100 Years of Brownie Guides

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This online exhibition celebrates the centenary of the Brownie Guides, looking at what being a Brownie has meant over the years. It complements the exhibition recently on display at the Civic Centre, Esher. The Girl Guides Association started as an offshoot of the Boy Scouts, founded in 1907 by Robert Baden-Powell. In 1909, girls gate-crashed the first Boy Scout Rally at Crystal Palace. They attracted Baden-Powell's attention and asked him to offer something for girls too. Baden-Powell's sister Agnes formed the Girl Guides in 1910 and a junior section for under 11s was created the following year.


The organisation has always aimed for girls' personal and social development, focusing on the individual, their community and the world. Through meetings, day trips, camps and holidays, Brownies have, for the last hundred years, learned new skills, explored other cultures and had outdoor adventures. Today, Girlguiding is the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK. Its mission is 'to enable girls and young women to develop their fullest potential as responsible citizens of the world'. The items you can see here either come from the Museum's collection or were kindly loaned by the 2nd Hinchley Wood Brownie Unit.  



What is a Brownie?

Being a Brownie has always been more than just wearing a uniform, going to meetings and earning badges. All Brownies have to make a Promise that expresses the core values of the organisation and is the common standard that brings them together. The wording of the Brownie Promise has altered a dozen times over the last century with the most recent (and most controversial) change being to remove any mention of God. Making and keeping the Promise is the heart of what it is to be a Brownie.

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Promise badge

The promise badge is given to girls, along with a certificate, when they make their Brownie Promise. Girls learn the importance of the Brownie Promise before they make it. Today, the Brownie Promise is: 'I promise that I will do my best, to be true to myself and develop my beliefs, to serve the Queen and my community, to help other people and to keep the Brown Guide Law.'


'Serving the Queen and my Country' Brownie values guide cartoon
'Serving the Queen and my Country' Brownie values guide cartoon

  Serving the Queen

The second part of the Brownie Promise is to 'serve the Queen' (or King). This is explained to girls as meaning that they can serve the Queen by trying to help our country and the people in it. They should help everyone they can, starting at home, then reaching further out into their communities and the wider world. The illustrations here, from the 1990s, are a simple way of explaining these ideas to young girls.

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 The Brownie Guide Law    

The third part of the Brownie Promise is to keep the Brownie Guide Law. The Law is: 'A Brownie Guide thinks of others before herself and does a good turn every day.' This is a big commitment for anyone of any age! Brownies are encouraged to think of it as starting at home, and it is acknowledged up front in their handbook that it can be very hard for them to do. This handbook is from 1968.

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 The Promise ceremony

A whole Pack takes part in the ceremony to welcome new Brownies. This photograph is of Joanne Marychurch, Museum Assistant Learning Officer, at her Promise ceremony in the 1990s. She recalls having to jump over a 'stream', look in a mirror, and repeat a mantra from the Brownie story: 'Twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and there saw MYSELF!'



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 The Brownie Footpath

Since 1968, Brownies have been encouraged to think of themselves as on a footpath, or journey, with a series of challenges along the way, all of them being ways of carrying out their Promise. There are eight challenges, shown on this page from 1987. Brownies can earn Interest badges to help them learn more about challenges. Once they have completed all the challenges, girls will probably be ready to move on to the Guides


Brownies in the community and the world

The Brownie Adventure is divided into three areas: you, your community and the world. Here we look at the latter two. Girls are encouraged to become active citizens by helping them understand and be active in their communities, for example by raising money for charities or visiting local places of interest. Brownies also learn about the wider world through Thinking Day and various activities. They might celebrate a festival from a different culture, find out about endangered animal species, or learn how they can combat climate change.

Long Ditton Brownies gather for festivities on Giggs Hill Green, Thames Ditton, in January 1954

 Giggs Hill Green gathering

Long Ditton Brownies gather for festivities on Giggs Hill Green, Thames Ditton, in January 1954. The Brownie uniform changed in 1950 and this photograph shows how girls wore both styles at this time. The hat changed from a beret to a woollen cap and both are in evidence here. The tie also changed from brown to yellow. A girl to the right of the picture is wearing the 1934-50 brown tie.


1975 3rd Hinchley Wood Brownie pack money-collecting records
 1975 log book

The top of this page records girls from the 3rd Hinchley Wood Brownie pack collecting money over Easter to buy bottles of fruit juice and a few small eggs to give to the old people at St Chads. Each Six also made an Easter card for them. Further down the page there is a record of an 'Xmas Good Turn' Made box of crackers containing sweets and novelties for children from a local children's home.


Opening Ceremony of 'The Hut' on Lynwood Road, Thames Ditton, c.1950s

 'Lynwood' HQ opening

From the 1950s until 1972, Brownies, Guides, Cubs and Scouts shared what was known as 'The Hut' on Lynwood Road, Thames Ditton. This was a much-loved ex-army hut, reputed to have started its life during the First World War on Salisbury Plain. The Hut was demolished in 1972 and 'Lynwood', the present Joint Headquarters was opened on the same site in 1974. This photograph is of the opening ceremony.



