Celebrating 100 Years Of Brownies

CharityLocal News

The Yorkshire Reporter couldn’t let 2014 pass by without remembering another centenary – the 100 year anniversary of The Brownies! 

When the Girl Guides started in 1910 there were young girls all over the country clamouring to join their teenage sisters in the organisation. However, at this time Guides would set off early in the morning on a long march followed by a day of lively activities and a march back home as the sun set. This made it impossible for younger girls to join in as they were physically unable to keep up with the pace set by the older ones. Such was the demand though from the enthusiastic youngsters that in 1914 it became necessary to set up a separate section to cater for them.

This new section was initially called ‘The Rosebuds’ and the girls loved the activities on offer, as well as the navy uniform. After complaints from the girls though that the name was too twee, the name ‘Brownies’ was adopted in 1915 from suggestions received. A new uniform was decided upon and Brownie packs were soon opening up all around the UK. Changes were few, but in 1934 the option of having a gold tie was introduced which was extremely popular. Changes were also made to the interest badges at this time to accommodate changing household technology such as gas cookers, electric irons and radios etc.

World War 2 brought massive changes to the Brownies with many city Brownies being evacuated. This meant that the city packs were empty and small country packs were overwhelmed with 40 to 60 girls wanting to transfer. Many were left without leaders as they were called up to do ‘war work’ and churches and village halls were commandeered for the war effort too, meaning Brownies had to meet during the day time. The badges were also reduced in size to economise. Brownies war work included collecting hedgerow fruit, dressmaking and knitting garments and fundraising.

After the war, the Brownies expanded along with the baby boom and creation of new housing developments. This time period also showed that the programme needed updating to make the challenges more relevant to modern living. Many of the changes were made in 1968 when they became ‘Brownie Guides’, including redesign of the badges.

The 1990’s saw further modernisation of the uniform but the present programme still essentially follows the original format, with interest badges and adventures, simply updated to be more relevant to girls of today.

2014 brought the ‘Big Brownie Birthday’ with events large and small taking place across the country. We decided to see what different packs across Leeds did to celebrate the centenary:

1st Crossgates Brownies

1st Crossgates Brownies have celebrated in a number of ways including a trip to Flamingo Land, a Conga around the St Johns Centre for MacMillan (the unit charity) and attending the Big Brownie Celebration in Wetherby.

They will finish the year with a pack holiday in December. Jean Barnbrook, the Brownie Leader has volunteered for nearly 25 years after being asked by her old Brown Owl to help out. She says that Brownies is so popular because “it gives the girls chance to try new things and stretch themselves in a safe environment, while meeting friends.”

1st Crossgates were also lucky to meet the Lord Mayor of Leeds and have a tour of the Civic Hall as part of working for their Culture Badges.

3rd Yeadon Brownies

To celebrate the Big Brownie Birthday, 3rd Yeadon Brownies enjoyed two amazing trips – one on Girlguiding’s own narrowboat, the ‘Spirit of Guiding’, which a group of Brownies and leaders navigated from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge and back again over a weekend. The girls got the chance to steer the narrowboat and manage the locks. None of the girls had done anything like this before.

They also took a group of Brownies to Flamingoland to celebrate the Big Brownie Birthday with hundreds of other Brownies and their leaders. Stephanie Armitage, Leader, 3rd Yeadon Brownies (Brown Owl) tells us “I love volunteering with Brownies – it’s great to provide an exciting programme of activities for girls to enjoy in a safe space and watching their confidence and independence grow.

Not only is volunteering with Girlguiding rewarding in terms of helping the girls develop and having great fun, it is also rewarding in terms of my own development.

There are so many opportunities for new experiences – be it being brave and holding a snake, tarantula and chameleon, or something larger like completing qualifications in new skills such as becoming a Narrowboat Skipper or archery tutor.”

4th and 7th Horsforth Brownies

The 4th and 7th Horsforth Brownies celebrated the Big Brownie Birthday in style too. They joined over 11,000 other Brownies from the North East at Wetherby Racecourse for a huge science fun day, and did the Leeds owl trail too. This was in addition to many more fun activities that the girls took part in. Joanne Hoare, who is Brown Owl at 4th Horsforth Brownies said “During the Big Brownie Birthday I saw Brownies doing so much that was new and challenging for them – from Nordic cross country skiing to climbing to the top of the local church tower as part of our Stay Away and looking to see if they could see their own house! I get lots out of volunteering – it’s rewarding when you see the girls trying new activities, achieving new things and having fun doing them.”


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