Why do we sing Jerusalem?

It is our tradition to start each meeting by singing Jerusalem.

‘Jerusalem’ was composed by Hubert Parry in 1916 as an anthem ‘to brace the spirit of the nation’ in the depths of the First World War. When Millicent Fawcett heard it, she asked Parry if the women’s suffrage movement might use it.  Parry agreed, and ‘Jerusalem’ was first sung by massed women at the Royal Albert Hall at a suffrage rally in 1918.

Grace Hadow, one of the founders of the Women’s Institute; was also a suffragist and a keen musician. After holding a nationwide competition for a WI anthem in the early 1920s, she had the idea of transferring ‘Jerusalem’ from the suffrage movement to that other great women’s movement, the Women’s Institute. So from 1924, ‘Jerusalem’ and the WI have been inextricably linked.

That’s not all the WI inherited from the women’s suffrage movement. Historically they share the same signature colours of green, white and violet, and both were inspired by suffragettes.


And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant Land.