This month the ladies of Ottershaw WI were transported back to the 18th Century to learn about 'The Language of the Fan'.
Our Speaker - Kerry Wolf came dressed in the fashion of the 1700's to teach us the art of communicating your feelings to a prospective beau when ladies were not allowed out on their own and were always escorted by a chaperone.
Did you know that if you were desirous of one's acquaintance all you needed to do was cover the lower part of the face with an open fan and flutter you eyelashes (batting an eyelid). Then to go a step further and indicate that you wished to speak to the gentleman you would need to touch the tip of the closed fan with you finger.Then if that goes well you could fan very quickly to indicate that you were available.
However, things could go wrong, wigs of the day could get very hot and itchy and if you accidentally scratched your head with the closed fan in mid-conversation you would accidentally be saying I do not like you! spoiling everything.
It was a fascinating afternoon, Kerry made us laugh with her tales of how ladies had to be sewn into their gowns and how they had pockets built in under the hoops inside their dresses, and we learned if the bodice was laced straight across the lady was married and unavailable (straight laced) but if the bodice was laced crossed you were available.
The fashions then were certainly feminine and beautiful for both men and women but not without problems concerning hygiene and practicality.
In February we were joined by the Author Adrienne Dines who has written books such as "Toppling Miss April" and the "Jigsaw Maker".
Born in Ireland, and with a sharp intellect and acute sense of humour, Adrienne now lives in Weybridge.
The role of women in WW1 took a refreshingly different approach as we considered how the views and opinions of the day were so much at odds with the demands that war on the home front would put upon women.
The importance of written communications even in the simplest form was very moving Peter described how government propaganda used images of women on recruitment posters, how Vesta Tilley's rendition of 'Keep the Home Fires Burning' boosted recruitment and the activities by many well-known individuals (including Lady Denman) who gave considerable support to soldiers, civilians and refuges.
The torpedo attack on the 'Lusitania' as she headed for Liverpool shocked the nation. The ship sank in just 18 minutes taking 1,198 people with her but a lady who was sucked into one of the funnels was subsequently blown into the air when the ship's boilers exploded and then rescued from the sea. An amazing tale but we were then informed by one of our new members that her great uncle was the the ship's captain and had stayed on board expecting to go down with the ship. He too was ejected in the explosion and he landed in the water next to that very same lady! What a small world we have. Peter suggested that he should asking for our members autograph because that story made her famous.
Ottershaw WI welcomes women of all ages. We have regular monthly meetings held on the third Thursday at 1.45pm for a 2pm start in Ottershaw Village Hall, Brook Hall, Brox Road, Ottershaw, KT16 0HG.
We often have an outside speaker, and throughout the year many other activities including Art and Craft groups, Domestic & Handicraft Shows, Christmas and, Spring Fairs to help us raise funds, plus many outings and an annual Birthday Celebration,
We also meet up up regularly with our neighbouring WI groups within the North West Surrey Federation.
Visitors are very welcome at any meeting. Just come along and try us for a few meetings to see if you like us and then join if you are happy, no pressure.
The W. I. Moodle
One of the many benefits of WI membership is access to the WI Moodle, an exciting online training environment offering support to WI members. It's a place where you view information,download documents and share forums with other members as well as learn new skills. You will need to register for a user name and password, and details on how to do to do this are included on the home page of the Moodle - just go to www.witraining.org.uk for details.
Denman College is the WI's centre for learning - imparting knowledge and practical experience in the fields of cookery, art, craft, well-being and lifestyle. The college, founded by the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) in 1948 offers a wealth of opportunities to learn new skills on day schools and short courses. Everyone is welcome - men and women, members and non-members - we can even cater for groups of friends or hen parties who are looking for something a bit different.
Just go to - www.denmancollege.org.uk for more information.