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  • Writer's pictureRosa Davies

The Women’s Institute = “Jam Mafia”?! 😲

Updated: Dec 4, 2021

​Jam fact: the WI was called the UK’s “biggest organised crime group” by a police sergeant in 2016.

The crime? Selling unlawful jars of jam!

*shocked gasps echo all around the country*

Our good fellow was half-right.

The Jam Mafia - er, I mean, the Women's Institute - is the largest voluntary women's organisation in the UK.

It has over 220,000 members (some of whom have never ever made a jar of jam in their lives, we swear!).

Its size and penchant for polls and voting mean that the WI offers a fascinating glimpse into what matters to women in Britain.

Yes, I want to podcast about that!

So what are these thousands of women up to…?

For the last 100 years, WI members have suggested, debated, and voted for different campaigns for the Women's Institute to tackle at a national level.

Members mainly join and meet to socialise and try new things or share hobbies.

Friendship and generally doing stuff is always going to be relevant to your life, but it is the WI’s activism that helps it stay relevant on a national level.

For the last 100 years, WI members have suggested, debated, and voted on the issues that affect them and their communities.

100 years!

An eccentric, quirky, and very British cultural phenomenon

The WI has been the basis of TV dramas, sitcoms, a West End musical, and a blockbuster film. Remember Calendar girls?

The Calendar Girls is probably the most famous and boldest story out of the WI.

You've probably heard of it:

Members of a small WI in North Yorkshire posed for and released a naked (naked!!!) calendar to raise money for Leukemia research.

The headlines went wild!

So far, their story has raised over £3 million for cancer research (and counting!)

The British public LOVES playing with the WI’s traditional image.

Here is our most famous member:

(It's the Queen).

The WI does a bunch of things at the grassroots and national levels.

You know those Fair Trade and Soil Association logos you see on packaging sometimes? The WI helped found those organisations.

Make sure you dispose of that packaging properly when you’re done with it; the WI also founded Keep Britain Tidy.

Cake bakers and troublemakers

The suffragettes are the grandmothers of the WI, so it is no wonder that campaigning is in our genes.

Like most good British icons, the WI has its origins abroad.

It started in Canada in 1897.

If the suffragettes are the WI’s grandmothers, then its great-grandmother is Adelaide Hoodless.

Pictured: Adelaide Hoodless wishing that podcasts had been around when she was alive :(

She set up the WI to save the lives of children by educating women.

She believed that when women and girls had access to education and new experiences, then their communities and families would be safer, stronger, and healthier for everyone.

The WI is still an education charity today.

WI campaigns have always been diverse

Key campaigns today include:

  • climate change

  • mental health

  • poverty

  • violence against women

  • stem cell donation

  • accessible public transport

  • and more.

The Jam Pact podcast deep-dives into these campaigns with experts, activists, and those with lived experience.

Every episode is a conversation with a woman making a difference and a story to tell.

As well as the current campaigns, we will delve into the 100-year history and see how things have changed - or have they stayed the same?

We will also look at each proposed campaign when they are announced each year.

This is not just a podcast for WI members.

This is a podcast for anybody interested in good conversations, creating a fairer and more compassionate society, and what 220,000 women are discussing and debating each year.

Listen and subscribe on Podbean, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Amazon Music, Spotify, and right here on

Share the episodes to support the podcast, the guests, or the campaigns.

May the jam be with you!

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