University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Markets, Depots and Sales Tables: The Women's Institute's Rural Retailing

Andrews, Maggie (2014) Markets, Depots and Sales Tables: The Women's Institute's Rural Retailing. In: Rural Retailing and Distrubution in History, 13th May 2014, University of Wolverhampton CHORD.

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In 1917 the Coventry Evening Telegraph noted that the problems of ‘surplus garden produce’ had arisen and that ‘smallholders were being encouraged to group together in order to bring their supplies in quantity to market. Women’s Institutes have been formed, and these arrange for the opening of a market for a certain number of hours one day a week’. WIs, which had begun being formed under the auspices of the Agricultural Organisation Society from 1915 could be seen to be one of the earliest examples of Farmers Markets. These rural women were to improve the food supply in wartime when there was a food crisis; shortages, queues, price rises and in 1918 the introduction of rationing. The WIs encouraged food saving and preservation their markets enabled small holders, cottage gardeners and allotment holders to find a financial non- exploitive outlet for their produce.

Markets and retail outlets developed in a number of towns or even cities in rural areas: Worcester, Leamington Spa and Lichfield and in post-war Britain depot trading centres were set up in some county towns Maidstone in Kent in 1919, Winchester in 1920. Between them they provided rural women with a retail space initially for their garden produce and then in time for the preserves, baking and craftwork. Jam, cakes, toys, knitted toys and garments even a wedding trousseau were ordered or sold through these retail outlets. The Markets were not restricted to WI members and often sold work produced by small­holders, the disabled and ex-servicemen. Membership required buying at least one share; as they were a co-operative venture there was a limit on the number of shares it was possible to purchase. Sales tables at some monthly WI meeting provided yet another retail outlet for rural women.

This paper will explore the significance of these retail opportunities to rural women: as a chance to earn much needed cash, in placing a value on domestic labour and as an indication that when looking at rural women’s lives, in first half of the twentieth century, divisions between being consumers and producers of food and domestic products may be more fluid than it is something assumed.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
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Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: Women's Institutes, markets, smallholders, rural women, food supply, wartime
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Humanities
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Depositing User: Janet Davidson
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2016 11:04
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 17:12

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