Handbook for Girl Guiding by Agnes and Robert Baden-Powell (1912)

Figure 1.--Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes used "Scouting for Boys" as the basis for "The Handbook for Girl Guides". Notice that the primary title on the cover is How Girls Can Help to Build Up the Empire. This is interesting because Guiding and Scouting are today seen as world-wide movement designed to foster international understanding. This was not how Baden-Powell had initially conceived the movement.

Robert Baden-Powell after finding that girls were also intetested in Scouting asked his sister Agnes to work up a Guides program for girls. She adapted his book Scouting for Boys into The Handbook for Girl Guides. The rest of the title How Girls Can Help Build Up the Empire reflected both Baden-Powell's original comcept for Scouting and the need to overcome iniitial public resistance to a Scout-like program for girls. The book was published in 1912 and despite the title became the basis for Girl Duide and Scout programs around the world.

Scouting for Boys

General Robert Baden-Powell decided to write down the ideas about Scouting that he had been collecting all his life. As a boy it was the outdoor life that appealed to him. As a soldir it eas the tracking and camping skills. Only later did the idea of a program for boys emerge. Perhaps no other book for, or about, youth organizations has had a greater impact than Baden-Powell's "Scouting for Boys". He borrowed heavily from other pioneers of youth organizaions, especially American naturalist Earnest Thompson Seaton. The style of English is wonderful and it has the most intriguing sections that Scoutmasters and Scouts would balk at today.

Boy Scouting

Baden Powell at first working with the Boys' Brigade began experimenting with Boy Sciouting in 1907. The organization was was founded in England during 1908. The first major rally was held at the Crystal Palace in London (1909). More than 11,000 boys participated, quite an impressive number for the young organization.

Interested Girls

Scouting was seen as an activity for boys. All of the major activities of early Scouting were active outdoor persuits which at the time the public and Baden-Powell associated with boys. To the surprise of thise associated with the Scouts, a small group of girls turned up for the Crystal Pallace Rally. This astonished many observers. Proper Ebnglisg girls at the time were expected to be prim and ladylike. Activities associated with girls wete sewing, needlework, music, abnd drawing--all home-based activities. Girls were not expected to go trapsing around in the country engaging in rough, physically demanding activities like the boys. Unlike the boys, the girls got little support, even from their parents in most cases. Some were shocked at the girls appearance in particular, dressed us in Scout-like outfits.

Guiding Conceived (1909)

The girls met with Baden-Powell. What they wanted was to join the boys in Scouting. Baden-Powell listen to the girls, but was adamently opposed to permitting them to join the Scouts. He did, however, offer to assist them. He did not want them to use the Scout name. (This is just what the girls in America would do.) Rather a new term was chosen--the Girl Guides. There were some differences in ethos. Guides had patrols like Scouts, but the patrol names would be flowers or birds, not animals like wolves or other preadators. Baden-Powell convinced gis sister Agnes to take on the task of organizing the Guides. She became the first President of the Girl Guides. The two produced "Pamphlet A" and "Pamphlet B" which were early outlines of the Girl Guide program.

The Authors

Robert Baden-Powell's primary contribytion was writing Scouting for Boys It was his sister Agnes that did most of the work in adapting Scoting fir Boys into the Guide program.

Robert Baden-Powell

It can be argued that Robert Stephenson Smyth Powell was less than a perfect man. He is today, however, one of the most widely respected man of the 20th century. Because of his love for his nation and a deep desire to train her future leaders, Baden-Powell organized the largest and most positive organizations for building good citizens that the world has ever seen. Few lives in Europe and America have not been touched by his Scouts and the movement is now active in all, but a handful of countries around the world. A Scout's honor continues to be the standard by which men are judged.

Agnes Baden Powell

The Reverend B. Baden-Powell had ten children. Agnes and her younger brother Robert were two of them. Their father was a professor of Geometry at Oxford University . Their mother was a talented women in her own right. She had both musical and artistic talents as well as being capable in math and science. Reverend Baden-Powell died when she was only 36 leaving her to raise the ten children by herself. When her brother approached her with the idea, she readily agreed to take on the Guides project. It is difficult to conceive of a more fortuitous choice. She was a gracious lady and helped to give an image to the new organization that overcome the fear of parents that the Guides would turn their girls into rough tomboys. Agnes Baden-Powell was an extremely well rounded person. She had persued many of the activitie more intune with those expected of women at the time. She like her mother had persued musical and artistic persuits. She also was adept at handicrafts including activities as far afield as metalwork and lace making. In addition she had a passionate interest in natural history. For the Guides she insisted on an 'open air' movement. In addition to her interest in natyral history, Agnes Baden-Powell was knowledgeable about astronomy. She also had athletic skills including bicycling, swiming, and skateing. She also was a competent nurse with a knowledge of first aid. And she also was an excellent cook. At home she kept bees as well as a colony of butterflies anf ungaged birds. She began working with the Guides in 1909 and became the first president. She and her brother published The Handbook for Girl Guides in 1912. The Guides received a Government charter in 1915. Here the emergency of World war I was a factor in overcoming lingering resistance to the movement. Like her brother she was active in spreading the Guide movement to other countries. She contributed many articlkes to the Girl Guide Gazette. She resigned as presidency in 1917 in favour of Her Royal Highness, Princess Mary who had become a important supporter of the Gide movement, an indication of how effectively public attitudes had changeds. She continuedcworking as Vice-President until her death in June 1945. She was 86 years old.

The Handbook for Girl Guides (1912)

The Handbook for Girl Guides is essentially an adaptation of Baden-Powell Scouting for Boys for the Guide program. It incorporated the ideas in "Pamphlet A" and "Pamphlet B" published earlier. The book served as a basis for the Guide program not only in England, but in many other countries where the oroigram was founded. The title of the book is telling. Notice that the primary title on the cover is How Girls Can Help to Build Up the Empire. This is interesting because Guiding and Scouting are today seen as world-wide movement designed to foster international understanding. This was not how Baden-Powell had initially conceived the movement. His original concept before World war I was a more nationalistic movement. It was noi accidebnt that the Scout uniform as well as the Guide uniform had a destinctly military look. Here the Guides facing more public resistance than the Scouts were making the point that the mocement would help strengthen Britain and the Empire. Of course for use outside the Dominions, the title of the book had to be changed.

Olave St. Clair Soames

Baden-Powell married Olave St. Clair Soames (1912). She became active in the Guide movemebnt. She was was the first and only World Chief Guide. She actively worked for the Guide movement as well as assisting her husband in his work with Scouting. While separate organizations, the Scouts and Guides often worked cloesly together in Britain in contrast to the Girl Scouts in America which operated at much greater distance from the Boy Scouts.


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Created: 12:25 AM 12/31/2004
Last updated: 12:25 AM 12/31/2004