The History of Guiding in New Zealand

Robert Stevenson Smythe Baden-Powell was born in England on February 22nd 1857. His nickname at school was "Bathing Towel" and he amazed everyone by being able to use either hand equally well. At 19 he joined the Army. In India and South Africa, he used interesting games to train young men in military scouting. When B-P went home to England he tried out his ideas on boys who enjoyed the games and wanted to know more. So, in 1907 he took a group to camp on Brownsea Island and Scouts was born. They were named after the early Scouts of Africa. After the Camp B-P published his games in a book called Scouting for Boys.

Girls wanted to join too. They gate-crashed a Scout rally at Crystal Palace in London in 1909. B-P hadn't thought about girls as Scouts but his sister Agnes organised them. They were named Guides after an Indian regiment and the mountain guides of Switzerland. Baden-Powell's sister later called herself the Grandmother of Guiding. Younger girls wanted to be involved as well and eventually units of Rosebuds were started up. Their name later changed to Brownies.

Colonel Cossgrove, a friend of B-P's living in New Zealand, begin a girls' movement here in 1908. His youngest daughter, Muriel, and her friends at Rangiora School, were scouting in their own patrols, strongly encouraged by Col. Cossgrove. Col. Cossgrove enrolled 24 girls with the title Girl Peace Scouts and appointed Miss Keith, M.A., to be the 'Scout Mistress'. Col. Cossgrove also began to write a special book for them. He received permission from Baden-Powell to use any ideas he needed from Scouting for Boys (which belies the popular belief that Baden-Powell was anti girls being involved early on) and Mrs. Cossgrove wrote the chapters on homecraft and nursing. The book, Peace Scouting for Girls was dedicated to a daughter of NZ's Governor-General, Ethne Mahine Plunkett. It is about the same size as Scouting for Boys but publication was delayed by a friend's illness. About a year later, Sir Harry Barron, Governor of Tasmania, corresponded with Col. Cossgrove and three patrols of Girl Peace Scouts were enrolled in the Hobart area of Tasmania, Australia. It is worth noting that Col. Cossgrove was also made Chief Scout for New Zealand by Baden-Powell. (Now days B-P is recognised as the only Chief Scout and the term National President (formerly Chief Commissioner) is used in NZ to denote the top representative of the guide movement).

A few years after Girl Peace Scouts began, Col. Cossgrove started Fairy Scout troops for the younger girls. The Fairy Scouts wore uniforms of heavy white material with big sailor collars. Their leader was called a Fairy Scoutmistress and had as her symbol a wand which she used freely during ceremonies and when passing the Fairies for their tests. The Recruit Fairy Scout had to be able "to lace her boots, tell the time, and repeat the promise and Law." A Second Class Fairy Scout had only five tests - one "to know about the flags of her country" and another to be able to "put a stamp on a letter properly." The First Class Test was much longer and more difficult with special "health and beauty" exercises to do, the first and second verses of the National Anthem to learn, and to know the correct way to wash dishes. Connecting each of these three badges were special stories based on Maori legends which the Fairy scoutmistress told to her fairies.

In 1923 Girl Peace Scouts and Fairy Scouts respectively, changed their names to Girl Guides and Brownies. New Zealand was a founding members of WAGGGS.

In 1912 Lord Baden-Powell married Olave St. Clair Soames, who shared the same birthdate. Olave became the British Guides first Chief Commissioner and in 1918 became the World Chief Guide. 1n 1919 she was given a very special version of the highest Guiding award, the Silver Fish - hers was made out of gold and is the only one of it's kind. She travelled the world with her husband actively supporting Guiding and Scouting. Lord Baden-Powell died in 1941 and is buried at Nyeri in Kenya. On his gravestone is the "gone home" tracking sign.

Lady Baden-Powell promoted Guiding and Scouting until her death in 1977. She left this message to all Guides to be read at her memorial services around the world.

"No mourning as such - all rejoicing and happy rememberances and delight at my having completed my life - my prayer has been answered.

God give me work till the end of my life
God give me life till my work is done
Now I hand mine on to others."

In 1984 Pippins was launched. This was a section for girls aged 6-7 and was quite informal. In 1998 the age was lowered so that girls aged 5 could also join.

In 1999 The Girl Guides Association of New Zealand (GGANZ) changed it's name to Guides New Zealand, and the girl guide section is now known simply as guides.

In 2000 new branch programmes were introduced for the Brownie and Guide sections. These, like all Guides New Zealand programmes, continue to emphasise girl involvement in planning and leadership. All sections have balanced programmes which are flexible and members are encouraged to undertake at least 50% of the activities in the outdoors.

Guiding in New Zealand is still going strong. Numbers are dipping at the present time as is the trend across most youth organisations in this country as children and young adults have a wider choice of activities available to them to fill up their spare time. Scouting New Zealand went co-ed in the 1980's but this does not appear to have adversely affected Guiding and there is a growing trend for co-operation on a local level. Our Guiding programmes are regularly reviewed to keep them up with the times and ensure that they are appropriate for the girls of today.

The Story of How Guiding Began in NZ
(An interactive story)

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This page is not in any way an official Guides NZ page, although information from Guides NZ publications has been used.