Lazo Women’s Institute only remaining WI branch in Comox Valley

What do bare breasts and centrelines on roadways have in common?

What do bare breasts and centrelines on roadways have in common?

If you saw the movie Calendar Girls, you will remember it was about the true story of a group of British women, (members of the Yorkshire Women’s Institute), who were raising money for leukemia research.

To raise the money, they created a calendar of themselves posing in the nude.

Now for the road centrelines, the Canadian Women’s Institute, didn’t have to take such great measures as the British women did to get what they wanted, which was painted centrelines on our public roads.

This line drastically reduced the number of collisions between automobiles. So, bare breasts and centre lines, both Women’s Institute actions for the betterment of their community.

The Lazo Women’s Institute (WI) is the only remaining WI branch in the Comox Valley and it is enjoying a resurgence of interest these days.

It was only a year ago that  the local group of women were considering folding the branch when an inquiry from some local women came and suddenly the branch was having some new energy and ideas.

“We are all excited about the turn of events,” says Diana Fright, a long-standing member of the Lazo Branch. “Our branch has been around since 1921 and has done so much work in the community.

“Our current members are all getting older so it is wonderful to have the history of this branch remain active with new members who want to keep the traditions alive. The Women’s Institute allows us to speak with one voice.”

In 1897 the Canadian Women’s Institute was established as an organization much like the Farmers’ Institute except it focused on connecting rural women.

The WI movement began in Stoney Creek, Ont., when Adelaide Hoodless held a meeting for the wives of members of the Farmers’ Institute.

She had suffered personal tragedy with the death of her son, John Harold. He died at 14 months from what was called “summer complaint.” This “summer complaint” was most likely from drinking contaminated milk.

Adelaide suggested forming a group with a purpose to broaden the knowledge of domestic science and agriculture as well as to socialize. She wanted to ensure that women had the knowledge to prevent deaths like those of her son.

Adelaide returned one week later to find 101 women in attendance. This group was to become the first branch of the Women’s Institute.  Within a decade more than 500 branches had been organized across Canada.

Adelaide Hoodless (1857-1910) is quoted as saying, “Educate a boy and you educate a man. Educate a girl and you educate a family.”

The local Comox Valley – Lazo Branch has impacted this community in many ways.

The WI originated on the founding principles of agriculture, food and helping women, children and families. The tireless efforts of the members have made some real differences.

These have been women of vision and action. They built Glacier View Lodge, the first seniors’ care facility in B.C.

They sold Lazo Hall and with the proceeds, established the Lazo WI Endowment Fund, an annual endowment at North Island College that provides two bursaries (awarded on the basis of financial need) and one scholarship (awarded for academic excellence) annually for NIC students.

They worked with the B.C. WI to create the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island; promoted the first BUY B.C. campaign back in the 1930s; lobbied for the 911 quick-response number and for home economics in schools.

Each member pays an annual membership fee.  These funds support and implement programs that are benefiting  women and their families around the world in countries such as Bangladesh, Cameroon, Mali, Tonga and Sierra Leone.

Contact Barbara Odegard at 250-335-2557 for membership information and how you can help. Visit the WI at

— Comox Valley (Lazo) Women’s Institute

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