Adelaide Hoodless, the co-founder of the Women’s Institutes, dedicated her life to ensuring women had educational opportunities. She was a beacon of hope for frontier living in the late 1800s and held a modern vision for the advancement and equality of women in society.
Hoddless’s goal was to create a rural university system that included the female gender.
The Triangle Women’s Institute (TWI) has carried this legacy forward from its founding, and the members continue to advocate for better educational opportunities for their children while sponsoring adult education.
From inception, they donated to the schools in their area each Christmas, encouraging a feeling of sharing and community spirit in the young children.
The South Country schools were essential to the well-being of the area. They were a hub for social gatherings and events, offering a lifeline to friends and families.
Schools enhanced community living, well-being, and growth. The TWI fought hard over the years to keep rural schools from closing, often successfully.
As early as 1942, the TWI began petitioning the Ministry of Education for a consolidated school in Waldo. Parents wanted to limit children’s travelling times and keep them at home longer.
High school students were boarded at Fernie and Cranbrook or sent to private schools during this time. Families opposed this in favour of bussing to Waldo so their children could come home at night.
The TWI eventually petitioned for the expansion of Waldo to become a consolidated school. Waldo serviced the South Country in 1914 when it was built as a two-room school – it flourished until the government burned it in 1971 to flood the Libby reservoir – see the Columbia River Treaty.
Of their educational initiatives, the TWI was instrumental in starting and sponsoring a School Fair for children to show their projects. In 1951 there were 198 entries in schoolwork, home economics, and woodwork. There was even a special prize for darning a man’s wool sock, won by Jimmy Sandberg.
This involvement has continued to the present, with TWI sponsoring scholarships for post-secondary education.
There have always been matters of practical concern surrounding rural living. School bussing remains a frequent subject, with TWI lobbying the Department of Education, calling them to account on the frequency and safety of the school bus system.
From the 1956 TWI Minutes: “Children are being dropped off at school as the parents head to work. There is no supervision over these from around 8 a.m. till the teacher arrives at 8:45 a.m.”
The TWI continues to be a collective voice for rural women in the South Country regarding educational issues.
Dirty outhouses (initially), unsafe heating, poor roofing, teacher housing; regardless of the issue, the ladies from Grasmere B.C. speak up. They have even arranged for students to be educated in Montana when acceptable bussing could not be provided in B.C. As with all things, the TWI provides inventive solutions and a collective voice. The group is a force to be reckoned with on the best of days and an unstoppable force when needed.