Girl Guiding, now ten million members strong, celebrates its 100th anniversary in a year of worldwide events that began 4th September 2009. This date is generally acknowledged as being one hundred years since the day girls first publicly expressed their desire to be part of the World Scout Movement.
Lieut-Gen. Baden-Powell (B-P) had used his fame as a hero of the Boer War 1889-1902, to promote his Boy Scout Scheme culminating in the first edition of Scouting for Boys in January 1908. Boys read the work avidly and immediately formed themselves into patrols without any adult intervention. There is much evidence that the sisters of these early Boy Scouts also wanted to take part in Scouting activities. In the May 16th 1908 edition of The Scout magazine B-P wrote that he had several letters from girls asking if they too could take part. He replied that of course girls could get as much fun and as much value out of Scouting as boys could and, referring to a recent Scout Competition on Wimbledon Common, stated that he had seen girls … who had proved themselves to be good Scouts in a very short time. He concluded …as for pluck, women and girls can be just as brave as men, and have over and over again proved it in times of danger.
B-P confirmed that girls could be Scouts, in the July 25th edition of The Scout; …there are already many girl Scouts and successful ones too. Having received this ‘seal of approval’, girls formed themselves into ‘unofficial’ patrols’ and in their own approximation of Scout uniform followed the template for Scouting laid down in Scouting for Boys.
At the Crystal Palace Rally on September 4th 1909 when inspecting his Boy Scouts, B-P noticed a patrol of un-invited Girl Scouts in the crowd. The girls pleaded to be allowed to take part and they were permitted to join in the ‘March Past’. Veteran Girl Scout Sybil Cardine was later to write … from that moment, I knew we were in’.
Unfortunately B-P had not reckoned with the ‘conservatism’ of the middle classes and particularly the ever-strident voice of the Anti-Suffragist movement who were opposed to ‘mixed activities’ for young people. The Founder bowed to the inevitable and asked his sister, Agnes, to write a manual for a ‘girls only’ branch of the Movement, the Girl Guides, which started with the formation of an Executive Committee, led by Agnes from May 1910. B-P’s young wife, Olave, became Chief Commissioner of Girl Guides in October 1916 and Chief Guide from February 1918 until her death in June 1977.
Girl Guiding has grown to be the world’s major youth organisation specifically for girls, and is a completely independent sister movement to Scouting. The fact remains that like their brothers, girls did not wait for adults to tell them what they could do, but in one of the earliest demonstrations of ‘Girl Power’, simply made their own uniforms and joined in ‘the Great Game’.
Title: Centenary of Girl Guiding – Ascension Island
Date of Issue: 10 April 2010
Country: Ascension Island
Denominations: 40p, 50p, 90p & £1.25p