Girl Guides

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A Girl Guide troop in the United Kingdom, 1918
Singing Girl Guides in Germany, 2007
Princess Mary and Girl Guides, 1922

Girl Guides or Girl Scouts is a movement in Scouting originally and still largely, for girls. It evolved in the Scouting movement in the early years of the 20th century.[1] Girls were attracted to Scouting from its inception in 1907. In different places around the world, the movement developed in diverse ways. In some places, girls attempted to join Scouting organisations and it was decided that single-gender organisations were a better solution.[2] In other places, girls groups were started, some of them later to open up to boys or merge with boys' organisations. In other instances, mixed groups were formed, sometimes to later split. In the same way, the name Girl Guide or Girl Scout has been used by groups at different times and in different places, with some groups changing from one to another.

In 1909 Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, decided that girls should not be in the same organisation as the boys, and the Girl Guides were founded in the UK in 1910.[3] Many, though by no means all, Girl Guide and Girl Scout groups across the globe trace their roots to this point. Agnes Baden-Powell was in charge of Girl Guiding in UK in its early years.[4] Other influential people were Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA, Olga Drahonowska-Małkowska in Poland and Antoinette Butte in France.[5]

The name Guide was taken from a famous frontier regiment in the British Indian army, the Corps of Guides, which was noted for its skills in tracking and survival.[6]

There has been much discussion about how similar Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting should be to boys' Scouting programs. While many girls saw what the boys were doing and wanted to do it too, girls' organizations have sought to avoid simply copying or mimicking the boys. Julie Bentley, appointed chief executive of the United Kingdom Girl Guides in 2012 and head of the Family Planning Association since 2007, described the Girl Guides in an interview with The Times as "the ultimate feminist organisation." [7]

Even when most Scout organisations became coeducational, Guiding remained separate in most countries to provide a female-centred programme. Internationally it is governed by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) with member organisations in 145 countries.[8] WAGGGS celebrated the centenary of the international Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting Movement over three years, from 2010 to 2012.


Robert Baden-Powell was a famous soldier who fought in the Second Anglo-Boer War in South Africa (1899 - 1902). During the Siege of Mafeking, when the town and British soldiers were besieged by Boer soldiers, Baden-Powell noticed how the young boys made themselves useful by carrying messages for the soldiers. When he came home, he decided to put some of his Scouting ideas into practice to see if they would be any good for young boys and took 21 boys camping on Brownsea Island, near Poole in Dorset. The camp was a success, and Baden-Powell wrote his book Scouting for Boys, covering tracking, signaling, cooking etc. Soon boys began to organize themselves into Patrols and Troops and called themselves "Boy Scouts". Girls bought the book as well and formed themselves into Patrols of Girl Scouts.

In 1909 there was a Boy Scout Rally at Crystal Palace in London. Among all the thousands of Boy Scouts there was also a group of girls from Pinkneys Green, in Berkshire, who spoke to Baden-Powell and asked him to let girls be Scouts. Baden-Powell decided to take action.

Eerste Nederlandsche Meisjes Gezellen Vereeniging (First Dutch Girls Companions Society), 1911, first Dutch Girl Guides

In those days, for girls to camp and hike was not common, as this extract from the Scout newspaper shows: "If a girl is not allowed to run, or even hurry, to swim, ride a bike, or raise her arms above her head, how can she become a Scout?"[9]

Baden-Powell's career had been in the British Army. There was an Indian regiment called the Khyber Guides who served on the north-west frontier of India. Baden-Powell persuaded the girl "Scouts" that Guides was a very special name of which they could be proud. So, in 1910 the first Girl Guides began.

Since 1910 Guides have spread and there are now millions of Guides worldwide. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) was formed to link together Guides. In some countries the girls preferred to call themselves ‘Girl Scouts’.

(Reference: 'The Guide Handbook', London: The Guide Association, 1996)

The first Guide Company was 1st Pinkneys Green Guides (Miss Baden Powell's Own), who still exist in Pinkneys Green, Maidenhead in the English county of Berkshire.[10]

Key points[edit]

Things that are shared amongst all Guide Units are:[11]

