World Thinking Day

General Robert Baden-Powell was already a very well-known and popular figure in Edwardian society - the "Hero of Mafeking" - when in 1907 he organised a camp for boys on Brownsea Island. He called these boys "Scouts" after the boys who had made themselves so useful running errands during the siege of Mafeking. His aim was to teach these boys, the "Boy Scouts," the qualities of self reliance and citizenship by actually doing things, and the movement grew rapidly.

At a rally in 1909, at the Crystal Palace, a group of girls had joined the boys and were calling themselves "Girl Scouts" but this was not a popular idea with their parents and society in general. In an age when skirts were ankle length and young ladies never ran, the idea of girls being involved in camping, hiking and similar activities received a mixed response. Angry critics denounced 'girl scouting' as a 'mischievous new development', a 'foolish and pernicious movement' and an 'idiotic sport'. Nearly 6,000 girls had in fact signed on as Scouts, many using just their initials to hide the fact that they were girls, but B-P decided that the girls needed a separate organisation and that it should really be run by a woman. So, in 1910 he asked his sister Agnes to take charge of the girls. They were named "Guides" after the Khyber Guides, a regiment B-P had admired on the North West frontier who were famous for their ability to think for themselves and tackle just about anything. An American friend of the Baden-Powells, Juliette Gordon-Lowe, was so impressed with the organisation that she took the idea back to the USA and founded the Girl Scouts there in 1912.

Also in 1912, Lord Baden Powell married Olave St Clair Soames, who was 32 years his junior, and in 1916 she took over running the Girl Guides from his elder sister Agnes. At first she was designated "UK Chief Commissioner" but in 1918 her title was changed to UK Chief Guide and in 1930 to World Chief Guide - a title which has never been awarded to anyone else since.

Lord B-P died in Kenya in 1941 and Lady B-P in 1977, at the grand old age of 88 but the Movement lives on.

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) was founded in 1926 with just 26 member countries, and has now spread to 140 countries with over 10 million girls and women in Guides and Girl Scouting. In Britain alone, there are almost 700,000 Guides, of whom nearly 80,000 are adults who give their time as volunteers to run the country's 32,000 Rainbow, Brownie, Guide and Ranger/Senior Section units : if they had to be paid for their time, the GA has estimated that the cost would be over 140,000 a year! Over 50% of women born in the UK have belonged to the Guiding Movement at some point in their lives so the impact of the Guide Association is far-reaching. Our mission is, as it has always been, to enable girls and young women to develop their fullest potential as responsible citizens of the world.

The idea of a special day each year on which Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world think of each other with love and friendship originated at the 4th International Conference in the USA in 1926. The date chosen was 22nd February, since it was the joint birthday of the Founder, Lord Baden-Powell, and the World Chief Guide, Olave, Lady Baden-Powell. At first it was referred to as "The Great Think" but soon became known as Thinking Day and, since 1999, World Thinking Day.


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Thinking Day Ideas Index - History of Guiding


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