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The Women's Institute

Pounds, shillings and pence

Agricultural wages had been high during the last two years of the war, with a minimum wage paid to farm workers enforced by wages boards, but they were to take a downward turn in 1921 following the passing of the Agriculture Act which got rid of the minimum wage. It has been estimated that agricultural wages fell by 40% between the autumn of 1921 and the spring of 1923. This had an impact on Elsfield families, and the WI meetings were affected. In the first couple of years after the inauguration of the branch they had had a number of tea hostesses who took it in turns to provide the tea, milk and sugar needed for their refreshments, but by November of 1922 they were aware that with the reduction in wages some people might not be able to afford the expense. While it is not clear what the outcome of this discussion was, in subsequent years money was set aside for a tea fund, and it seems likely that they decided to fund the refreshments out of branch funds rather than from individual pockets.

In August 1925, with funds standing at £6-16-4d, Mrs Buchan suggested giving each baby born to a WI member two shillings to start a savings account, but this suggestion was not well received. The branch could be generous to its own members in recognition of their hard work. Miss Parsons was presented with an umbrella for her work for the branch, Mrs Clinkard was given a book of sea shanties and on 6th February 1930 they agreed to present Miss Brown, the farmer’s daughter, with a teapot as a small present on her marriage and did the same for Miss Buchan when she became engaged to be married in 1933.

Elsfield was providing the WI stall in Oxford with a regular supply of goods to sell, part of the profit going to the County Organisation and part to the branch and in 1930 were also working hard to contribute funds to the Radcliffe Infirmary, so felt they couldn’t work towards raising funds for a Village Hall.


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