LETTER: WI operates an open-door policy

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The Independent Online
From Ms Isobel Shepherdson

Sir: In response to Julia Bard's article on the Women's Institute ("Why are these women all white?", 7 September), may I quote a fellow member who, after some years of membership, said:

I shall always be grateful for the policy of the WI which allowed me to join on receipt of the modest annual subscription and my name (for courtesy). There was no application form asking for irrelevant information - eg. address, age, marital or parental status, occupation, religion, political persuasion, educational experience, ethnic origin. I could share any of this information with my fellow members if I wished, but all of it could remain private. I was most impressed by the absence of any central or regional membership files. Only those who have lived with the consequences of irrelevant information being used against them can appreciate the feeling of escape on entering the WI world where being a Jew (in my case) was interesting, but not significant in the process of becoming and remaining a member.

Ms Bard seems to be suggesting that the WI should get its act together and target particular groups for new members. This would mean collecting information about present members in a way which would destroy my friend's comfort. And how many others?

Whatever renewed efforts the WI makes to welcome all women into membership, I hope it will not desert its stand of welcoming the woman herself and asking no more of her than she is prepared to give.

Yours faithfully,

Isobel Shepherdson

York

8 September

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