Our history

Learn about the history of Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting and the World Association

Over more than 100 years, around 250 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts have been changing lives and building a better world through leadership development, community action, service to others, peer education and advocacy.

How did Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting begin?

In 1909, a group of girls appeared at a Boy Scout Rally in the UK declaring themselves to be Girl Scouts. Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts, decided that there should be a Movement for girls.

Guiding was introduced that same year to respond to the specific needs of girls and young women. Groups of Girl Guides soon started in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and South Africa.

A year later, the Girl Guide Association was officially established in the UK under the leadership of Agnes Baden-Powell, Robert’s sister. By 1912 there were also groups in Ireland, Portugal, Norway and Juliette Low founded Girl Scouting in the USA in 1912.

The movement continued to grow over the years, and today there are Girl Guide or Girl Scouts Associations in 150 countries!

How did WAGGGS begin? 1950s_Olave_Girls

The First World Conference held in England, in 1920 was a historic occasion that gave representatives of the Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting world the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and experiences. This contributed to not only a heightened and strengthened international scouting and guiding experience, but it also raised the awareness and profile of the movement.

Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting became known to the International Council and, for the first time, groups began to plan trips abroad, with the First World Camp organized to coincide with the Third International Conference, in 1924, Foxlease, UK, and brought 1,100 girls and young women together from 40 countries. 

As the Movement grew and expanded, country representatives began to feel that it was time to create something more solid and binding and the idea of forming a world association was proposed after the 4th World Conference in 1926.

The founder of the Movement, Lord Robert Baden-Powell, sought the opinions of all known Girl Guide and Girl Scout organizations and asked them to consider the proposition. Delegates from 26 countries met at the Ffith International Conference in Hungary in 1928, and formed the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), with a World Bureau as its secretariat to be located in London, replacing an advisory body, the International Council created in 1919.

It was decided that the newly founded World Association would hold elections to determine a World Committee, of which Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, and the Director of the World Bureau, would be ex-officio members. International Conferences (now known as World Conferences) take place once every three years and to this day remain a platform for policy and decision making for Member Organizations.

The First World Conference was instrumental in shaping the collective experience of Girl Guiding and Scouting Scouting, in bringing a number of countries together to share their vision of the movement, shape the future and direction of the Guiding and Scouting World – a legacy which continues in our global movement today. 

Timeline

1907 – Army general Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founding father of the Scout Movement and first chief scout of the boy scouts association, organized the first scout camp in United Kingdom.

1908 – Baden-Powell published a book based on his scheme and ideas for the training of boys. His book, titled Scouting for Boys inspired thousands of boys around the country to join the Movement

Did you know? Scouting for Boys became one of the bestselling books of the 20th century.

1909 – The first Boy Scout rally, organised by Baden-Powell in Crystal Palace, South London, saw a number of girls attending. They were proclaiming to be Girl Scouts and prompted the founder to include girls and young women into the Movement.

1910 – The Girl Guides movement was formally founded in 1910 by Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes Baden-Powell.

Did you know? Even before the foundation of an association, groups of Guides had already existed in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, and South Africa.

1912 – Juliette ‘Daisy’ Gordon Low founded Girl Guiding in the USA. She assembled 18 girls from Georgia on 12 March 1912, for a local Girl Scout meeting and believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually.

1919 - The International Council was formed, it later became the International Conference.

1926 - World Thinking Day was launched at the Fourth International Conference.

1928 - WAGGGS was formed at the fifth International Conference, Hungary. It is at that conference that International Conference became the World Conference. There were 26 founding members of WAGGGS (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, India, Japan, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and Northern Ireland, USA and Yugoslavia).

1931 – The Movement continued to grow throughout the two World Wars and in 1931, WAGGGS reached one million members.

1932 – The first WAGGGS World Centre, Our Chalet, officially opened in Switzerland.

1932 – The first Juliette Low Seminar was held at Our Chalet.

1940 – The WAGGGS Western Hemisphere Region was formed.

1941 – Lord Robert Baden-Powell died. His wife Olave Baden-Powell continued to lead the Movement as Chief Guide.

1957 – The second WAGGGS World Centre, Our Cabaña in Cuernavaca, Mexico, was opened by Olave Baden-Powell.

1966 – The third World Centre, Sangam, opens in India.

1969 – The WAGGGS Asia Pacific Region was formed.

1971 – The WAGGGS Europe Region was formed.

1975 – The WAGGGS Africa Region was formed.

1977 – Lady Olave Baden-Powell passed away.

1985 – The World Bureau officially opened in London, UK.

1991 – Pax Lodge World Centre opens in London, UK.

1993 – The first Global Action Theme (GAT) curriculum was launched: ‘Create Peace Worldwide.’

1999 – The WAGGGS Arab Region was formed.

1999 – WAGGGS launched its first advocacy campaign, ‘Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy.’

2002 – The second GAT was launched, called ‘Our Rights Our Responsibilities’.

2008 – The third GAT was launched: ‘Together we can change our world; based United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

2008 – The WAGGGS Leadership Development Programme (WLDP) was launched.

2010-2012 – WAGGGS celebrated the centenary of international Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting.

2011 – The WAGGGS Global Advocacy Campaign, ‘Stop the Violence – Speak out for girls’ rights’ was launched.

2015 – WAGGGS become an Incorporated Charity.

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