The girls decided they wanted to do something for International Women’s Day, and I guess because of the library have been thinking more about inspiring women of late. So they suggested that we all come to the meeting (myself as well) with a woman that inspired us. We each chose a decade/era so that no one would have the same woman or group of women, and we came prepared to share about our women. I think the idea was to dress up as well, but none of us ended up doing that!
They also decided to use their research to create a timeline of women’s history. It was by no means all inclusive – there’s just so much we could add. All our chosen women were of course main features, and from some of the books which they had requested and arrived in time for that meeting like Rad Women Worldwide had female historical figures they decided to add.
We got distracted by putting our library together the night they planned to do this, so it was only last week that it finally got finished. I left them to it, chatting to girls about their Look Wider books, and lending out my laptop to some of the girls who were taking turns to use it to write blog reviews on books and films they read/watched over the Easter holidays.
Sometimes I worry with activities like this that it might be too much like schoolwork. But as it came from them, I didn’t get concerned about it. And actually it’s inspired me more to get back involved with sharing women’s history and making it better known. The simple fact is we don’t get these history lessons in school. They also seemed to be invested in the project, and satisified with the end result.
Last weekend I got an e-mail from one of the leaders who does Guides in the same location as our Ranger/Senior Section unit to say that the church had discovered woodworm in the Guides cupboard, and could we please clear it out. One cupboard we didn’t even realise belonged to us. There was no Ranger meeting that week, so I went down to meet her and one of the church elders to see what the deal was with no idea that we were about to discover a lot of junk plus a lot of archive treasures!
Most of what we found was Brownie stuff, and it just happened that day I was wearing my ‘I was a Brownie’ t-shirt. I was squealing with excitement to find the two Brownie handbooks I’d been given when I joined Brownies to help me learn the Brownie story, promise, law and motto. I came into Brownies just as the new “Jeff Banks” uniform was introduced so I was sad I wouldn’t get to wear the brown dress I’d seen all the Brownies I looked up to wear, but this jumper that one of the other Guide leaders found after we managed to break open a Patrol box no one has a key for…
We also found wooden boxes with lamps and morse code for Guides to practise signalling. Even an old telephone for when Brownies would practise how to make emergency calls. There were Brownie cut out dolls, old First Aid manuals, books with flags and pictures of Girlguiding uniforms from all over the world. We even found the very first Look Wider folder from the 90s! It was wonderful to find a scrapbook from one of the Brownie Packs logging their adventures from 1992-95 that actually featured one of our Guide leaders, and we had a giggle at seeing pictures of her on a Pack holiday. We found old annual reports and county registers – one reporting a girl I knew from high school gaining her Baden-Powell Award.
The most special thing we found was a certificate from The Guide Association, signed by Olave Baden-Powell from when a third Brownie Pack was opened at the hall in 1974. I’m guessing they don’t give certificates for the opening of new units any more, as we didn’t get one when we opened the Ranger unit in 2012.
It seems such a shame that these things, which gave us so much excitement, and I’m sure would be fascinating to others who were part of Guiding when they were little too, just collect dust in cupboards. So we’re now thinking of investigating the possibility of setting up a temporary ‘museum’ for a weekend for the local area of all the archives we have from the different units. We are already aware that other units also have archives in church cupboards and under stages.
What happens with the archives in your area, and how do we preserve the history of Girlguiding for future generations to rediscover?
With the new promise being introduced part way through this past term, we decided to do the ‘Traditions’ badge as a unit so we could help the girls understand and learn about the history of Guiding.
The badge has a whole ton of options, so we did a few things that we as leaders organised – which included visiting another unit close to us to learn about marching and flags. Now the girls often ask if we can do the horseshoe marching! It’s funny how you think that things that are ‘old fashioned’ will have no relevance or be of no interest to girls in this modern age of phones, computers and the rest – and be proven so wrong when you bother to teach them at the risk of seeming ‘uncool’.
We were also really blessed by a woman who runs the Girlguiding Edinburgh archives. I’d been in touch with her to see if we could visit, and it turns out we couldn’t. Noticing she lived not too far away from me I asked if perhaps there was an alternative. She generously took the time to look out a box of old handbooks and scrapbooks, many copies of ‘The Guide’ from the 1930s and 40s, and six uniforms from a century of Girlguiding.
We set up a stations for the girls to look all the scrapbooks and magazines, brought down my own guide camp blanket (which has most of my Brownie and Guide badges on it). One of the girls brought her Mum’s old badges and Brownie and Guide handbooks too. The girls also got to try on the different uniforms and we took pictures for their own scrapbooks. We had information stations about how Girl Guides started and how they kept going through the first and second world wars – even when in some places Girlguiding was banned by the Nazi regime.
On the other weeks the girls chose clauses to do in their patrols, and we finished off by having a History of Guiding quiz with a bit of competition between the patrols.
It was a great experience and showed the girls how much Guiding has changed with the times. A month later, we were representing Girlguiding at our local Remembrance Sunday services, and the girls seemed to understand a little more why it is that Guides and Scouts are part of it. One of the girls who was part of the colour party got up early to give herself a wee manicure…trefoil style!