International Women’s Day recently celebrated the decades of female empowerment. A host of individuals and organisations prove that women can be the catalyst for social, political and educational change.

From the suffragettes to modern-day protestors, we have witnessed a development in being heard, including The National Federation of Women’s Institute.

The Women’s Institute celebrated an important centenary in 2018, marking 100 years since members of the organisation had their second annual meeting and passed their first resolution, which called for improvements to state-aided


Since then, the WI has led many successful campaigns which have brought about key policy changes in a number of fields such as health, agriculture and education.

Now, there are almost 220,000 members in approximately 6,300 WIs and the campaigns have broadened significantly, addressing a whole host of contemporary social issues that directly affect member’s communities, such as organ donations and looking after mental health.

“Women should stick together, I have relied upon many women to get where I am today,” said Joyce Wright, a former member of the Cropton WI.

“The women’s institute are like a family to me, especially in a small village like Cropton.

“Considering there are 25 ladies within the group, it’s not a bad effort for a village with a population of around 100.”

After the First World War, Ryedale women noticed a significant struggle within the rural communities.

Wanting to help, different WI groups formed throughout Ryedale – including Cropton.

The Cropton WI, formed on February 27 in 1929, encouraged women to provide agricultural support to rural communities such as knitting jumpers, balaclava helmets and stockings for the armed forces in the Second World War.

Members of the WI were encouraged to be active in their communities.

From hosting regular sporting events and craft workshops to creating projects that teach members skills in cookery and floral arrangements, the WI community thrives in bucolic bliss.

In 1929, the women organised a fancy dress masked ball and a shopping trip to Scarborough with a man, called Fred Johnson, who owned a Charabanc.

In December of that year, members were shown how to kill and dress a chicken, ending with a children’s treat on New Year’s Eve.

During the Second World War, members met at a member’s house to make jam and pickles on a Florence Stove, using fruit they bought from Ryedale suppliers.

“We had a lot of fun organising events,” added Joyce.

“It was more than just the odd activity to pass the time, we all became friendly and supported each other through difficult times.

“I remember we held an event at the Roman Camp’s, near Cropton, making cups of tea and baking cakes.

“All the profits went to the Cropton WI, which we needed to be successful.

“Dressing up for street parties was always fun too, I still have the photographs somewhere in my home.”

The Cropton WI is celebrating its 91st anniversary, alongside another special birthday.

Joyce, who is one of the original members of the Cropton WI, also recently turned 100.

Born in Middlesbrough on March 16, 1920, Joyce has been associated with Cropton all her life.

When Joyce married her husband Reginald in 1942, the couple moved from Middlesbrough to Newcastle, then Glasgow for Reginald’s role in the navy, until finally retiring in Cropton.

Although memory is scathing, Joyce has been associated with the WI for about 70 years.

“I encourage any young woman to join because of the lovely company, community spirit and lifelong friends you make,” continued Joyce.

“We used to meet once a month to organise activities for the village, I would still be doing it now.”

Joyce is famous so her energy, even sprinting up and down the village in her early 90s, and gardening.

When anyone turns 100, you always wonder what their secret is? What is the mysterious answer for a long and prosperous life?

“Be content with what you have,” remarked Joyce.

“Despite everything, you have to get on with things.

“Put yourself in our shoes and, most of all, be kind.”