Britsoc: The British Society of Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Serving the British Expat community since 1920.

Girl guides and girl scouts centenary celebrations

Girl guides and girl scouts centenary celebrations

Celebrating Courage, Confidence, Character

As the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) draws three years of centenary celebrations to an end this year, Zine hears how traditions established one hundred years ago still thrive among the international community in the Netherlands.

Anyone who works with girls, or claims to know them, won’t be surprised to learn that a plucky posse of girls proactively claimed their place alongside their Boy Scout brothers. The earliest girl members of the Scouting movement, established by Robert Baden-Powell, were far from an after-thought by the founder of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. Quite the contrary, they had to make a case to be heard.

Modelling themselves on the Boy Scouts, the would-be members petitioned Baden-Powell himself at the 1909 Boy Scout Rally at Crystal Palace, London, to establish a version of scouts for them. Baden-Powell, who initially resisted the idea, eventually agreed to form a parallel movement under the leadership of Agnes Baden-Powell, his wife, in 1910.

girl-scouts-logo1UK, USA and Beyond

That first troop of girls weren’t alone in seeking to propagate the virtues and ideals of scouting. An early proponent was Juliette Gordon Low, who met Baden-Powell in 1911. She was inspired to establish the first troop of American Girl Guides at her home in Savannah, Georgia, on March 12, 1912.

Margaret “Daisy Doots” Gordon, her niece and namesake, was the first registered member (and the reason why the youngest members would eventually be named the ‘Daisies’). Though the name of the organisation was changed to Girl Scouts the following year, the US Girl Scouts followed the principles established by the founder of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.

Juliette gave girls the opportunity to develop self-reliance and resourcefulness. She encouraged girls to prepare not only for traditional homemaking, but also for future roles as professional women—and welcomed girls with disabilities at a time when they were excluded from many other activities.

Openness and inclusion has been a solid feature of girl scouts ever since. Membership is open to all girls and young women, whatever their religion (or lack of), their ethnic group or background.

It was this desire to offer scouting to all girls that led to the creation of the USA Girl Scouts Overseas (USAGSO) in 1951 to serve US girls living overseas and girls of all nationalities attending American or international schools. USAGSO-North Atlantic serves around 3,500 Girl Scouts and 2,000 adults in eight countries, including Italy, Germany, the UK, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Turkey.

Local Level

Troops in The Hague, Amsterdam and a newly-founded troop in Alkmaar offer the girl scout programme for girls of Kindergarden age to 18, enabling girls in this country to be part of the world’s most pre-eminent organisation dedicated solely to girls.

Says Angela Tweedie, Overseas Committee Chair USAGSO Amsterdam: “Girl Scouts is about empowering girls, developing their leadership abilities and helping them to make a positive difference.

“We aim to build girls of ‘courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.’ We do that by encouraging girls to challenge themselves, to mentor their girl scout ‘sisters’ and develop a strong sense of pride in achievement through the Girl Scout badges and awards.

Says Angela: “Even as an adult, you can spot a former girl scout a mile off. They’re the ones with a penknife, emergency phone number and sewing kit in their bags – the skills you learn in Girl Scouts stay with you for life.”

For more information about Girl Scouts Amsterdam contact: girl_scouts_amsterdam@yahoo.com

Some Smart Cookies

Perhaps the most well-known tradition in Girl Scouts is the annual cookie sale. Thin Mints, Samoas and Tagalongs, as well as eight other varieties, are a craved-after ‘taste of home’ for many Americans.

The cookies, however, serve to do more than raise funds for Girl Scout activities. Girls gain valuable skills in organising their troop cookie sales, skills such as goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.

This year, as part of the centenary celebrations, Girl Scout Cookie boxes have had the first make-over in over ten years. The new boxes will feature girls kayaking, working in a park, speaking at scout events, volunteering at a soup kitchen, and traveling.

The new look fits with a new purpose: to elevate the significance of the Girl Scout’s girl-led Cookie Programme. Money raised from selling cookies is used by the Girl Scout troop where the cookies are sold to help girls develop skills and confidence, and to generate revenue to support Girl Scouting locally.