Who are the Women in Fellowship? This is the question most frequently asked by people curious about us. To answer this and to understand the organisation that we know today, you really have to go back to the origins of the Fellowship.
The Wives’ Fellowship was founded in 1916 and emerged from two large organisations within the Anglican Church - the Mothers’ Union and the Girls’ Diocesan Association. In June 1916 a group of friends, all young, married, well-connected and well educated, with lively minds met in Salisbury and from these talks the Young Wives’ Fellowship was born.
(To read The Spirit of Wives book, click on the image to the left)
Social changes after World War I put the Fellowship at variance with the Mothers’ Union and in 1937 Wives’ Fellowship became an independent and ecumenical body, thus embracing members from all Christian denominations.
In 1934 Senior Wives’ Fellowship was formed and the number of branches grew rapidly as more of the younger Wives’ joined them and in 1947 Wives’ and Senior Wives’ had separate Central Committees for the first time. There was an Executive Committee for each group that oversaw the smooth running of the Fellowship and the Branch Officers Conferences and the AGM gave the members a chance to voice their ideas and concerns.
Like many organisations at the end of the twentieth century membership was in decline and reunification of the two groups was seen as the future. All Age branches were formed in some areas and the trend for these increased, but the need to attract younger women was felt to be of paramount importance if the Fellowship was to continue into 21st century. In 2000, the decision was taken to gradually amalgamate the Executive Committees of Wives’ and Senior Wives’ and by 2005 there was one Executive Committee with a Central Chairman, elected from the whole Fellowship. At the AGM in 2004, it was agreed for all branches to be known as Wives’ Fellowship. In 2019, a few years after a vote to welcome single women, members voted to change our name to Women in Fellowship.
Conferences have played an important part in the Fellowship, with the opportunity to meet and worship together and also being challenged by great minds and those with interesting ideas. An annual Autumn Conference is organised by a branch. Founders’ Meeting, which is celebrated in early summer, and a two day residential Retreat are organised by Executive Committee members. Women in Fellowship has always had a twice yearly publication informally called the Magazine. In 2005 it gained a name - Grapevine.
Within the framework of the constitution and our Christian faith, branches have a considerable degree of autonomy and arrange programmes at a time and with a content to suit their members, including organising Regional and Fellowship Days.
Several charities have been supported since the founding of the WF and in 1975, St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham, Kent was chosen as our charity. This was the first of the modern teaching hospices, founded by Dame Cicely Saunders. We are not, however, a fund raising organisation and there is no obligation on any branch or individual to contribute.
We are not a practical society, but a caring Fellowship providing loving and supportive friendship. It gives members an opportunity to relax, to learn, to have fun, to pray and then to return to our daily lives strengthened and encouraged.
Download a copy of our history leaflet here.