Our History

Our name has changed slightly over the years, but Girlguiding has been around since 1910—ever since the founder of the Scout Movement was inundated with requests for a girls equivalent.

In 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; boys throughout the country enthusiastically took up ‘scouting’ and the Boy Scout Movement was formed. When the Scouts’ first rally took place, at the Crystal Palace in 1909, Baden-Powell was faced with a small group of girls, representing hundreds of others, who insisted they wanted to be Scouts, too.

In an age when skirts were ankle length and young ladies never ran, the idea of girls being involved in camping, hiking and similar activities received a mixed response. Angry critics denounced ‘girl scouting’ as a ‘mischievous new development’, a ‘foolish and pernicious movement’, an ‘idiotic sport’.

However, the girls won. In 1910, Baden-Powell formed the Girl Guides and asked his sister Agnes to look after the new organisation. A few years later his wife Olave became involved and, in 1918, was appointed Chief Guide.

Such was the enthusiasm for Guiding that it soon spread worldwide and since those early days countless millions have made the Guide Promise.

There are 10 million girls and women in Guiding worldwide today.

The pioneers who turned up at the 1909 Crystal Palace rally called themselves Girl Scouts, but when he founded the girls’ movement, Baden-Powell decided they should have their own independent identity.

He had to think of a name, and soon he remembered that he had been particularly impressed with some ‘Guides’ in India. These men had operated on the North West Frontier and their main task was to go on very dangerous expeditions. Even when they were off duty the Guides were still training their minds and bodies. With this in mind, Baden-Powell decided that ‘Girl Guides’ would be a good name for these pioneering young women.

A Scheme for Girl Guides was published in the Scout Headquarters Gazette and together with his sister Agnes, Baden-Powell wrote the first Guide Handbook called How Girls Can Help to Build Up the Empire.

From the outset Guiding in the United Kingdom has been single-sex, in the belief that an all-female association offers girls and young women the best opportunities for personal and social development.

In general, girls mature more quickly than boys, but their self-confidence grows more slowly. Similarly, girls tend to have less self-esteem than boys and are more likely to undervalue themselves.

A mixed group, where boys are dominant because they appear to be more self-assured, only serves to highlight the differences. A single-sex group, however, gives girls and young women the opportunity to:

  • decide what to do
  • work together in teams
  • cooperate and negotiate on an equal basis
  • assert themselves
  • see other women taking the lead in positions of responsibility
  • make decisions
  • develop a sense of identity and self-worth
Girls take what they do in guiding with them as they grow up. Everything from working in a team, to taking the lead, to speaking out on issues they care about. It helps them develop the skills and confidence to become the young women they want to be. ’