Be(ing) prepared: Girl guides, colonial life, and national strength

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This paper seeks to bridge a gap in feminist critique of gender and empire with regard to the founding of the Girl Guide movement in 1909. In contrast with previous studies of the Boy Scouts, which have briefly considered Guides as a mere derivative organisation, it suggests that the formation of the Guides, and printed material such as the first handbook How Girls Can Help Build Up the Empire (1912), were grounded in notions of the part which women, and girls specifically, could play in the imperial project. This paper proposes that, although tempered by an emphasis on raising children in order to prevent the “degeneration” of the British race, the Guide handbook permits increased non-domestic activity for Edwardian girls, which is justified by aims of preparing for home defence in case of foreign attack and for life in the colonies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-63
Number of pages12
JournalLimina: a journal of historical and cultural studies
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Girl Guides
  • citizenship
  • youth movements
  • imperialism
  • Britain
  • girlhood

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