The Story of the Women’s Institute in the Second World War

By Julie Summers

Read by Samantha Bond and Fenella Woolgar | Abridged by Neville Teller

Music | Folksongs of the Four Seasons by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Executive Producer | Catriona Oliphant
Producer | Alexa Moore

£15 plus p&p* | Includes £1 donation per CD to the Denman Appeal
2 CDs | Total running time  2 hours 26 mins

NFWI AGM London 1939 – Samantha Bond

Fruit picking under fire – Samantha Bond & Fenella Woolgar

Our thanks to the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, WI members across the UK, and Denman College for their support. It is a privilege to bring the remarkable story of the Women’s Institute to a wider audience and we are delighted to be able to contribute to the future of Denman College in return.

‘Millions of words have been written about the military and social history of both world wars, but Summers carves out a little area of her own by examining the vital work performed by the Women’s Institute who, through its meticulous organisational skills and national network, found its finest hour in the face of conflict.’  (Daily Mail)


A word from the author…

‘I was interested in the story of the ordinary country women who were at the heart of the village Women’s Institutes. What has grown out of my research is a picture of the remarkable role they played in rural Britain during the war. Unpaid, unsung, to a large extent uncomplaining, these women quietly and often with humour made the countryside tick…This book is a tribute to them.’



Samantha Bond (narrator) played Frances Barden, the feisty and fiercely proud WI President, in ITV’s Home Fires. Other roles include: Miss Moneypenny to Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond, Lady Rosamund Painswick in Downton Abbey, and Auntie Angela in the BBC comedy, Outnumbered.


Fenella Woolgar (cast) played Alison Scotlock in ITV’s Home Fires, the book-keeper wrong-footed by a businessman who took advantage of her expertise to cook his books. Other roles include Catiche in the 2016 BBC adaptation of War and Peace and Lady Elizabeth Eastlake in Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner. Recent theatre credits include Margaret Thatcher in Handbagged (Vaudeville Theatre) and Valerie in Welcome Home, Captain Fox! (Donmar).


Our especial thanks to Albion Records for generously allowing us to use excerpts from their beautiful recording of Vaughan Williams’ arrangement of Folk Songs of the Four Seasons.  The work was commissioned by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes for their first Singing Festival in 1950.




  1. London, June 1939
    Jerusalem by Sir Hubert Parry (De Wolfe Ltd)
  2. The first Women’s Institute
    Early in the Spring
  3. Let the sunshine stream in
    God Bless the Master
  4. A great movement is set going
    The Lark in the Morning
  5. The gathering storm
    May Song
  6. The piper’s call
    The Sprig of Thyme
  7. Coupon culture
    The Sheep Shearing
  8. Digging for victory
    The Green Meadow & Early in the Spring


  1. Poultry and pig clubs
    To the Ploughboy
  2. Boil and bubble…
    Summer is a–coming in
  3. Toil and trouble
  4. Knit one, purl one
    The Lark in the Morning
  5. Gaiety, song and dance
    The Green Meadow
  6. Building for the future
    The Sheep Shearing
  7. Epilogue
    Jerusalem by Sir Hubert Parry (De Wolfe Ltd)

2 CDs
Total running time | 2 hours 26 mins

Non-fiction (abridged)
ISBN 978-0-9560740-8-9

*£2.50 to addresses within the UK
Postage and packing charges for overseas shipments available on request

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