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Guiding Girls for More than a Century

For the week of Monday, January 8, 2018

On January 11, 1910, in St. Catharines, Ontario, the first group of young volunteers registered as Girl Guides, launching a movement in Canada that has lasted for more than a century.

For Guides, badges symbolize their successful acquisition of important life skills, such as first aid, photography, swimming, and public speaking
© Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada

The Guiding movement began in England in 1909, after girls demanded the opportunity to participate in the first Boy Scouts rally, organized by founder Lord Baden-Powell. Recognizing the need to create a similar program for female youth, he looked to his sister, Agnes, to take on the task. Girl Guides was founded that same year and quickly grew to include chapters in Scandinavian and Commonwealth countries. It is now around the world. By 1912, there were Guides in every province of Canada, and by 1918, in Newfoundland as well.

The Canadian Girl Guides Association – renamed the Girl Guides of Canada – Guides du Canada in 1961 – sought to teach girls self-reliance and to promote the values of good citizenship. Although its mission has evolved over the years, it has always sought to instill confidence, courage, and community-spirit in members.

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Pictured here are the first Yukon Carcross Girl Guides, circa 1933
© Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada

Service has been a defining principle of Girl Guides throughout their history in Canada. In the First World War, they knitted socks, rolled bandages, cultivated cereal crops, and used their training in first aid to help victims of the Halifax Explosion in 1917. They also made clothing for British children during the Second World War, and collected books and toys for other children in refugee camps. This community focus remains a central feature of Girl Guides today.

Girl Guides is well known for its sale of cookies to raise funds for the organization’s activities. First introduced in Regina, Saskatchewan, in 1927, these treats became the official fundraiser for Girl Guides in 1929.

More than seven million Canadian girls and women have been involved in Guiding since 1910, including author Margaret Atwood and astronaut Roberta Bondar. Girl Guides of Canada continues to be one of Canada’s largest youth organizations, with more than 5,500 units across the country.

The Girl Guide Movement in Canada is a designated national historic event. To learn more about the Scouting Movement in Canada, read Scouting Around in the This Week in History archives.

Parks Canada launched This Week in History 20 years ago! Check out @ParksCanada and visit the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada website.

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