WI asked nation not to overwork the Queen 70 years ago – ‘but she didn’t listen’

Tributes on the Platinum Jubilee weekend came from a recreated 1950s street where a Coronation-style party was held.

04 June 2022

A senior member of the Women’s Institute (WI) has paid tribute to the Queen and pointed out that the organisation had called on the nation 70 years ago not to overwork her when she was a young mother.

Sue Fox, chairman of the Durham County Federation of Women’s Institutes, said the Queen had not listened to the plea, despite being a loyal WI member and branch president, and had worked very hard for all these years.

Mrs Fox, a retired journalist, was speaking at Beamish Museum in County Durham, where members in 1950s gear paraded through the site to mark the jubilee.

Platinum Jubilee
The 1950s street at Beamish was ready to celebrate (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Followed by a vintage bus, the WI members carried banners from their local branches and sang Jerusalem and the National Anthem at the end of the route.

In 1952, the WI made a resolution which said: “This meeting, remembering that our young Queen has duties as a wife and mother, urges the nation as a whole not to overwork Her Majesty.”

Mrs Fox said: “The Queen had two very young children in the early 50s and we were worried that she might be doing too much so the WI campaigned for the Queen to have a rest and not to make her work so hard.

Platinum Jubilee
The Queen celebrated 100 years of the Women’s Institute in 2015 (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“And did she listen? Seventy years later, no, the Queen didn’t listen.

“She’s worked so hard all these years and we’ve been so lucky to have the Queen by our side and the Queen as a member.

“Up till this past year, she’s actually been there voted back in as the Sandringham President every year over the last 70 years.

“So it’s been amazing and she’s such a figurehead for us.”

Platinum Jubilee
Beamish was busy with visitors for the Platinum Jubilee (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Beamish, which recreates scenes from Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian life, also has a newly-opened 1950s terraced street.

Staff handed out jam sandwiches to visitors sat at tables laid out in Front Street, under bunting and with 50s music playing on the radio.

The street boasts a traditional chippie and hair salon which featured photos of the young Queen and Prince Philip in the window.

Rosie Nichols, the museum’s keeper of social history, said Coronation parties were meticulously planned in 1953.

She said: “You would have committees formed on individual streets I imagine led by quite formidable ladies who would have had people organised for months.

“Some streets even had like a subscription that you’d have to pay for a few months in advance.

“We’ve got tales of the pubs going quite quiet for a couple of weeks before the Coronation just as people were saving up the money so that they could then put it towards funds for food or the street decorations.

“And also a lot of streets would buy presents for children or for older people as well and present them with gifts on the day.

“Unfortunately in the North East here, all of that gearing up and the decorations and the flowers and the bunting and competitions, so beauty pageants right through to shop decorating competitions culminated in very rough, wet and soggy days.”

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