It is a little-known tidbit of history, the role that British Columbia Women's Institutes played in providing supplies to the UK during the second World War.
Times were desperate, and with a surplus of fruits and vegetables, the local Cedar Women's Institute was faced with the task of figuring out how they, too could help out with the war effort.
So they began to can. By 1946, it was estimated that due to the combined efforts of all 51 women's institutes sending canned products to the Provincial Red Cross warehouse, more than 162 tons of jam alone were sent to Britain from Canada during the war.
To celebrate this heritage, four years ago, The CWI began holding a yearly blackberry tea in honour of all the pounds of blackberry jam crafted by the local group.
This year, the tea is being held on Saturday at the Cedar Hall, and will feature a wide variety of blackberry-inspired potluck dishes.
"We knew about the blackberry jam because in 1994 for the group's 70th anniversary, a longtime member Barbara Wallace. .. wrote a skit about them preserving blackberry jam at Mrs. Martindale's home," said Connie Grinnell, whose membership in the CWI is a tradition that stretches back through to her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
"They were a free fruit, all you had to do was go out there and gather them. The idea of putting on the tea was to give back to the community and celebrate our history."
Next year the Cedar WI celebrates 90 years in the community, and the idea behind the tea is to let people know they are still working and volunteering in the community, as well as seeking new members.
"People hear 'Women's Institute,' and they think it's something out of the past, and it still is an existing, vibrant organization," said Grinnell.
Part of the reason some groups have dwindled over the years is due to the death of the agricultural way of life, said Grinnell, who explained that the birth of Women's Institutes began in in Stoney Creek, Ont. in the the late 1800s.
It started when Adelaide Hoodless convened a meeting of the wives of members of the Farmers' Institute.
The WI movement spread internationally from there, with a general motivation being the promotion of rural, agricultural life and asking women to rally around to support the war effort.
Since then, its aims have morphed, though the promotion of local food growing and skills such as food canning are still a central feature.
Grinnell said she plans to bring a blackberry sorbet to the Cedar WI's blackberry tea, which will be held today from 1-4 p.m. at the Cedar United Church Hall, 1644 Cedar Rd.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children.
For information call 250-753-9131.
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