Last night I was chatting to the Mums of two new Beavers. As our conversation progressed, one of the Mums whose daughter had just joined the Colony, asked me if Brownies still existed.
Now I have to admit this kind of surprised me. Girl Guiding UK, of which the Brownies are the section for 7 – 10 year old girls, is celebrating its centenary this year and there has been quite a bit in the media about their celebrations.
Quick bit of history. Girl Guides was started in 1910 by the founder of the Scout movement, Baden-Powell and his sister, as girls had started to form their own Scout patrols. The convention of the Edwardian society was that girls were delicate things who couldn’t possibly do the activities that the Scouts did and so the Guides were created to provide suitable activities for the girls. There is some evidence, however, that BP did want girls in Scouts. And it remained this way until girls could join Scouts in the early 1990s (Ventures from 1976). However, only girls can join Guides.
Now does the Mum asking if Brownies are still around, show a failure of Girl Guiding nationally or locally in the North Staffordshire area to promote themselves sufficiently? I know there has been plenty of coverage about their centenary and they do have an interesting campaign about the airbrushing of women in photographs. But do I notice these stories because they are related to Scouting, and would I notice them if I wasn’t in Scouting? The other thing is that the Scout Association does seem, from my point of view, to have a stronger PR department. A huge thing was made about Bear Grylls becoming and being the Chief Scout. Do the Guides have a similar person? The SA are also good at putting good news stories into the press. Again, locally Guides do seem to get less publicity than Scouts and their general organisation (locally) seems weaker. Or is that my perception?
Interestingly, when the Guides publish their membership figures they have more members than the SA, yet the Scouts are seen as the ‘bigger’ organisation.
If any Guides reading this have any views or points they’d like to share about this, I’d love to hear from you.