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Saturday 16 December 2017

Original 'girl power' celebrated as Guides mark century of movement

Girls and leaders from Dublin and Kildare gather to
celebrate the Irish Girl Guides’ 100th birthday
Girls and leaders from Dublin and Kildare gather to celebrate the Irish Girl Guides’ 100th birthday

Fiona Ellis

FOR the Irish Girl Guides, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

A century ago, it was considered unladylike for young women to raise their hands above their shoulders and the guides could only wear skirts.

It is anyone's guess what the original founders would have made of events at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght yesterday.

More than 1,000 girls at all levels of the organisation -- Ladybirds, Brownies and Girl Guides -- danced wildly to Katy Perry.

They performed the Mexican wave to Cyndi Lauper's classic 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun'.

The girls were celebrating 100 years of the association that aims to encourage the best in each of them and gives them the opportunity to discover new ideas, skills, experiences and friendships.

Things have changed a lot since the girl guides held their first meeting in Harold's Cross in Dublin in 1911.

The girls are now dressed in brightly coloured tracksuits and still learn about knitting and cooking, but also computers and canoeing.

However, the principles remain the same.

"Guides allow each girl to reach her fullest potential," said the chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance, Jillian Van Turnout, who has been a guide leader for over 25 years.

"It's also very much about women's empowerment. We're preparing the leaders of tomorrow."

She said most of the learning is done through fun.

"It's driven by the girls themselves," she said.

The first girl guides' company was founded in Ireland just a year after the movement was set up by the daughter of an Oxford academic, Agnes Baden-Powell.

Ms Baden-Powell decided to set up a female version of the scouting movement, which had been founded by her older brother, and adopted the scouts' syllabus for girls.

Companies were soon formed in Cork and Wicklow, and they existed in every county in the south of the country by the 1920s.


By then, nearly every company had a group of younger guides -- known as Brownies -- who had their own handbook, 'Brownies and Bluebirds'.

A few years later, a senior branch of the girl guides, known as the Rangers, was launched.

Following the foundation of the Irish Free State, the movement became known as the Irish Free State Guides.

In 1938, the guides adopted the simpler title, the Irish Girl Guides.

During the war years, the guides wrote to the government offering the services of its adult members should war break out.

Over the years, headquarters have moved from Dawson Street in Dublin to St Stephen's Green, before settling into their current base in Pembroke Park.

The 1970s was a period of growth and in 1985 a new branch, known as Ladybirds, was launched by former Education Minister Mary O'Rourke.

There are three stages to being a girl guide. Ladybirds are girls aged five to seven years. Brownies are aged six to 10 and guides are girls aged 11 to 15.

Girls reflected yesterday on how the guides have helped them grow personally.

"Guides allow girls to just be themselves," said Eimear Bowler (11), from Lucan.

Sarah King (12) said: "Laws make you a better person. Say, if someone's sad you have to make them happy." Sarah Connelly (11) agreed: "You just get to understand people more."

Well known former guides include Sonia O'Sullivan, Kathryn Thomas, former Supreme Court justice Catherine McGuinness, Una Healy, Myrtle Allen and Sr Stanislaus Kennedy. There are over 10,500 guides.

Irish Independent

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