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How Girl Guides began

I wasn't there.  Much of what follows has been copied from other WebSites; Links can be found here.

The Girl Guides followed on from the start of the Boy Scouts, so it is as well to have a look at how the Boy Scouts began

Then came -

The Crystal Palace Rally

. . . it was decided to hold a one-day "Rally" where Boy Scouts could "make a show", and bring themselves into the Public Eye.  The venue chosen was The Crystal Palace, and the date was fixed for Saturday, 4 September 1909 - only 18 months from the publication of "Scouting for Boys".

There was much publicity about a Troop of "Girl Scouts" who supposedly bounced B-P and demanded that girls be allowed to become Scouts. These girls had decided at the last minute to go to the Rally, but they had not booked, had not paid, arrived late and gate-crashed.  In fact there were already 6,000 girls registered with Boy Scout Headquarters, practising their own form of Scouting.  Many of them were at that Rally, having booked, having paid and having arrived in time.  But it was "the naughty ones" that got the publicity, and the kudos for having been the trigger for the start of a Movement for girls.

In that era, it would not have seemed right for Robert, as a man, to get too deeply involved in an organisation for girls, so Robert asked his sister Agnes to help him organize the Girl Guides.

Agnes was 22 months younger than her brother B-P, so at the 1909 Rally she was 51.  B-P had been a soldier serving in different countries, so Agnes was the only woman whom he knew well enough and could trust, who had the right attitude, and was "ready, willing and able" to take on the task (with his help) of creating the Girl Guide Movement almost from scratch.  

Together they published Pamphlet A and Pamphlet B, and this was followed by the "Scheme for Girl Guides" published in the November 1909 edition of the Scout Headquarters Gazette.

Pamphlet A, called "Baden-Powell Girl Guides, a Suggestion for Character Training for Girls", contained information on how to start Girl Guides and a list of the efficiency badges girls could earn, twenty of which would lead to the Silver Fish Award.

These, of course, were based on Scouting ideas, but adapted to suit girls. Agnes said “girls must be partners and comrades, rather than dolls.” Readers were told that a handbook for girls was being prepared but that in the meantime Girl Guide training could be carried out in the same way as in Scouting for Boys (i.e., by games and competitions).

Pamphlet B contained further information on a program for girls. Patrols were to be named for flowers (which annoyed those who were already members of patrols named for animals) and the more than 6,000 girls now registered as “temporary Scouts” would henceforth be called Girl Guides, “people who know the way and could show it to others.”

Scheme for Girl Guides

The November 1909 edition of the Scout Headquarters Gazette contained an article with this title.  In 1910 Agnes and some of her friends formed a committee to organize the Guides, with Agnes as President of the Girl Guides Association. B-P loaned money to rent office space in Scout Headquarters.

Scouting for Boys was adapted for girls in a 475-page book called "How Girls Can Help to Build Up the Empire" which was published in May 1912 by Thomas Nelson and Sons.

In 1915 a charter was granted to the Girl Guides Association.

Apparently Agnes was not a very efficient organizer and for a time it looked as if the new organization would have to be taken over by the Boy Scouts. In 1920 she resigned as President in favour of Princess Mary, daughter of King George V, who was an active supporter of the Girl Guides. Agnes became Vice-President and continued in that position until her death in 1945. While Vice-President, she was always active, travelling in uniform, camping under canvas with the girls and writing articles, particularly for the Girl Guides' Gazette. She deserves credit for facing the prejudice of her time, against women in public life and against the very idea of an organization like Girl Guides. At that time, "young ladies" were not allowed even to run, nor allowed out un-chaperoned, and Agnes was faced with strong opposition - this makes interesting reading.

"How Girls Can Help to Build Up the Empire" was replaced by "Girl Guiding" in 1918

[To be continued]



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