A life-sized bronze statue depicting New Zealand Women's Institute founder Miss Jerome Spencer will be unveiled at the organisation's centennial in February next year.
Napier's hosting of the national celebrations is fitting as the institute had its Kiwi beginnings in Rissington. It may have begun as the Country Women's Institute but soon spread to the towns as well as the smaller communities.
National president Fay Leonard says the organisation still holds the same values as it did back in 1921.
"Women need women. And being social and the sharing of interests is what bonds us together," she says.
The New Zealand Women's Institute began when several women in the Rissington community were invited to discuss the formation of the institute by Miss Spencer who explained how the Women's Institute had first started in Canada and then spread to England and Scotland.
Fay says Miss Spencer set up the first meeting, which provided an essential network for women predominantly in rural areas.
"They met and shared ideas on homemaking, child-rearing, enjoyed activities such as crafts, performing drama groups and went on local visits. Often women would travel long distances to attend these meetings - a time to get away from the hard work on their farms - time to spend with other women in similar situations. And the basis of the organisation is still the same today."
Members have provided more than $95,000 in donations to their local communities and last year contributed more than 68,300 voluntary hours resulting in further benefits for their communities.
Fay says 2021 will be a very special year for the Women's Institute.
"We will be celebrating in Napier the weekend of February 12-14. We're expecting around 300 people — it'll be a wonderful weekend."
Friday, February 12 kicks off with a mix and mingle at Napier Girls' High School, where Miss Spencer spent many years as a student and later headmistress.
On Saturday the group will head to Rissington where a kowhai will be planted in the cemetery. In the evening there will be a dinner at the Napier Conference & Events Centre, including a candle lighting and cake cutting. On Sunday morning there will be a service at the cathedral, followed by the statue unveiling.
"It will be so good for Napier to have a statue erected in the city," Fay says.
The statue will be placed at the bottom of Shakespeare Rd, looking up towards Napier Girls' High School where Miss Spencer taught.
"It will be placed to look as if she's about to cross the street towards the cathedral where she worshipped."
A competition was held for the design of the centennial badge which will be available at the weekend. All souvenirs will be for sale, including merino scarves and pottery by Penny Madden.
"It's so rewarding what we do in our communities — we all have something to offer and contribute," Fay says.
■ Centennial celebrations open to all members past, present, family and friends. Registrations needed by Wednesday, December 9. Register online at www.wi.org.nz or email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Inez on 844 9071.