Everyone knows three things about the Women’s Institute: that they spent the war making jam; the sensational Calendar Girls were WI; and, more recently, that slow-handclapping of Tony Blair. 215,000 women in the UK belong to the WI. Their membership crosses class and has recently begun to recruit huge numbers of young women (eg Shoreditch Sisters). It was founded in 1915, not by worthy ladies in tweeds but by the feistiest women in the country, including suffragettes, academics and social crusaders who discovered the heady power of sisterhood, changing women’s lives and their world in the process. Certainly its members made jam and sang ‘Jerusalem’, but they did, and do, much more besides. This fascinating book reveals for the first time how they are – and always were – a force to be reckoned with.