Rishton Girl Guides

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Girl Guides 1951
3rd Row:
Enid Holland, ? Merle Paul,
2nd Row:
twins Beryl and Audrey Smith
Front Row:
Margaret Read, Dorrean Preston, Mary, Ann Belch, Dorothy Jennings, Pat Rawcliffe, Beth Bronley

Merle Paul (nee Whitmey) is  third from left on the back row, in front of her are twins Beryl and Audrey Smith who lived in Lord Street and were her close friends. I do recall hearing that Beryl died when she was 21 of Leukaemia and would so love to know if anyone knows anything about Audrey. Ann Belch is centre front.

The Guide meetings were held on a Monday evening at the church school at the bottom of Harwood road.

In the early years of the 20th century, Robert Baden-Powell, a famous army general, developed a scheme for training boys. He tried out his ideas at a camp on Brownsea Island in 1907 and the following year published them in a book, Scouting for Boys. The book was an instant success and boys throughout the country enthusiastically took up 'scouting'. As a result Baden-Powell soon found himself organising the Boy Scout Movement.

At the Scouts' first rally, at the Crystal Palace in 1909, Baden-Powell (B-P) was faced with a small group of girls, representing hundreds of others, who insisted they wanted to be Scouts too.

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', an 'idiotic sport'.

However, the girls won. In 1910, Baden-Powell formed the Girl Guides and asked his sister Agnes to look after the new organisation. A few years later his wife Olave became involved and, in 1918, was appointed Chief Guide.

Such was the enthusiasm for Guiding that it soon spread worldwide and since those early days countless millions have made the Guide Promise. Today there are ten million girls and women in Guiding worldwide.

The Saint Peters & Paul Guides from 1930. The only name known is that of the still to be school teacher, Mrs Elizabeth Sharp.

What's in a name?

The pioneers who turned up at the 1909 Crystal Palace rally called themselves Girl Scouts, but when he founded the girls' movement, B-P decided the name should change.

This was partly because he thought it would antagonise the boys for whom Scouting had been developed and also alienate parents, who would not welcome such a tomboyish image for their daughters, but mostly because he wanted to create a separate identity for the girls so that they could work for self-development independently, not in imitation of their brothers.

He had to think of a name, and soon he remembered that he had been particularly impressed with some 'Guides' in India. These men had operated on the North West Frontier and their main task was to go on very dangerous expeditions. Even when they were off duty the Guides were still training their minds and bodies. With this in mind, B-P decided that 'Girl Guides' would be good name for these pioneering young women.

A Scheme for Girl Guides was published in the 'Scout Headquarters Gazette' and together with his sister Agnes, B-P wrote the first Guide Handbook called 'How Girls Can Help to Build Up the Empire'.

Single-sex organisation

From the outset Guiding in the United Kingdom has been single-sex, in the belief that an all-female association offers girls and young women the best opportunities for personal and social development.

In general, girls mature more quickly than boys, but, on the other hand, their self-confidence - crucial for leading life to the full - grows more slowly. Similarly, girls tend to have less self-esteem than boys and are more likely to under-value themselves.

A mixed group, where boys are dominant because they appear to be more self-assured, only serves to highlight the differences. A single-sex group, however, gives girls and young women the opportunity to:

  • decide what to do
  • work together in teams, co-operate and negotiate on an equal basis
  • assert themselves
  • see other women in positions of responsibility, taking the lead
  • make decisions
  • develop a sense of identity and self-worth

Moving into the 20th Century, the group has changed their name slightly, and are now known as Girl Guiding UK.

There are two girl guide troops in Rishton,

1st Rishton Parish Guides

2nd Rishton Methodist Guides


Merle Paul (nee Whitmey) via Email

Girls Guides web site.

Jane Hogg