke News.

"I've never looked back and in 60 years have never felt as though I wanted out."


The Papatawa WI is one of the strongest in the SHB Federation, with a good number of members, Mrs Knight said.

"Some institutes have had to close their doors, but we're very fortunate, we've a good team."

Friendship and learning together are some of the key reasons Mrs Knight and other long-serving WI members stay connected.

"We share ups and downs and there's a lot to learn, with plenty of fun along the way," she said.

"Our Papatawa WI runs the annual children's Christmas party which has been going for 80 years and that's what the Women's Institute is all about - caring and sharing."

Although not a crafter, Mrs Knight is known for her floral work.

"But with so many talented women in our institutes, you can learn a lot too."

Fellow Papatawa WI member Doreen Goodin has been a Women's Institute member for 70 years.

"I joined the Kumeroa Institute as soon as I left school," she said. "I was at home with my parents and helping my father out on the raspberry farm. In those days most girls didn't go out to work."

Mrs Goodin said the WI was the centre of social activities and when she married and moved to Maharahara West and joined the Papatawa WI, she still remained a member of the Kumeroa WI.

"I served two years as president at both Papatawa and Kumeroa."

Moving to Maharahara West meant a big upheaval in her life, with a two-and-a-half-week-old baby and two other children almost at school.

When the fourth baby arrived it suffered ill-health and Mrs Goodin said although she missed several WI meetings, she continued to be a member of both Papatawa and Kumeroa.

"When you move to a new district you don't get to know your neighbours if you don't go out," she said.

Being a member of a WI is all about companionship, Mrs Goodin said.

Family pressure was one of the reasons Woodville's Brenda Cunningham joined Papatawa WI, but not until the Women's Division closed.

"When I got married 60 years ago my mother told me now I was one of the young ladies I had to join something," she said.

"So I joined the garden club. Then 56 years ago I joined the Women's Division, until it went into recess. My sister-in-law then said 'you've got to come and join the institute', so I did. I've thoroughly enjoyed it."

Mrs Cunningham said her loyalty to Women's Division was because of the wonderful support she received after a major operation.

"I was devoted to them because I had four children and Women's Division provided a live-in home help for months."

Joye Headifen, Ngaire Dornbusch and Beverly Curran have been members of the Rua Roa WI for 50 years and, although Mrs Headifen and Mrs Dornbusch are now residents at Eileen Mary, they still participate and are kept in touch through the regular newsletters.

They receive a Christmas cake each year, too.