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Lord Baden-Powell's Role in The Girl Guide Movement (UK)

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Lord Robert Baden-Powell was born on the 22 February, 1857. He was the son of an Oxford Professor of geometry, was educated at Charterhouse, and saw military service in India, Afghanistan and South Africa. He achieved military distinction for his defence of Mafeking (October 1899 - May 1900) during the Boer War.

B-P, as he is affectionately known, is of course, best-known for founding the Scouting movement and, with his sister Agnes, being the co-founder of Girl Guiding.

During his service in the army, Baden-Powell conceived the idea of setting up an activities organisation for boys.

A Scouting Start

Sir William Alexander Smith, who was the founder of the Boys Brigade, asked Baden-Powell if he would write a book targeting them. So Lord Baden-Powell rewrote his book 'Aids to Scouting' for the youth market. In 1907 he held his first camp for boys at Brownsea Island, where he tested out some of the ideas he had for the book on Scouting. In 1908 he published Scouting for Boys , which led to the start of the Scout movement.

Girls Get in on the Act

Girls had also been reading Scouting for Boys. A lot of them had read copies that belonged to their brothers, and they too wanted to try out these activities that Baden-Powell had written about. The following is a passage taken from the book Scouting for Boys:

There have been women scouts of the nation too, such as Grace Darling, who risked her life to save a shipwrecked crew; Florence Nightingale, who nursed sick soldiers in the Crimean War; Miss Kingsley, the African explorer; Lady Lugard in Africa and Alaska; and many devoted lady missionaries and nurses in all parts of our Empire. These have shown that women and girls as well as men and boys may well learn scouting when they are young and so be able to do useful work in the world as they grow older.

Maybe this paragraph inspired the girls who had formed into self-organised groups. They started calling themselves Girl Scouts, and in 1909, much to the surprise of Baden-Powell, some of them, dressed in variations of the Scout uniform, attended a rally at Crystal Palace. At the rally, the girls asked Baden-Powell if he could design a programme for them too. Since, at that time of day, it wasn't done for young ladies to participate in activities of the sort the boys were taking part in, Baden-Powell asked his sister Agnes to help him adapt his book on scouting so that girls would be able to use it. Agnes did just that and together they wrote the book How Girls Can Help to Build Up the Empire.

Girl Guides are Formed

During 1910, Baden-Powell gave the Girl Scouts the name of Girl Guides. They were named after a famous corps of guides that Baden-Powell had worked with in India. He had learnt that even when these men were 'off-duty' they still trained their minds and bodies. Therefore, he thought it would be an excellent choice of name for these pioneering young women. Quite often, the girls were known as 'Baden-Powell Girl Guides'. The Girl Guide movement grew very quickly and Agnes Baden-Powell was made President of the new organisation.

The Guides practised such things as first aid and signalling. The Guides also went camping although they normally slept in barns, cowsheds or village halls instead of tents. At first, people didn't like the idea of young ladies taking part in 'boyish' activities. Many people complained to Lord Baden-Powell about this. However, many of the skills the Guides had learnt became useful during World War I - the fact they were such a great help during the war helped to dispel a lot of the earlier hostility.

A World Tour, and a Wife

Because people had started travelling abroad, Guiding was taken up in many other countries. Baden-Powell travelled to all kinds of rallies, jamborees and camps all over the world.

During a world tour in 1912, Baden-Powell met Olave Soames. They later married in Dorset. The Scouts of England each donated a penny towards the Baden-Powells' wedding present, which was a Rolls Royce car. Olave became as excited about the Guiding and Scouting movements as her husband, travelling along with him on his journeys across the globe. During 1914, Baden-Powell started up a new Guiding section called the Rosebuds, who are now known as Brownies. This was set up for the younger sisters of the Girl Guides who also wanted to have a piece of the fun. In 1916, Olave Baden-Powell became the first Chief Commissioner of Guiding, going on to become the Chief Guide in 1918.

The First World Camp

By this time, the Baden-Powells had been travelling the world for three years. They arrived back in England to attend the first World Camp that was held at Foxlease, Hampshire (near Lyndhurst in the New Forest) in 1924. This coincided with the third international conference being held at the same place. The problem with this was that many of the delegates preferred to be out camping with the Guides than attending the conference.

Thinking Day Is Born

During the fifth International Conference held in Hungary, attending delegates decided that there should be a special day when Guides and Scouts all around the world would have a celebration and think of each other. This day was to be called Thinking Day and would be held on the 22 February every year - the joint birthday of both Lord and Lady Baden-Powell.

The Birth of WAGGGS

By 1928 it was decided that a more formal arrangement was needed to link all countries where Guiding and Scouting took place. Lord Baden-Powell asked the opinion of delegates from 26 countries what their thoughts were on the matter. Together they agreed on the formation of The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS,)with the World Bureau as its secretariat. It was also agreed that the World Bureau would be based in London, England. They decided that they would finance the bureau from an annual quota of £1 per 1000 Girl Guides/Girl Scouts in each member country. The World Bureau is now called the Olave Centre and is situated in the grounds of Pax Lodge, the newest of the four Guiding World Centres.

Lord Baden-Powell's SOS

As Guiding continued to grow, so did the amount of paperwork to be done to organise things and the number of people to deal with it. It soon became apparent that Guiding headquarters weren't big enough and so in 1929 Baden-Powell launched the SOS Appeal. SOS stood for 'Short of Stuff'. Guides all over the world were asked to give something to the appeal for a new building. Anyone who did give had their name or the name of their Guide company recorded on the Roll of Builders and were sent a postcard. Guiding's new Headquarters was opened on 20 March, 1931 by Queen Mary. Guide Headquarters was at 17-19 Buckingham Palace Road, and is the same building that they still occupy today

The Death of our Founder

Sadly for the Scout and Guide movements, Lord Baden-Powell died in 1941 and was buried in Kenya at Nyeri. His wife Olave Baden-Powell carried on his work until she died in 1977. Guiding is still as big today as it ever was. This is a great credit to Lord Baden-Powell and all the hard work both he and his wife put into it. He would surely be proud to see that Guiding is still going strong today, with more than 600,000 members in the UK alone.

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