A women’s group in Stonham Aspal celebrated its 100th birthday on Saturday.  

The village’s very first Women’s Institute meeting was held on September 26 1923. 

Since then, women have gathered in the village hall every month for the past hundred years, a century that has seen a world war, five monarchs and 20 prime ministers. 

However, these days the WI is not all ‘jam and Jerusalem’, said the branch’s current president Ruth Wailes. 

“We’re modern women, and we want to know about the things that modern women need to know,” she said. 

East Anglian Daily Times: The Stonham Aspal WI celebrates its Golden Jubilee in October, 1973. Image: Ruth WailesThe Stonham Aspal WI celebrates its Golden Jubilee in October, 1973. Image: Ruth Wailes (Image: Ruth Wailes)

Meetings this year have included chair yoga, discussions about the future of sustainable power, stained glass making – and even a self-defense class. 

But what did the WI members of yesteryear discuss at their meetings? 

“One of the things had on Saturday was the minute book from 1948, when the WI was 25 years old,” said Mrs Wailes. 

“They were planing a birthday party, like we’ve just had. They were starting a dressmaking class just after Christmas, and there was talk given by someone to give a notification about the killing of mice and rats in the area.”

In those days, she explained, WI meetings were often used as a way of getting information to villagers. 

The current branch has 14 members of all ages, and Mrs Wailes said that the group is particularly keen to encourage younger members to join.  

The 100th birthday party on Saturday was attended by past and present members, with many travelling from further afield to celebrate this milestone. 

The members all pitched in to provide an afternoon tea party with tea, cakes and sandwiches. 

However, there was one crucial difference. 

“We don’t usually, but we did sing Jerusalem at the start of our meeting!” laughed Mrs Wailes.