It has been impossible to ignore the recent 100th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Girl Scouts of the USA by Juliettte Gordon Low in Savannah on March 12, 1912. Today's largest organization in the world for girls - with more than 3 million members across the nation - began as a single troop of 18 girls in beautiful coastal Georgia.
In the land of my birth, we call Girl Scouts "Girl Guides" and its history is a little different from the American version with much closer ties to the Boy Scouts organization. It is widely known that the international scouting movement was founded by Robert Baden-Powell of England in 1907 and today is active in 190 of the world's 195 independent countries. The Boy Scouts of America was founded soon after in the USA by Chicago Publisher William Boyce in 1910.
It is interesting that America has a single national Scouting movement unlike many countries, particularly in Europe, which have several separate and sometimes competing Scout organizations, divided by language or religion, with different uniforms, advancement and hierarchies. In fact Scottish Boy Scouts have the option of wearing kilts (Scottish tartan male skirts) instead of `trousers' (as the British call pants).
Back to the history: in1909, a Boy Scout rally was held in London, England and Baden-Powell was astounded when a number of girls attended proclaiming themselves to be `Girl Scouts'. He decided that if girls wanted to join that they should have their own movement run by women so he asked his sister Agnes to undertake the work of adapting his book `Scouting for Boys' which outlined his vision and plans for the organization. In 1910 the Girl Guides Association (United Kingdom) was founded by his sister and after Baden-Powell's marriage to Olave in 1912 his wife took over much of the leadership becoming `UK Chief Guide' in 1918.
As with so many aspects of our two nations, there is great synergy between our parallel organizations. The British Girl Guide movement was powerfully influenced by Juliette Gordon Low's vision of a worldwide Girl Scouting movement and her ideas and commitment to girls being given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually.
I am a great believer in the guiding/scouting movement and its commitment to serving others. I was a Brownie and then a Girl Guide in the UK - achieving the status of Queen's Guide (the British equivalent to the Girl Scout Gold Award in America). It is interesting that the USA which has such a commitment to equality between girls and boys - indeed the organization was created out of Juliette Gordon Low's desire to give girls the same basic opportunities as boys - should not award Girl Scouts the Eagle status given to male Eagle Scouts. In the United Kingdom high achieving young people in our parallel organizations are called Queen's Guides or Queen's Scouts (in honor of Queen Elizabeth. Before her accession to the throne in 1952, they were called King's Guides or King's Scouts in honor of King George, and will someday go back to this when Prince Charles takes the throne).
There is another shocking difference between the British Girl Guides and American Girl Scouts - in the UK, there are no Girl Scout cookies!
Personally I believe that this entrepreneurial initiative where the profits go to realizing the ambitions of local Girl Scout groups is a tremendous idea which truly represents the best of the American character.
Of course in the UK, when I was a child, we had Boy Scouts asking for `a bob a job' to raise funds for their Scout troop. A bob was five pence (about 8 cents today) and members of the public were asked to pay this amount for odd jobs performed by the Scouts.
This was phased out over 20 years ago but `bob a job?' and `dib, dib, dib, dob, dob, dob' have remained a common part of the distinctive British vocabulary - but you will have to wait for another column for more about that!
God Bless America!
Lesley grew up in London, England and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009 with her American husband, Carl and English dogs - soon to be joined by an American West Highland Terrier! She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.lesleyfrancispr.com