The following is the text of a speech given by Eva Archbold to the meeting celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Craster W.I. on April 4th 1978. In it she talks about the early years of the W.I. in Craster.
"Madam President and Fellow Members
I have been asked to give a brief history of the Craster W.I. and to enumerate some of its ups and downs.
No history would be complete without mention of the late Miss Sybil Craster who was the instigator, she went from house to house where there were women of certain and uncertain ages asking if they would like an Institute in the village. I don't think anyone objected, I was delighted for it meant escapism from the then restrictions of village life. Before that we only had the Girls Friendly Society-commonly called the G.F.S. or as the opposite sex dubbed us "The Gobby Faced Society".
We had our first meeting in the spring, followed by a consolidation meeting a few weeks later. Miss Craster was our first president and showed us the way to go. We have no records to prove how many presidents we have had or in what rotation but our longest serving one was the late Mrs. Nelson who served us well for seventeen years, she would have been very happy here tonight.
Needless to say, we had our, ups and downs, the first was when we gave a certain sketch and failed to comply with the Performing Rights regulations. For this we received a bill for Q. This was a nasty blow for a new Institute, our then secretary said we should have known better, but how could we? We had just emerged from the Gobby Faced Society into a world of sophistication.
Mrs. Carr-Ellison took the part of the old grandfather complete with a big red dressing gown heavily padded and a beard, while she was speaking the beard dropped off, where upon she stooped down picked it up and replaced it and continued as if nothing had happened. A decided case of "down and up".
From the start the Institute took an interest in the village life, also in the village hall and organized events to provide curtains, chairs, heating arrangements etc. During the years we have had classes of many kinds. We made baskets under the tuition of the late Mrs. Scott from Newton, and right proud we were of them and to show them off, despite the fact that there were no two alike although we had received the same instructions. Even in those early days we made eiderdowns, some of which are still in use today, cookery, dressmaking various forms of needlework; pewter work, lamp shades etc. were all very interesting and helped to make us wiser women. At one time the Annual Social (by invitation only) was the event of the village and invitations were eagerly sought.
Although Jubilee means a time of rejoicing it is inevitable that those of us who are founder members will look around and miss those who joined with us, some have "gone before", others have lost interest, to the latter I say - rejoin, you are the losers - thousands of women can't be wrong.
We have had some very happy times together, both here and when visiting other institutes. Many women admit that before joining the Institute that they were afraid to move a vote of thanks, that is seldom the case now.
It is generally agreed that the W.I. has helped in the emancipation of women. To prove this I have a ticket here which is Not without interest it reads (at this point Miss Archbold read from the ticket. Something to do with a meeting in a drill hall the operative sentence being No Ladies Allowed) I feel sure we would not stand for this today. We would 'storm the Citadel' or at least St. George's Drill Hall, Newcastle. However, we were at least called Ladies.
Craster seems to be having a spate of Jubilees & centenaries this month. Tonight we have the W.I. Golden Jubilee, Reading from the records of my great-grandfather (the late Wm. Gibb Dawson) I find that on April 21st, 1878 Joseph Archbold started the Post Office. On April 30th the Church of England holds it's centenary. To quote the old hymn 'The year; of Jubilee is come.
Well ladies, I was present at our first meeting I was present at our 21st also Silver & I am here at our Golden Jubilee. Unless I am blown up by atomic bombs or nuclear waste from the Cheviots I hope to be at our Diamond Jubilee.
Thank you for listening."