About 250 people have arrived in Napier for this weekend's centennial of the New Zealand Federation of Women's Institutes, which traces its history back to a meeting in 1921 at Rissington.
The centennial is based at Napier Girls' High School, recognising the role of founding influence Anna "Bessie" Spencer, a pupil when the school was founded in 1884 and a principal of the school at age 21.
She went to England in 1916, joined the Women's Institutes' Street Patrol, nursing shell-shocked victims of World War I. Returning to New Zealand, she and her friend Amy Hutchinson held the meeting that formed the Rissington Women's Institute, near Omatua Farm where Spencer had lived with the Hutchinson family.
Daughter of 1882-1885 mayor of Napier Dr William Spencer, she had similar pioneering roles at the school, having been its youngest principal - serving from 1901-1910 - and later becoming the first woman on the school's Board of Governors.
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Following the first Rissington meeting, Women's Institute chapters were formed around the country leading to the formation of a national body, ultimately linking to an initial movement with a history dating back to 1887 in Canada.
Celebrations started with the Friday-evening launching book of a book on Spencer's life, followed by a social evening at the high school, with activities on Saturday including a luncheon and tree-planting ceremony at Omatua, the camp at Rissington where it all started less than 30km west of Napier.
On Sunday morning a service will be held at 10am at the Waiapu Cathedral on Browning St in Napier, followed by the 11.30am unveiling of a statue of Spencer on the corner of Shakespeare Rd and Browning St.
Current school principal Dawn Ackroyd hopes members of the public will attend the unveiling of a notable pioneer from the region.