STAYING on at school until she was 15 was the goal of a Girl Guide from one of Glasgow’s poorest areas around 80 years ago.

According to archive sources, she enjoyed needlework and cookery and noted that some suburban private houses have electricity and clean running water, “but they are owned by other people”.

Fast forward 100 years, and while poverty and inequalities are not out of the picture, the dreams and aspirations of young girls are light years away.

Glasgow Times:

While Glasgow’s girl guiding history stretches back to 1908, Thursday will mark the centenary year of the date on which the city was officially registered as a unit.

Over those years, the Girl Guiding movement has navigated historical and cultural milestones, including the Second World War effort by women, the growth in feminism and most recently the Me Too movement.

While it’s now more about confidence building workshops than home economics, volunteer leaders involved believe Rainbows, Brownies and Guides are as relevant as they were 100 years ago, perhaps more so and their popularity shows no signs in declining. 

Glasgow Times:

Group activities are currently paused due to Covid but there are around 200 girls waiting to join local groups in Glasgow when the pandemic becomes, hopefully, another footnote in history. There are more than 10 million girl guides worldwide.

Jill Elborn, county commissioner for Glasgow, believes there is still a need to have what she describes as a safe space for girls to “find their voice”. “I think there is probably many trains of thought but from my own perspective, I very much valued being part of a girl-only space, “ 
she said.

“It’s given me a platform to be surrounded by excellent role models and gave me opportunities to develop confidence and leadership skills which have given me a great foundation for my professional career.

“There is a need for women to have a safe space to develop those skills, to be able to go on and know that there is no glass ceiling.”

Glasgow Times:

The most popular “badges” she says are mixology, where girls make up their own alcohol-free cocktails as well as blogging and exploring. Looking back at the archives, it was more about women being at home and caring. A  quite stereotypical view of women. 

“A lot of girls were involved in the war effort, collecting blankets, raising money for air ambulances. Now, it’s about promoting STEM events and women in engineering.”

To commemorate the centenary year, Girl Guiding Glasgow has put together a photographic exhibition illustrating the changing face of the movement and the city. 

With current members dressed in the uniforms of the day, the collection shares the imagined aspirations of girl guides through the years, drawing on archive sources, as well as touching on city milestones including the  arrival of the M8 motorway, the Red Road flats and the city’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 2014. 

More than 2,500 girls, aged between five and18, alongside 700 adults are part of Girlguiding Glasgow with Edinburgh’s network slightly larger. 

“We’ve got about 165 units across the city, from Rainbows, Brownies and Guides to Rangers,” said Ms Elborn.

“Obviously our aim is to have more because there is quite a big waiting list. “We have about 200-300 girls waiting.”

Teenagers over the age of 14 are now trained to deliver workshops to younger girls on issues such as safe relationships, thrown into sharp focus by the Me Too movement, as well as transgender issues.

“The movement changes as the lives of girls changes,” said the guide leader.

“Listening to girls’ voices and what they want has always been at the heart of it, so the programme is reflective of what their lives are like now. 

“The organisation is inclusive. If you identify as a female you are more than welcome to come and join our girl guiding. I haven’t had any experience of that myself, however we have very clear policies on it.”

She offers this in response to those who say the concept of girl guiding is out-dated. “I would absolutely challenge those people to spend a night or a weekend in girl guiding today. We’ve got girls travelling the globe. The adventures those girls have are astounding.”