The first Women’s Institute was formed in Scotland in Longniddry, East Lothian in 1917. Since then we have grown to approximately 12,270 members across Scotland including the most rural of Islands to the highly populated vibrant cities.
With our Headquarters in Edinburgh, 31 Federations throughout Scotland and 599 Institutes, we are proud to bring a broad mix of women together to connect, share, teach and meet.
It is our aim to increase our membership to continue the legacy created nearly 100 years ago. Be part of the SWI and share your passions.
Explore the history of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute with our Timeline below >
Discover our values and learn about our ethos below >
Share in our vision and help form the future of the SWI >
Our Board members are all elected and you can learn some more about them by simply swiping through the slides below.
I joined Loudounhill SWI in Ayrshire over 30 years ago. I have been Institute Secretary, Treasurer and President as well as a committee member. Following my term as Institute President, I was elected to the Federation Executive Committee and went on to serve as Junior and Senior Vice Chairman and then Federation Chairman.
During this time I was elected as one of the Central Councillors for Ayrshire Federation and served on the International Committee and then the Education and International committee following the amalgamation of the Committees.
I have served as Junior Vice Chairman when I was Convenor of the Education and International committee and Senior Vice Chairman when I was Convenor of the Magazine Committee which amalgamated with the Marketing Committee and became the Communications Committee.
I have enjoyed all these roles.
Outwith SWI, I am a dairy farmer in partnership with my elder son. My interests include reading, knitting, dressmaking and embroidery all of which have been set aside until Lockdown came along!
I also enjoy cooking and baking for my family and friends.
The SWI has given me many opportunities to learn different crafts and skills, make friends and travel around our beautiful country. I hope that more will join us and discover these pleasures.
I started going to ‘Rural’ meetings before I left school. My mother was a member of Whinnieliggate Institute, a small village in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, and I went along with her. I have been a member ever since. Following my marriage I changed to another Institute and, finally, when my husband changed jobs, to the Institute I now attend. During my time as a member I’ve held every position within my own Institute – several times - and I’m currently President of Clarebrand SWI. I also served on the Federation Executive Committee for twelve years and, for most of that time, was Federation Treasurer, a post that I handed over at our AGM in January. I was also privileged to be part of the team that recently reviewed the SWI Constitution. I enjoy lots of the activities organised by the SWI at local, Federation and National level especially the walking weekends and the country dance weekends.
While my two girls were growing up I worked part time in administration within the Education system and moved to Social Work Services when I returned to work on a full time basis firstly reviewing services for People with Learning Disabilities and finally to monitoring contracts for adult care purchased through Social Work Services.
I’m involved with my village church as Session Clerk and help with the administration of the local agricultural show. I enjoy walking, Zumba and knitting but my passion is dancing. I teach Scottish Country Dancing but my first love is Ballet. I always think country dancing is like the SWI – no matter where you go there is a local group you can visit and you’ll always get a warm welcome from like-minded folk!
I am a member of Ewes Institute in Dumfriesshire Federation and have been a member from the age of 14. I particularly enjoy cooking, baking and all of the crafting opportunities which have been made available to me as a member of SWI, as well as the competition opportunities and most importantly the friendships with ladies from all over Scotland.
My family run a substantial hill farming enterprise in the Ewes Valley, where I help out as and when I can, especially at busy times of the year. My day job is as a Manager of a GP Practice, which I do on a job-share basis, enabling me to fulfil the role of Lead GP IT Facilitator for NHS D&G which dovetails nicely. These roles have helped me to develop a wide range of people and technological skills which I feel will be useful in my role on the Board.
I am also involved with a number of local Community organisations, most significantly as a Kirk Elder and Superintendent of our healthy Sunday Club, I am very involved with our local Hall Committee and also the Industrial Secretary of our local Agricultural Show which, with over 1200 Industrial entries has one of the largest Industrial Sections in the country. I enjoy giving my time to the Community in these roles.
I am looking forward to the challenge of being a Trustee on the Board of SWI and building on the work that has been done to change and modernise the organisation.
I have been a member of SWI Lamlash Institute for 4 years, on our committee for 3, and am now Vice President.
I enjoy the SWI friendships I have made since coming to Arran and was the convenor of the Arran Federation Annual Show last year. I’m looking forward to meeting more SWI members across the country in my role as a Board Trustee.
I finally retired in December 2018, after a career in the NHS both as an occupational therapist, then clinical services manager, before working for Scottish Government. My main interests are my family, pottery, quilting, crafts and travel.
My home is in Coylton in Ayrshire where I live with my husband John and we have 3 daughters who are all married. I am a currently a member of Stair Institute and formerly of Coylton which sadly closed 3 years ago. My membership of the SWRI/SWI spans 45 years and have served as an Office Bearer at Institute, Federation and National level. I am an enthusiastic and loyal member who has supported the SWI actively by getting involved in many of the activities this organisation offers.
Having served at Federation and then National level as a Central Councilor, Office Bearer and Convener of the Education & International Committee I have gained a greater knowledge of the range and scope of activities the SWI offer to the members. My most memorable time has been serving as National Junior-Vice Chairman/President for the past 3 years, as this post is redundant in the new constitution, I will be the last person to hold this post. As a member of the Board of Trustees I look forward to continuing supporting the Scottish Womens Institutes.
Born in the Borders, in Duns, and brought up in Berwickshire. Educated in Edrom at the village school then on to Duns Primary School before attending the Berwickshire High School.
After studying at Edinburgh University I trained as a teacher and taught geography before spending most of my teaching days working with Primary children.
Being retired has not seen extra free time but a lifestyle that seems more hectic. Retirement does allow time to be with family, go traveling and explore the rest of the world and time to pursue my main hobby the 'SWI'.
