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Girl Guides


Like many women's organizations, the Girl Guides resulted from a demand for a female version of a men's organizations, in this case the Boy Scout organization begun in England by Robert Baden-Powell. In 1909, a group of girls went to Boy Scout rally held at the Crystal Palace in London and asked that they be recognized as their legitimate scouting organization. So began the Girl Guide movement, which quickly spread across Europe and North America.

Alix Girl Guide Camp, 1937The Girl Guide movement arrived in the early 20th century in central Alberta. Recent English immigrant wives of farmers and ranchers were the first to organize groups. Barbara Villy Cormack, an early girl guides leader in Alix, states that, "British wives with husbands away overseas were attracted to the movement by a mixture of patriotism and possibly personal loneliness. Many had been Guiders back home in the old country, and others heard of it through friends and family still living in Britain." Girl Guide troops in Central Alberta were locally run, often sponsored by churches or the International Order of the Daughters of the Empire. Leaders volunteered and parents had to pay a starting fee, for uniforms and for all special excursions such as camps. By 1917, troops had to officially register with the Canadian Council of Girl Guides Association and were given reference books, such as Baden-Powell's Guiding for Girls. Also, the younger branches - Sparks (5-7 years old) and Brownies (7-9 years old) were eventually opened.'Parlby and her pack of Girl Guides, 1963

When becoming a Girl Guide all girls had to take an oath: "I promise on my honour to do my duty to God, the Queen, and my country, to help others at all times and to obey the Guide Law." The Guide Law was divided into 10 parts, including being trustworthy, loyal, useful, helpful and courteous to all. Every guide was to be treated as a sister, and girls were to be always obedient and respectful to their leaders and all figures of authority. Girls also were to learn to respect and appreciate nature, and to do so they were taken periodically on camping trips. These trips were meant to be the highlight of the troops' year, where real bonding took place and guides learned valuable survival and endurance skills. Guides were expected to learn other skills for which they could earn badges. For many years these were often domestic skills, such as sewing, cooking and cleaning. However, over the years, the skills guides are encouraged to learn have broadened; for example, now girls can earn badges for science and engineering projects.

Although Guiding has changed significantly over the years by breaking away from traditional gender norms, its basic tenants have remained the same. The main purpose is still to bring women and girls together in a safe and fun environment and the main qualities of honesty and honour are still emphasized. Many find the opportunity to spend time with fellow girls and women uplifting, as one members states:

"I love going on this camp. It gives me a chance to be with the girls and other women. We have a good time. We laugh a lot. We sing. We drink in the view and we relax. As long as I am able to climb on a horse I am sure that I will go out camping with Girl Guides."

  • "Guiding in Central Alberta" by Janet Walter, Central Alberta Historical Society



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