Extracts from “Rode Women’s Institute to 1960” by Harry Hopkins (see General village/Reference documents/50 booklets by Harry Hopkins c2000)
The WI was formed in the UK in 1915 a time when war forced women to take on more active roles as many men were away in the armed forces. It was also the time when the suffragette movement encouraged women to reconsider their position in society to take a more active and responsible part in public life. One of the leading suffragettes was Lady Isobel Margesson and she often drove the famous Mrs Pankhurst to meetings in her car. A namesake, Mrs Mary Margesson, was president of the Rode Women’s Institute for many years. And Mrs Batten Pooll of Rode Manor was another suffragette (and supporter of the Women’s Social and Political Union) and drove notable agitators to local meetings, and collected them, in her car. She had the full support of her husband R P H Batten Pooll. Indeed in 1913 Adela Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, was offered the position of head gardener at Rode Manor. She received 35 shillings a week and lodged nearby. I have some information on her activities and experiences at Rode Manor but am not recording it here. I do however give below just two examples of Mrs Batten Pooll’s support for the suffragette movement.
Mrs Batten Pooll began the Women’s Institute in Rode in January 1920 and meetings were held at Rode Mill (then called the Old Mills) once a month. Members came from the villages of Rode, Rode Hill, Woolverton and Tellisford but some also from Beckington and Rudge. Almost from the start the WI organised socials at the Old Mills and made a point of inviting the friends (of either sex) of members. For instance on 4 November 1920 nearly one hundred turned up for an entertainment by some members of the Rode WI where the programme consisted of two action songs in character – “Babies” and “The Good Ship Sunshine”.
The WI performers were Misses M Stokes, D Holdway, I Derham, O Fricker and T Hyde (of the Red Lion Inn, Woolverton). Misses Coles and Stynes sang duets and Miss G Crees sang the “Bells of St Mary’s” and “Till we meet Again”. Miss T Hyde rendered a monologue “My lost Golosh”. Other acts included a sketch “My at Home Day” by Mrs Woods, Miss Coles and Miss M Stokes.
The WI Tea Committee provided refreshments and teas and then games and dancing ensued and the gathering closed at about 10pm. This was just one of the many social events hosted or attended by the Rode WI. In the following pages I am only giving examples of the social activities of the Rode WI for to do otherwise would make this a sizeable booklet.
Below: Photos from the centenary celebration to commemorate 100 years of Rode WI (1960):