Thursday, June 18, 1998 Published at 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
From jam to spam
Women's Institutes are going on the Net in a bid to cast off their public image of cake-making and coffee mornings.
The National Federation of Women's Institutes unveiled its Internet site on Thursday in an effort to improve the public's knowledge of its activities.
Federation chairman Eileen Meadmore said many of the WI's 260,000 members were interested in new technology and it was "only logical" for the federation to be on the Internet.
"Our main purpose is to let more people know there much more to the WI than meets many eyes," said Mrs Meadmore.
The site includes a letter of welcome from Mrs Meadmore, information about the National Federation's education programmes, its campaigns on social issues and details of its commercial arm, WI Enterprises.
"And we want to tell them about our lifelong learning opportunities for women to develop their skills, talents and sense of citizenship."
The federation's life-long learning programme still includes courses in cookery and crafts, but its courses in home computing and technology are some of the fastest growing.
Support for cannabis
The WI is not the only long-established women's organisation which is challenging the public perceptions of what it does. Its urban cousin, the Townswomen's Guild, has decided to urge the government to legalise the use of cannabis for people suffering from serious and terminal illnesses.
Almost 75% of delegates at the Guild's National Council meeting approved a motion backing the legalisation of cannabis for "specific medical purposes".
One delegate, representing a guild from Torbay, Devon, told the 3,000-strong group of largely elderly Townswomen: "Louis Armstrong smoked it all his life and it didn't impair his performance."