Everyone knows three things about the Women's Institute: that they spent the war making jam; the sensational Calendar Girls were WI; and, more recently, that slow-handclapping of Tony Blair.
But there's so much more to this remarkable Movement. Over 200,000 women in the UK belong to the WI and their membership is growing. They cross class and religion,include all ages -from students and metropolitan young professionals, such as the Shoreditch Sisters,to rural centenarians -with passions that range from supporting the 1920s Bastardy Bill (in response to a wartime legacy of illegitimate babies) to the current SOS for Honey Bees campaign.
It was founded in 1915, not by worthy ladies in tweeds but by the feistiest women in the country, including suffragettes, academics and social crusaders who discovered the heady power of sisterhood, changing women's lives and their world in the process. Certainly its members boiled jam and sang ' Jerusalem ', but they also made history. This fascinating book reveals for the first time how they are - and always were - a force to be reckoned with.
Jane Robinson specializes in chronicling social history through women's eyes. Bluestockings: The The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education was published in 2009 and was widely regarded and commercially very successful.