History of Women in Fellowship
What are ‘Wives’? When did it start? These are the questions most frequently asked by people curious about the Fellowship. To answer these questions and to understand the group that we know today as ‘Wives’, you really have to go back to the origins of the Fellowship.
The Wives’ Fellowship was founded in 1916 and involved 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 women and former members of the girls Diocesan Association, met in Salisbury and from these talks The Young Wives’ Fellowship was born.
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 numbers were in decline and the future was seen as a reunification of the two groups. 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, 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. The Founders Meeting, which is celebrated in early summer, and a two day residential conference are organised by executive committee members. Women in Fellowship has always had a twice yearly publication known as 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 Fellowship 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. The principles on which the Fellowship is based - namely the support of Christian marriage and family life still holds good today.