Margaret Beals of Pinware started the Women's Institute in the Labrador Straits in 1973. She was one of our first district representatives. After Margaret, Aunt Stella Fowler proudly took the reigns as district representative for our seven branches and 150 members. Six of the seven branches still exist after 30 years - Red Bay, Pinware, West St. Modeste, Capstan Island (Aunt Stella's branch), Lanse au Loup and Forteau.
In the early years the branches were involved in a lot of craft making: knitting, sewing, duffel making, embroidery, sealskin boot making and working with cotton duck, which was used to make outer-wear for men during the wintertime. Aunt Stella played a large role in preserving these traditions. She also went into the schools and taught her skills to some of the students. Aunt Stella was best known for her hooked mats; she did super work. Many of her mats are hanging on the walls of homes around the world.
Aunt Stella taught us well to "waste not, want not," - nothing could be thrown out. Recycling was always a part of her household; things had a second and third purpose in life.
Aunt Stella attended the Montreal Olympics in 1976 to demonstrate her rug hooking, and in 1983 she attended the Associated Country Women of the World International Convention in Vancouver. She attended every convention of the Newfoundland and Labrador Women's Institutes since 1973, except for the last one in Gander; she had plans to attend something for the church.
In recognition of her dedication and hard work over the years Aunt Stella was made an Honorary Life Member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Women's Institutes in 1987. Her feelings about the Women's Institute can best be summed up in her own words: "we have so much to offer," which I am sure was her philosophy of life.
Aunt Stella was always a member of our museum committee. She will be remembered for her eager enthusiasm, her enjoyment of life and all the things she set out to do. She summed it all up in this poem:
"Some Things Will Never be Forgotten"
I have a task to do
As you may understand
To write about the W.I.
Of Labrador and Newfoundland.
It was the year of '73
When it came to my mind
To be a district rep
Because they were hard to find
I didn't have much education
But when it came to me
Rather than let it go
I'd try my best to be
I'm sure glad I did
We have so much to share
And that's why the Women's Institute
Will always be around here
It's such an organization
And I am really sure
That the Women's Institute
Will be here forevermore
Now take my advice
Be captain of the ship
And work harder than ever
To get your life membership
Now I must conclude and finish
I won't say anymore
Because there will be much better
Poems from Newfoundland and Labrador
Written by Stella Fowler, 1993
On Monday, April 28, 2003, the Labrador South District lost one of its most loyal supporters. We will always remember her.
Grace Normore, District Representative, Labrador South
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