In 1931 a group of women established a branch of the Women's Institute in Coldstream. Women's Institutes began to appear across the country in the 1890's to provide rural women and families with home management and leadership skills, develop friendships, encourage community cohesion, and initiate charitable activities. The inaugural meeting of the Coldstream branch of the Women's Institute was held on February 11th, 1931 at the home of Mrs. E.L. Nicholson. The initial objectives of the group were to build a community hall for Coldstream, and to provide sweaters and sports equipment for Coldstream School students. Initial fundraising efforts included card parties, lectures, dances, and a flower show, providing the school with tennis rackets and nets, plus one dozen wool football sweaters.
Under the leadership of Mrs. E.L. Nicholson, the first president, $100 was raised to purchase a half acre of property, and a bank loan was obtained for the building of the hall. Construction began in November of 1933, with estimated costs of about $800. Measuring 26 x 50 feet, the hall was opened on January 17th, 1935. Seventy people attended the opening ceremonies and dance. The hall quickly became a gathering place for the community, filled with wedding celebrations, baby showers, bazaars, educational and recreational activities for Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, Christmas parties and community teas. Catering services were offered for receptions, banquets, and dances, to fund the operation of the hall, but the use of the hall was free for non-profit groups and community functions.
In the early days the Coldstream Women's Institute hosted sewing classes, dance classes, flower shows, card parties, quilting bees, harvest suppers, and baby clinics. They also wrote and performed many plays, sang at local seniors' homes, provided an annual float for the Winter Carnival parade, and managed the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Coldstream memorial.
During the second world war the Coldstream Women's Institute contributed to the war efforts with shipments of homemade jam, clothing, and wool comforters. Since the war they have assisted many organizations in the community and beyond, sponsoring scholarships for high school and OUC students, donating funds to the Vernon Jubilee Hospital and the Hospital Women's Auxiliary, Transition House, Hospice House, Noric House, Mental Health, Venture Training, the Health Unit, Vancouver Children's Hospital, and Queen Alexandra Hospital, to fill a variety of needs.
Over the years hundreds of women have served as Coldstream Women's Institute members, but numbers have gradually declined, reaching a low of 14 members in October of 2014. Unable to continue with the upkeep of the hall, it was sold to the District of Coldstream in early 2014. Meetings are now held in member's living rooms, but the activities of establishing friendships, providing education to women in the community, and raising funds for charities in the North Okanagan continue on.