Brownie Revel, Lynwood Road Recreation Ground, Thames Ditton, 1979

 Brownie Revels

Brownie Revels are occasions when Brownies get together with girls from other Packs for games, activities and fun. This photograph marks Brownie Revels in 1979 at the Lynwood Road recreation ground, Thames Ditton. The girls are: Back row, left to right: Donna Smallwood, Hanna Mallinson, Karen Austen, Charlotte McGee, Caroline Coath, Janet Menduo, Abigail Clark, Jill Palmer and Eleanor Jinks. Middle row, left to right: Jaqueline Hall, Gillian Roberts, Melanie Bovington, Jenny Witham, Kyrstie Smethurst, Tina Quatters, Vanessa Coath and Christina Ward. Front row, left to right: Rebecca Boston, Elizabeth Turner, Lisa Coton, Jilly Trathen, Sarah Gardiner and Angela Withan. If you happen to read your own name here, or see someone you know, please get in touch - we'd love to hear your (or their) memories!


Remembrance Day ceremony, Memorial Garden, Hinchley Wood, 1951

 Hinchley Wood Remembrance Day

This photograph shows the 1951 Remembrance Day dedication ceremony at the Memorial Garden in Hinchley Wood. The facing page has a lovely account of the 1st Hinchley Wood Girl Guides joining a meeting of the 1st Hinchley Wood Brownies to welcome one of the Brownies up to the Guides. The Brownie, Edith Tregaskes, was 'presented with her wings' after which she 'flew-up' to the Guides.


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 Robert and Olave Baden-Powell

The Baden-Powells are shown together on this postcard. It was sent to the 1st Long Ditton Guides in 1940 from the 4th Gidea Park Guiding Pack to celebrate Thinking Day. Gidea Park is in East London. Thinking Day is a special day for Guides and Brownies to think about their international sisters, and also about their founders. It was introduced in 1926 and is marked on 22nd February, the birthday of both Robert and Olave Baden-Powell.



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Thinking Day Service

This 1991 order of service is from the Dittons District. Today, with 10 million members from 146 countries, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts is the largest voluntary movement for girls and young women in the world. On World Thinking Day, girls are encouraged to think of themselves as 'one in ten million' and to reflect on the potential for change that a movement of these numbers can inspire.




Learning new skills


Brownies develop self-confidence and self-esteem by having new experiences and learning new skills. They build friendships and learn to share and cooperate with others by working together in small groups called 'Sixes'. Girlguiding seeks to promote six areas of girls' development: spiritual, social, emotional, physical, moral and intellectual. Brownies can extend their knowledge and abilities by working towards Brownie interest badges. Subjects cover anything from Science investigator to Circus skills.

Hinchley Wood Brownies and Guides hiking trip to Ramone Common, Dorking, April 1947

Hiking trip

In April 1947, Brownies and Guides from Hinchley Wood went on a day's hike. From their log book: 'We took a bus to Dorking and then walked up to Ramone Common. When we reached the top we ate our sandwiches and, after a short rest, had a strenuous game of rounders. Then we walked down to Effingham and caught the bus home. It was a lovely sunny day and although we were very tired when we got home, we had all enjoyed our first hike together.'

Knitted Brownie doll, 1st Hinchley Wood Brownie Pack

Knitted Brownie

This doll was knitted by a Brownie from the 1st Hinchley Wood Brownie Pack, probably to earn their Knitter Badge. The Knitter Badge from the 1968 Handbook has the following instructions:

1. Choose your own pattern and, following the printed directions, make a garment using at least two different stitches.
2. Make something else of your own choice: mittens with thumbs, a bobble hat, a set of three fancy mats or something similar.


Brownies Handywoman Badge, 1951

Handywoman Badge book

To earn their Handywoman Badge, Brownies in 1951 had to pass a series of eight tests:

1) Work a sewing machine. 2) Replace a gas mantle or electric bulb. 3) Turn off the gas, electricity and water at the mains. 4) Clean and repaint a table, door or window. 5) Clean paintbrushes. 6) Mend three of a choice of items. 7) Sharpen a knife on a grindstone. 8) Do four of a choice of DIY tasks including staining a floor. Times have changed!



Girl Guides Association Brownie Magazines, 1962-73

The Brownie magazines

The Brownie was the official weekly magazine of the Girls Guides Association. The purpose of the magazine was to encapsulate and illustrate the core values of what it was to be a Brownie. This selection dates from 1962 to 1973.Issues covered topics as varied as holiday camp reports; introductions to Brownies from other countries; photos of Brownies' pets and quizzes and games about being a Brownie.




Brownie Badge Book, 1987

Brownie Guide badge book

This 1987 badge book told girls what they needed to do for each of the badges they could work on as a Brownie. Subjects included: Artist, Conservation, Cook, Crime prevention, Dancer, Hostess and Toymaker. There is an interesting mix of old and new, with a Computer badge asking girls to write a 'simple 10-20 line program and run it' as well as a Signaller badge requiring them to learn semaphore or Morse code.



Brownie Holiday poster by Georgina for Elmbridge Museum's '100 Years of the Brownies' exhibition

Brownie Holiday

Georgina, a Brownie from the 2nd Hinchley Wood Unit, made this poster especially for this exhibition. It describes all the things that she enjoyed about her recent Brownie holiday. Holidays and camping trips have from the very early days been part of the Brownie experience - a way for girls to develop self-confidence, independence, learn new skills and have great fun with their friends.




'Drug Awareness', 1995 Brownie Guide handbook

Drugs awareness

This page from the 1995 Brownie Guide handbook shows how the organisation moved with the times. Girls learn how drugs, solvents alcohol and cigarettes damage their body. The information on this page is very factual and informative. It doesn't shy away from telling girls that people do get some short-term benefits from using certain substances (they 'feel happy') as well as damaging their health.