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Kisumu Branch

There do not seem to be any records of the activities of this Branch before November 1939 and the first letter in the file is from the then Hon. Secretary Nance Corteen sending money to HQ subs for that year and money for First Aid Manuals, that were compiled by the Red Cross and bought by many women at the beginning of the Second World war. She also mentioned plans for a big dance at the Kisumu Hotel to "swell the Poppy Funds".


In 1939 there were 34 members and Mrs. Maxwell Jnr. was DVP. The Maxwell family then owned the Kisumu Hotel and were very active in many spheres in Kisumu. Most activities of this Branch during war years went towards funds to buy "Comforts for the Troops "sending cakes, fruits and vegetables to the Field Hospital at Londiani.



Kisumu Harbor 1904

Kisii ladies and Maseno came under Kisumu and they contributed to projects. They collected three sacks of clothing, which were sent to London Relief-bombed victims - and also an appeal for distressed seamen who were prisoners of war. In 1941 Lady Olave Baden-Powell addressed Kisumu Branch as President of EAWL. Early in 1941 Kisii left Kisumu to form their own Branch. Also during this year the then Governor's wife, Lady Moore, made an appeal for "Glory Bags" and Branches collected shaving soap, razorblades, toothpaste, cigarettes, etc. little essential things that the troops could not get when they were at the front.


Mrs. Riddoch was D.V.P. for many years and in 1942 was elected as the Kenya Women's Emergency Organisation representative. The KWEO worked very closely with the EAWL. At that time volunteers were required to meet children who had to travel across the Lake going and coming from School, and also those whose parents lived some miles from Kisumu in those days trains arrived before 6.00a.m!

The other hotel in those days was the "Marina" which was taken over as quarters for RAF and the EAWL helped to entertain them. Also at that time, as very little was imported, the women of Kenya tried their own local industries and organised an exhibition of substitutes for imported goods. This was the forerunner of the Home Industries.


There were cookery classes for African cooks, First Aid classes, instruction in shooting and a course on "running repairs", maintenance of cars –like changing tyres! The efforts of Kisumu Branch brought about the organised Milk Supply that Kisumu enjoys today. Before this the sources and containers of milk delivered were extremely unhygienic.


Under the DVP-ship of Mrs. Frank, sewerage and help for better housing conditions were considered.


In 1945 Kisumu Branch hit the headlines in the EA Standard being top of the list in the "Food for Britain" Appeal and also raised £500 for "Help Holland Fund". They collected 41 sacks of clothing for Polish and Greek refugees who were in camps in Kenya.


Activities during 1947 began with the formation of the Ante-Natal Accommodation Scheme. For 10/- a day members offered hospitality to expectant mothers who lived out of Kisumu for 10 days prior to the birth. This proved very popular and worthwhile.

In 1949 a countrywide appeal was made for the Polio Fund and Kisumu collected £660 through making and selling Rosebuds – Rose Day raised £50 of the total. It is interesting to note that of the total collected in Kenya £17,000, the various EAWL Branches collected £4,000.


At the 1948 AGM only 13 members were present, but in 1950 membership had jumped to approximately 70. At this time an Ayah Agency was started by the Branch in an effort to help with "care of children." A "Helping Hand" group organised among other things Baby Sitters and helped people to find jobs. Discussions over the Milk supply were still raging.


In 1951 the Branch turned its attention to the dirty trains on which children travelled to and from school in Nairobi. Cost of living was considered and suggestions sent to the Vigilance Committee at Headquarters, Nairobi.


In 1952 the first steps in Inter Racial Relationships were taken, meeting with Asian and African women – teachers to be approached with a view to addressing a meeting. This year Kisumu entered for the Home Industries for the first time – held at Nairobi Agricultural Show. A cinema slide was obtained so that what EAWL was and could be advertised more widely.


In 1953 the main activity was accommodating women and children from the disturbed areas. Most of the talks were on firearms care and general security. From the Hospital fund a wheelchair, 18 sets of earphones and 12 feather pillows were donated to the European Hospital, whilst a wireless and loudspeakers and 3 Newspapers a day were presented to the local Civil Hospital.


One of the main activities during 1957 was a strong letter to the Town Clerk about the DUST NUISANCE – roads were not tarmac, various suggestions were made from signs asking drivers to go slowly – to watering the streets or even old oil to be laid on the murram! None of these proved satisfactory until in 1958 contractors laid tarmac on 6.5 miles of roads in the township for the cost of £37,459.


In 1958 the President, Mrs. Claire Wilson visited Kisumu to tell the Branch about WEAL HOUSE, which by now was complete, and the first residents installed. Mrs. Russell, whose husband had been a lawyer in Kisumu, was one of the first from up-country to have a room.


1959 seems to be a year of complaints – colour and quality of flour and sugar, Weevils etc., – speeding in the Town, a letter was written to Traffic Control asking for speed-check notices to be put up. Complaints to the Uplands Bacon Factory; again "foreign bodies" in the locally made bread; and the sharp rise in electricity charges; as well as the old faithful "cost of living".


Further about the smelly drains of Kisumu and mosquitoes. It is recorded that all complaints were dealt with in time to the satisfaction of EAWL!


The Embroidery Panel, as can bee seen above, or go to the gallery, designed by Mrs. Coldham, was begun and finished by Mrs. Cork, in 5 weeks, an amazing effort.


The highlight of this year was the visit of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Members were responsible for preparing a fruit cup for 1500 people for the reception in her honour.


In 1964 at the Nairobi Show, Kisumu Branch won 12 prizes and 4 highly commended but numbers in the Branch were rapidly dwindling and in 1967 it nearly collapsed ,but was reinstated the following year, and was able to donate money to the Nyabondo Rehabilitation Centre for the Handicapped. This interest in the Centre led to a special satisfaction when in the 1979 Home Industries 11 prizewinners were disabled women and girls from Nyabondo, while all the rest, but one, were new members.


In 1976 they gave Shs 1,000/- to the DC for the "Olympic Fund". In 1977 they held a Diamond Jubilee Cake Competition and the following year were entertained by the Nairobi City Players '"Minstrel Show" and collected Shs 15,000/-. Branch notes in 1982 indicated great excitement at collecting Shs 13,000/- at a Bazaar held in the grounds of the British Council, as their average takings on such an occasion was Shs 6,000/-.


Mrs. Jasbir Ruprah was Branch Chairman in 1983, and in 1985 Mrs. Violet Odera gave her own report at the AGM at Headquarters and, as Branch Chairman, told of a huge bazaar, mentioning that Mrs. Oluoch-Okeyo ought to open a toyshop as she had produced so much. Throughout the year they had donated Shs 10,000/- to various charities.


In 1986, in conjunction with Unifeed and the KSPCA, they sponsored the first Dog Show in Western Kenya, netting Shs 13,000/- to be used by their Branch and KSPCA Kisumu, which indicated a rich source of new ideas and ability to carry them out.


And once again, it looked as though a new life had been breathed into a Branch in the 1980's, with a surge in membership and activities.

Dhows in Victoria Lake 1946

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