I am married to Charlie, a retired headteacher, who describes himself as my 'social secretary'.We have family nearby on Whalsay, in Lerwick, Edinburgh, Switzerland and Qatar.
My mother was a member of Edrom SWRI and when I was a teenager I went with her to institute meetings. On moving to Shetland in 1976 I joined the local Whalsay institute. An excellent way to make friends and become part of an island community.
At present I am president of Whalsay SWI and have been Junior Vice Chairman, Senior Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Shetland Federation.
This has given me the opportunity to enjoy many meetings and events in Shetland over the past four decades. I have had great support from SWI ladies of all ages and have learned much from their lives and experiences.
For three triennium I have been Central Councilor for Shetland serving on H&H, Education & International, Magazine [Vice convenor], Communications and H&H Conference committees. I was also a member of the Marketing committee and saw the organisation taking steps to move forward.
I would like to contribute to the preservation of this historic organisation. This family of ladies deserves to live on and be respected for all of its achievements.
There is nothing better than enjoying fun and friendship and the support of fellow members at meetings, gatherings and events at local, Federation and National level. Laughter is a great tonic and should be heard at all events.
I look forward to my new role on the Board of Trustees as SWI moves on into the future.
Karen's SWI journey began in 2010 and she has held the role of correspondence secretary, is an active current committee member and is really looking forward to working with everyone on the Board.
"The SWI has given me so much and I'm glad I found it. I'd just moved to the area and was looking for ways to get involved in the community and make new friends. I'm hoping the new Board can take a fresh look at the SWI to ensure all members benefit fully and that it continues to evolve for generations to enjoy."
Key interests: "Trying my had a different crafts, singing, curling and gardening".
Married to Stewart for 45 years, one son who is married to Naomi and they have one daughter Hannah, they live in Perth Western Australia and we have visited them a few times over the years.
My first Rural was Mellerstain in 1974, then we moved to Earlston, and I became a member there, carried out various duties within the Institute of which I am still a member. Also became Central Councillor for Berwickshire Federation and had the honour of being Federation Chairman and I am now Federation Treasurer as well as Show Secretary.
Also had the honour of being elected Convenor of the Handcrafts and Housewives (Homeskills) Committee, a role which I enjoyed greatly. It was a very hectic 3 years with lots of things going on, but it was a wonderful opportunity to be involved with this Committee.
Katie joins us from Longniddry SWI, East Lothian. She has a background in management and leadership in regulatory organisations, in particular in membership organisations. She has an excellent knowledge of governance matters and the work of committees and boards. In her spare time, Katie loves cooking, baking, growing veggies and crafting. She also enjoys walks and adventures with her beloved cockapoo Lola.
Simply scroll through to explore our history.
SWI will be known throughout Scotland as an inclusive vibrant, forward-thinking organisation which brings women together to share their heritage, develop skills, find support and form friendships.
SWI will provide opportunities at local and national levels to bring women together where they can learn; share knowledge, experiences and interests; have fun and respect all women as individuals.
Does our ethos inspire you? Can you help us share them? Join us >
Our Strategic Objectives are:
Let’s attract like-minded souls and be known for our strong characteristics.
Do our values inspire you? Can you help us share them? Join us >
Let’s be the best we can be, at all times, and as creatively as we can.
Do our values inspire you? Can you help us share them? Join us >
Let’s showcase the benefits of being Women Together and love what we can offer as a collective.
Do our values inspire you? Can you help us share them? Join us >
The Scottish Women's Institutes will be supporting Mercy Ships UK as our international charity. Mercy Ships operate the world’s largest charity hospital ship delivering free health care to some of the world's poorest people. Further information can be found on their website:
The Centenary Banners are on display in the hallway of 42 Heriot Row where everyone is very welcome to view them. The images of the banners are also replicated onto individual pop up banners for each area which can be borrowed from Headquarters for events.
The idea of banners to celebrate the Centenary was first put to the delegates at the Handcrafts and Housewives Conference in Perth Concert Hall in September 2016 by Christine Hutton, National Chairman 2014-2017.
Delegates were enthusiastic and the idea was then discussed by the Executive Committee in November 2016. It was agreed that all Institutes be asked to submit a three inch square in any craft, if they wished. A four inch square of backing material was supplied to every Institute to allow for seams.
By April 2017, 619 squares had been received at Heriot Row. A team was brought together by Linda Retson to construct the banners. The squares were sewn together, put onto backing material and finished with braid and the 'Rural' tartan. Jessie Meikle, in particular with Jan Bryson, Janet Bryson and Mary Reid spent many hours adding the finishings and tartan.
It is estimated that it took over 821 hours to make the banners with approximately 500 metres of stitching.
Thank you to all the members who contributed their talents in making the squares. The banners have been on display at Headquarters since April 2018.
The SWI have a formal Constitution which all members and prospective members can view here. The Constitution was agreed by Central Council on 25th April 2019.
If you have any queries about the Constitution, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Important Note Regarding Membership Lists or Creation of a Database
There are many excellent reasons why a membership organisation like ours ought to have a comprehensive database of all members – but as many of you will know, we have faced significant resistance to this move in recent years.
However, we are now asking all those who have refused to help us create a database of members by declining to provide their details to consider this:
We ask all those who have declined to become part of a register of members to reconsider their position and to help us to move our organisation to a position where our individual members who give their time voluntarily as Board Members and Trustees are not exposed to such financial risk.
Welcome to the SWI's Press and Media section
For any media or press enquiries relating to the Scottish Women's Institutes, please contact our Headquarters on 0131 285 7114 or email@example.com