History of Guiding

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ant-002.jpgIn the early years of the 20th century, Robert Baden-Powell, a famous army general, developed a scheme for training boys. He tried out his ideas at a camp on Brownsea Island in 1907 and the following year published them in a book, Scouting for Boys. The book was an instant success and boys throughout the UK enthusiastically took up Scouting. As a result, Baden-Powell soon found himself organizing the Boy Scout Movement.

In 1909, a Boy Scout rally was held at Crystal Palace in London, and Baden-Powell was taken aback when a number of girls attended, proclaiming themselves to be girl Scouts. He decided that if they wanted to join in, they should have their own name and Movement, and a programme suited to their needs. Baden-Powell chose the name Girl Guides after the famous corps of guides in India who were "distinguished for their general handiness and resourcefulness under difficulties, and their keenness and courage…”

The result was The Scheme for Girl Guides which appeared in the November 1909 issue of the Boy Scout Headquarters' Gazette. Baden-Powell felt that the Movement for girls should be run by women, so in 1910 he asked his elder sister Agnes to undertake the work of adapting his book, Scouting for Boys, for use with girls. That year the Guide Movement was formally founded, with the establishment of the Girl Guides Association (United Kingdom).

Even before the foundation of an Association, groups of Guides existed in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and South Africa. By 1912 there were also groups in Ireland, Portugal, Norway and the USA. Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low founded Girl Scouting in the USA in 1912 and her vision of worldwide Girl Guiding/Girl Scouting made a powerful contribution to its development. She assembled 18 girls from Savannah, Georgia, on 12 March 1912, for a local Girl Scout meeting. She believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually.

International dimension

HIST-1963-002BIG.jpgDuring a world tour in 1912 Baden-Powell met Olave Soames, his future wife. After a brief courtship, the couple were engaged and married that same year. Olave accompanied her husband on visits and tours, and soon became actively involved in the Guide and Scout Movements. In 1917, she began to organize The Girl Guide Movement in Sussex, United Kingdom, having been appointed UK Chief Commissioner the previous year. In 1918, her title, UK Chief Commissioner, was changed to UK Chief Guide.

The First World War did not stop the progression of the Movement, and Girl Guides/Girl Scouts offered their services as volunteers in many countries including the United Kingdom, Austria and Poland. New groups emerged in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Luxembourg.

Peace saw more countries introduce Girl Guide and Girl Scout groups, in Brazil, China, Estonia, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Romania and Yugoslavia.

At the 5th International Conference in Hungary in 1928 delegates from 26 countries finally decided that the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts should be established, with a World Bureau in London as its secretariat. (More information on WAGGGS history page)

Egypt and Greece joined the Girl Guide and Girl Scout family in 1929 and 1930 respectively. International relations created by colonial units played an important role in the spread of the Movement. Soon it was known throughout the then British Empire, and French, Belgian and Dutch leaders promoted Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting in Africa, Asia and America.

By 1931, membership was over one million and in 1932 the first World Centre, Our Chalet, was opened. 1957 witnessed the opening of Our Cabaña which was followed by Sangam in 1966. Pax Lodge opened in 1990.

This rapid growth was due to the efforts of many enthusiastic, resourceful and forward-looking women who saw the Movement as a wonderful opportunity for the education of girls. Names such as Juliette Low (founded Girl Scouting in the USA), Olga Malkowska (founded the Movement in Poland) and Antoinette Butte (founded the Movement in France) helped to create the movement we know today.

What is the history of Girl Guiding or Girl Scouting in your country? Email centenary@wagggsworld.org

Links to other sites:

History of Guiding around the world

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