When women's institutes were set up in rural Dannevirke, those living in town were told they had to join the Townswomen's Guild instead.

Jerome Spence, the founder of the then Country Women's Institutes, helped set up institutes in our district in the 1930s, but women in Dannevirke were left out in the cold, told the join the Townswomen's Guild.

Those preferring to join a WI travelled out to rural Glengarry, which, in 1934, was quite a journey.

But these pioneering women were battlers and Dannevirke North WI members are proud of their heritage which stretches back 80 years to when their "mother" institute, Piri Piri WI, was formed.


What was to eventually become Dannevirke North WI was formed, with Mrs Oney Moore the founding member.

She had answered an advertisement in the Evening News in 1938 calling for anyone interested, and six others joined her at the first meeting.

Mrs Moore became the organisation's first secretary/treasurer and also took her turn as president.

During World War II, the institute adopted Kidwelly WI in Wales, sending regular supplies of gifts and food. Kidwelly disbanded in 1966.

In 1953, Glengarry and Piri Piri Women's institutes became Dannevirke South WI and Dannevirke North WI respectively.

Times may have changed but like other local women's institute's, Dannevirke North members continue to hold on to their traditional values, donating knitted and sewn items to hospitals, rest homes and needy organisations, an incredible achievement for this band of women.

Last week Dannevirke North WI celebrated 80 years of friendship, family and fun, joined by members of Rua Roa, Te Rehunga, Norsewood and Horoeka/Ti Tree Point institutes, as well as women from the Mangamutu WI in southern Tararua.

Beth Paris, North's oldest member, who joined in the 1980s, cut the cake with WI president Jackie Rayner and SHB Federation president Bettina McCullough of Woodville.

Young Dannevirke singer Molly Pawson entertained during the afternoon of celebrations.

The institutes continue to live by the motto, "A WI friend is a friend forever."

Early institute records show the roll call brought many homemade remedies, including dock leaf juice for sunburnt lips, wonder wool for bad backs, camphor blocks pinned to bodices for colds, and iodine for cuts.

Members agreed they weren't all pleasant remedy memories.

And from the minutes of the May 2010 institute meeting, the motto from the hostess of the day, "Gossip is like spinach, it boils down to nothing", was a classic.