Triangle Women's Institute Legacy Project

May 5th, 2021 5 Minutes
Triangle Women’s Institute Legacy Project – ARTiculate Spring/Summer edition 2021 – Image courtesy of ARTiculate Magazine.
Heather (left) and Judy-Lou McDonald at Pioneer Hall in Grasmere B.C. – Image courtesy of the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History

The Triangle Women’s Institute (TWI) in the East Kootenay Hamlet of Grasmere, B.C., has faced the unknown, kept an adventurous spirit, and thrown caution to the sidelines during a pandemic to carry on with an expansive history project.

The project will transform the heart of the community, or as it’s better known to locals Pioneer Hall, into a remarkable showcase honouring the residents.

With funding from the Columbia Basin Trust, the women commissioned a local designer to create five large panels that depict South Country history themes.

Working in partnership with the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History (CBIRH), the group researched and designed 61 cm. by 91 cm. pictorial studies of ‘Education,’ ‘Industry,’ ‘Memories,’ ‘4-H’ and the history of the TWI.

4-H Panel- courtesy of the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History and the Triangle Women’s Institute – Special thanks to Gert de Groot of Solar Etchings.

Despite beginning the project as lockdowns commenced in March of 2020, following COVID-19’s arrival, the women buckled down, masked up, and proceeded with extensive consultation, development, and group meetings to bring their vision to life.

This brave group of women, who are proud to call themselves members of the TWI, an organization that stands for service to home and country while celebrating, uplifting, and promoting women in the local and global community, are no strangers to working in adversity.

Historically these dames have rolled up their sleeves on many occasions, including their contributions to the war effort during WWII.

TWI has and continues to champion local government issues and has fought for women and children’s protection and rights, social justice, agricultural development, domestic sciences, and improved health care.

Since their inception in 1937, members of the TWI have created a foundation for community engagement, education, outreach, development, special projects, and a host of initiatives to improve the lives in their rural community of Grasmere B.C.

Of their accomplishments, the TWI was instrumental in developing a highway, the arrival of enhanced communications (phone service), and bringing electricity to its small U.S. bordering community.

In the TWI’s namesake, the ‘Triangle’ originated from its membership, reaching from Gold Creek to Flagstone to Waldo to Grasmere. The modern-day version stands for inclusiveness, education, and well-being.

As part of a local and global movement, TWI is a branch of the BC Women’s Institute and the Federated Women’s Institute of Canada. It is also affiliated with the Associated Country Women of the World.

The Federated Women’s Institute of Canada was formed in 1897 and founded by Adelaide Hoodless in Stoney Creek, Ontario. Hoodless began the society following her infant son’s tragic death attributed to contaminated milk, a preventable death according to the matriarch. Her tragedy sparked the movement to bring domestic science to the frontier.

The Women’s Institutes envisioned bringing friendship and togetherness to women in the countryside, and by 1913 they were province-wide.

Isolation, poverty, and lack of education posed serious threats to the early way of Canadian living. The group became a unified force in rural Canada, gathering to promote education, healthcare, and the study of domestic sciences to improve pioneering families’ well-being.

TWI, while devoting much of its time to the South Country, is part of a global network that provides clean and safe drinking water in its ‘Water for all’ program while teaming up with the United Nations to address climate change, women’s issues, and global health. TWI installed a solar energy system in 2019 at its Hall as part of its commitment to clean energy.

Among their many contributions, the TWI donates to the B.C. Children’s Hospital, hosts blood drives at Pioneer Hall, provides scholarships for students, sponsors the 4-H club, the local Salvation Army, and the food bank.

The organization hosts community events, including its annual Snowflake Tea and Gala and Canada Day celebrations, which were suspended last year due to COVID-19. It supports ongoing program development for residents and members.

TWI continues to inspire and educate members on health and safety while providing webinars on various topics of interest.

Pioneer Hall Grasmere B.C. – Image courtesy of the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History

With its remarkable history and legacy of determined women, the TWI forged on throughout the pandemic to create its first series of panels true to its nature of traversing and bridging the gap between isolation, community development, and yes, even socializing while adhering to social distancing requirements.

The organization anticipates stretching the panels into twenty upon completion.

“We are very proud of TWI’s history, and we are fortunate to have the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History working with us and doing this project for us,” said TWI President Judy-Lou McDonald.

The first series of panels have been installed. Due to COVID-19 precautions, the Hall is only open at this time for limited use; however, the public response has been extremely positive.

“There were great reviews on the completed panels. People were able to enjoy them during the recent provincial election at our Hall, and we can hardly wait to continue with the project,” said McDonald.

The TWI is seeking additional funding to extend the work. Their vision is to see the Pioneer Hall contain a museum-quality exhibit of the South Country’s history that will be around for generations to come and for visitors to enjoy.

“We are excited to proceed and look forward to the next step, which begins with honouring our Tobacco Plains neighbours,” said McDonald.

The CBIRH has made its considerable historical resources available for the panels, recognizing a positive force in the TWI. They continue to partner with the organization and are currently working on a new online multimedia exhibit celebrating the women over the years.

“This is the kind of community project that is delightful to be a part of,” said CBIRH Executive Director Anna Majkowski.

Industries Panel- image courtesy of the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History and the Triangle Women’s Institute – Special thanks to Gert de Groot of Solar Etchings.
Memories Panel- Image courtesy of the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History and the Triangle Women’s Institute – Special thanks to Gert to Groot of Solar Etchings.
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