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Tuesday, 08 September 2009

We are 100! (continued)

Hi everyone,

Thank you to Diema, Ana Paula and Cristina for your guesses. The World Service actually started teaching English back in 1943 - so Cristina's guess was the closest - well done!

Ana Paula and Cristina both guessed that Rangers are 100 years old and you were almost right - but Diema was spot on with "Girl Guides". Actually, the first Guide Company was founded in 1910, but the idea of Girl Guides was born on 4th September 1909. This is the story of how it all began.

Back in 1907, Robert Baden-Powell, a Lieutenant-General in the British Army, held a small camp for boys to teach them activities around camping, observation, woodcraft, chivalry and lifesaving. In 1908, the Scout movement officially started and quickly grew. By 1909, so many boys had joined up that on 4 September, Baden-Powell held a rally at Crystal Palace in London. 11,000 boys were there, but in amongst the boys there were a handful of girls. One of those girls was Sybil Cannadine, in an interview* she explained that in the summer of 1909 they saw the boys going off every Saturday afternoon and having fun. She says "The whole of the summer of 1909 we followed the boys...we did all the things that we were told to do in the books: tracking, stalking, bandaging, knotting, law, promise and the flag." But girls were not supposed to do those sort of things - in 1909 they had to wear long skirts and weren't allowed to run or to raise their arms above their heads. That didn't stop Sybil and her friends though. They heard about the Crystal Palace rally and decided they would go. They marched straight through the turnstiles and no-one stopped them. However, Baden-Powell spotted them, went up to them and said "And what the dickens do you think you are doing here?!" One of the girls replied "We want to be girl Scouts." B-P told them that Scouting was only for boys, but the girls clustered round him and begged for "..something for the girls." And so the Girl Guides began. When it officially started in 1910, 6,000 girls signed up.

This is a picture of Guides at camp in 1910 - can you imagine pitching tents, cooking on a fire and running around dressed like that? Things have certainly changed and although we do still cook on wood fires, we no longer have to dig our own toilets!

Back in 1909, many people were shocked by the idea of girls doing all those things, they said it was an "idiotic sport". But, in spite of the critics, the Girl Guide movement continued to grow. Today there are 10 million girls and women involved in guiding in 145 countries around the world: perhaps you are one of them, or know someone (other than me!) who is a involved? Half of all women in the UK today have been in guiding at some stage during their lives!

Last Saturday there was a huge party at Crystal Palace for more than 6,000 girls and leaders (and other parties all around the UK). The girls in 1909 had fun stalking, bandaging and knotting: on Saturday, the girls had fun climbing, learning circus skills, drumming, dancing and learning yoga. They also enjoyed a concert and firework display.

As a permanent reminder of the centenary of Guiding, the famous Crystal Palace maze has been redesigned. The maze was originally created in about 1870 - it was known as a "tea maze" because people liked to stroll through the maze after having afternoon tea! Sadly, in the last few years, it has fallen in to disrepair, so it was fantastic to see it redesigned and full of children last Saturday. It took me about 20 minutes to find the middle: when you get to the centre, this is what you find:

The trefoil in the middle is the symbol of Guiding and represents the three parts of the Guide promise (duty to God or to your religion; duty to your country; keeping the Guide Law). The stalk signifies the love of mankind. Around the outside are the words: "Pause here for a while, listen for the echoes, past, present, future, follow in their footsteps." I wonder whether Sybil and her friends realised what they had started when they asked for "Something for the girls"?

Take care


spot on: absolutely correct
a handful: a few (not literally 5!)
what the dickens: a very old-fashioned exclamation of surprise meaning "What on earth..."

*(which I saw the other day on BBC4, but that was recorded back in 1971)


Hi Carrie, I quite enjoyed the reading of your blog. Good for Sybil!!! Good for the first Guide Girls!!! I always admire those women who had the strenght to go against the current. I mean to do something totally different from the way they were expected in that time. Congratulations for being a part of that Carrie. Here in Argentina we have Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. But I don't really know when they started accepting "girls". Have a good day. Cris

Hi Carrie, Sybil made a good job. But nowadays activities or groups only for boy or girls seem me oldfashioned. Under my point of view the better asimilation is to belong to the same group, without any kind of sex distinction. What do you think?

Hi Carrie, Sybil has done a great job and scout fans will appreciate this effort forever. Scout is wonderful sport and this will buildup creativity , personality and corporation among the people which are helpful for the day to day life. Many thanks to Sybil.

Nice story, unfortunately there is a fair bit of myth in it, and quite a bit of documentary evidence available to discredit it. There were Girl Scouts registered at Scout HQ and openly welcomed in the Scout magazine in January 1909 if not before, for instance. But the society was such that the girls had to be brave to become Girl Scouts - it was a club for rebel girls! In terms of whether to have mixed groups nowadays or not, so many of the girls are in mixed schools and attending mixed activities most of the time, that they enjoy a chance to take the lead. After all, if the girls wanted mixed groups, they'd join organisations that offered this - yet Guiding is still as popular as ever . . .

Thanks for all your contributions. This blog has now closed and can no longer accept new comments.

September 2009

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