Saturday 17 June 2017

Erland Lee House - Part 3

As I mentioned in my first post about Erland Lee House, it is the birthplace of the Women's Institute, whose motto is 'For Home and Country'.  This photo is part of a quilt which hangs in the red Carriage House, adjacent to the home.  I forgot to take a photo of this building and the light in the Carriage House was too poor for any good photos, especially as the quilt is behind glass.

So back to the dining room, which is the focal point of the site's history because it was here that the Constitution and Bylaws of the first Women's Institute were hand-written by Janet Lee, with assistance from her husband, Erland Lee and two local politicians.

But before we get to this, we need to retrace our steps to learn how this all came about.  I mentioned in an earlier post that Erland Lee worked to advance many progressive causes in Wentworth County.  He recognized the need for rural women to be educated, particularly in the domestic sciences.  He invited Adelaide Hoodless to speak at the Ladies' Night of the Saltfleet Farmers' Institute on 12th February 1897.  Adelaide was president of the local YWCA and taught domestic science.  Erland had heard Adelaide speak and her words had resonated with him when she asked, 'Is it of greater importance that a farmer should know more about the scientific care of his sheep and cattle, than that a farmer's wife shold know how to care for her family?' 

That night, she suggested forming a group to broaden the knowledge of domestic science and agriculture, as well as to socialize.  When she returned a week later, there were 101 women in attendance.  This group went on to form the first branch of the Women's Institute with Adelaide as its honorary president: within a decade, there were 500 branches across Canada.

Erland Lee used his family's influence in municipal government and in society to assist in the formation of the world's first rural women's organization and Janet Lee took on an organizational role within that Institute.  Much of the executive work of the WI was done within the Lee home. Erland and Janet Lee's daughter, Alice (Lee) Freel, became the first woman in Saltfleet Township to serve in the municipal government from 1926.  Erland and Janet's grandchildren preserved the family legacy when they sold the property to the Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario in 1972.


  1. Marie, I have really enjoyed these three posts, you've given us a fab tour of the house and its history. You certainly learned a lot from that talkative guide! It's SO good to see you blogging again - and to see that lovely picture of you. Please keep it up. x

  2. How fascinating to learn the history of the WI and how it was so quickly taken up by so many places, there must have been a huge need in communities for this kind of organisation. I wonder how those early organisers would have felt to know that the WI is still a strong instituation today:)

  3. Rosie - it does make me stop and think about those early pioneers of the WI. How marvellous to think that it is still going strong 120 years later. Marie x

  4. Mrs Tiggywinkle - thank you for your kind comments. I'm glad that you enjoyed the tour. Marie x

  5. It is been such fun and educational to see all these posts, Marie...and amazing the WI is still going strong! Hooray for women keeping the home fires burning still! ;) ((HUGS))

  6. Tracy - thank you for sharing my visit. I'm hoping to visit another house with WI connections before we leave Ontario. Watch this space! Marie x