  • The Guide Promise - Girls become Guides by making their Promise. Each country has its own Promise but historically all have the same 3 parts: duty to God or to your religion; duty to your country; keeping the Guide Law.
  • The Good Turn - each Guide tries to do a kind thing for someone else, without payment and without being asked, every day.
  • The World Badge - this can be worn on uniform or ordinary clothes. The three leaves of the trefoil stand for the threefold Promise. The vein in the centre is a compass needle, pointing the way and the two stars stand for the Promise and the Law. The colours stand for the golden sun shining over all the children of the world, from a blue sky. This badge is a guiding symbol that can be recognized all over the world.
  • The World Flag - this is in the same colours as the World Badge and can be carried or flown by any member of the movement. It is often used as the Unit Flag. The three yellow blocks represent the threefold Promise and the white corner represents the commitment to peace of all WAGGGs' members.
  • The Guide Sign - the three fingers stand for the three parts of the Promise. The Guide sign is used when making or renewing the Promise and can be used when meeting other Guides. It may also be used when receiving a badge or at the end of meetings.
  • The Motto - Be Prepared - This means that Guides are ready to cope with anything that might come their way.
  • The left handshake - this is the way members of the Movement greet each other. The left hand is the one nearest the heart and so shows friendship. Also, warriors held their shield in their left hand, so by putting down your shield, it meant that you were vulnerable, making it a display of both bravery and trust.
  • Thinking Day - on the 22 February each year Guides think of their Guide sisters all around the world. The date was chosen at a World Conference because it was the birthday of both the Founder and the World Chief Guide.
  • The World Centres - there are 4 Guide homes in different parts of the world: Our Chalet in Switzerland; Pax Lodge in London; Our Cabana in Mexico; and Sangam in India.
  • The World Chief Guide - Olave, Lady Baden-Powell is the only person ever to have been World Chief Guide. She was the wife of the Founder, Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell and lived from 1889 to 1977.

Two central themes have been present from the earliest days of the movement: domestic skills and "a kind of practical feminism which embodies physical fitness, survival skills, camping, citizenship training, and career preparation".[12] These two themes have been emphasised differently at different times and by different groups, but have remained central to Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting.

Guide International Service[edit]

The Guide International Service (G.I.S) was an organisation set up by the Girl Guides Association in Britain in 1942 with the aim of sending to Europe after World War II teams of adult Girl Guides to do relief work.[13][14] It is described in two books: All Things Uncertain by Phyllis Stewart Brown and Guides can do Anything by Nancy Eastick. In total 198 Guiders and 60 Scouters served in teams, drawn from Britain, Australia, Canada, Eire and Kenya.[15][16] Some went to relieve the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp.[15] Teams also served in Malaya.


Individual national or other emblems may be found on the individual country's Scouting article.

Uniform is a specific characteristic of Scouting. Robert Baden-Powell said it "hides all differences of social standing in a country and makes for equality; but, more important still, it covers differences of country and race and creed, and makes all feel that they are members with one another of the one great brotherhood".[17]

In the 1909 The Scheme for Girl Guides, the uniform for the newly emerging movement was given as:

Jersey of company colour. Neckerchief of company colour. Skirt, knickers, stockings, dark blue. Cap - red biretta, or in summer, large straw hat. Haversack, cooking billy, lanyard and knife, walking stick or light staff. Cape, hooked up on the back. Shoulder knot, of the 'Group' colour on the left shoulder. Badges, much the same as the Boy Scouts. Officers wear ordinary country walking-dress, with biretta of dark blue, white shoulder knot, walking stick, and whistle on lanyard.[18]

Guide uniform varies within cultures, climates and the activities undertaken. They are often adorned with badges indicating a Guide's achievements and responsibilities. In some places, uniforms are manufactured and distributed by approved companies and the local Guiding organization. In other places, members make uniforms themselves.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History". BBC News. 2005-02-21. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Our History". WAGGGS. 2004. Archived from the original on 2007-06-08. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Girl Guiding and Ultimate Feminism". Mookychick. 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  8. ^ World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. "Membership". Retrieved 8 February 2013. 
  9. ^ Scout Headquarters Gazette 1909
  10. ^ 1st Pinkneys Green Guides
  11. ^ The Guide Handbook, London: The Guide Association, 1996.
  12. ^ Aickin Rothschild, Mary (Autumn 1981). "To Scout or to Guide? The Girl Scout-Boy Scout Controversy, 1912-1941". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies (University of Nebraska Press) 6 (3): 115–121. doi:10.2307/3346224. ISSN 0160-9009. JSTOR 3346224. 
  13. ^,2831161 The Glasgow Herald - Oct 25, 1943 Helping Victims in Occupied Lands. Girl Guides' Service
  14. ^ Guiding hand took on world Nancy Eastick, 1920-2011 The Sydney Morning Herald April 2nd, 2011
  15. ^ a b Hampton, Janie (2010). How the Girl Guides Won the War. HarperPress. 
  16. ^ Liddell, Alix (1976). Story of the Girl Guides 1938-1975. London: Girl Guides Association. 
  17. ^ Wade, E.K. (1957). "27 Years With Baden-Powell" (PDF). Why the Uniform?, ch 12. Pinetree.web. Retrieved 2006-07-24. 
  18. ^ Kerr, Rose (1976). Story of the Girl Guides 1908-1938. London: Girl Guides Association. 

External links[edit]