Girls and Girl Guides

Cambridge District Scout Archive              

1908 – 1976 – 2007

(‘Some very happy cooperation with Rangers’)

For many years Boy Scouts was just that, for boys. Girls were not permitted to join. Between 1908 and 1976 involvement of girls in Cambridge Scouting was at social events and mixed Scout/ Guide events.  In the 1960’s joint training started and ties improved between Rangers and Scouts.

The shift from ‘no they can’t’ to ‘yes they can’ took 69 years to start and 100 to finalise.

1908 – 1910                No evidence of girls in Scouting in Cambridge in the earliest period has yet been identified from the Cambridge District archives.  Guides were formed in 1910, the first in Cambridge in 1911.

Girls were first admitted into the Venture Scouts in 1976 and to all Sections in 1991; from 2000 new sections were required to accept girls; from 2007, the centenary, all Scout groups and sections become co-educational. 

Mixed Events

Now a very dated term mixed events refers to planned events where both girls and boys are assembled together.  Even in the late 1960’s some school playgrounds were still separated into boys and girls.  Social change is generally driven outside the institutions of the day; within Scouting, debates on mixing were a balance of a ‘natural and pleasant relationship’; maintaining a boys only zone; and the wider social moves and mores of the age. 

National views

1934- 1936                              The Rover        This magazine for Rover age was consciously aimed at men but portrayed mixed activities.  Active and attractive female companions were frequent in advertisements.  An article ‘The Rover and The Girl’ appeared in August 1934 the gist of which was Rovers should not shun those members ‘taken with a girl’, but acknowledge it as an appropriate step towards matrimony.

1963                            The Scoutmaster Guide from A – Z  Girls                   To Troop Christmas Parties ‘…Scouts are encouraged nay, expected to bring sisters and girl friends, is a most wholesome and happy occasion.’   ‘what is important is that the natural and pleasant relationship …should also exist between Scouts and their girl friends.’  ‘…co-operation with our sister Movement (Rover Ranger conferences, PL’s Socials, Joint Parades) should constantly be on your mind.’

Cambridge Archives

The age at which Girls became Ladies was no clearer in the past than now.  Rovers were aged between 17 and 25 and Rover/ Ranger events are listed here for completeness.  This is a representative not a complete list.  The Grafton Street Gazette (GSG) did not report on past events so details after the occasion are lacking from this source.

1917                            The Senior Scouts Club was organised for all Scouts.  The proposal ‘girl friends on invitation’, generated a ‘considerable difference of opinion’. 

1917                            ‘I wish Jock Dawson was here to know of a minute of the Executive Committee of November 1917: Senior Scout Club. Girl friends and relations of the members may be invited to social evenings with their mothers from time to time, but no girl shall be admitted unless accompanied by a suitable chaperone,” But the permissive age crept on, and on the 27th of January, 1919 the Executive solemnly decided that “Chaperones on the social evenings are no longer required.”’       WTT Archaeology 1978

1917                            B P visit to Cambridge – a newspaper called Guides ‘Girl Scouts’

1922    Mike Petty       Boy Scouts and Girl Guides packing toys for the Children’s Toy fund.  (2 oranges, 1 apple, 1 bag of nuts, 1 bag of sweets, 1 bon bon, 2 large and 1 small toy, a book or a picture paper)

1931    GSG                 It is hoped to arrange a joint dramatic venture for Rangers and Rovers

                                    Joint Rangers and Rovers Social (Rovers are the hosts)

1932    GSG                Joint Rover Ranger Troop night

                                    Joint Rangers/ Rovers talk (on British Birds)

1933    GSG                 Ranger/ Rover meeting

                                    Scout and Guides Own at Great St Mary’s St Georges Day

                                    Rangers and some Rovers are having Country Dancing lessons… and would like Rovers and Scouters…

                                    Girl Guide rally … about 1400 GG are expected, we need at least 300 to balance this horde            Also request for 50 Rovers to act as stewards

1934    26th Cub log     ‘A district Girl Guide camp was held in the field opposite.  The Cubs went over to have a look and stayed all day… made themselves useful…again on Sunday..on Monday …took part in a play given by the Guides.’                      

1941                            12th Cambridge held joint meetings with the 4th Girl Guides

1945    +                      The Query??? and later the Alert Competition was open to Patrols of both Guides and Scouts.  The event did not mix boys and girls, the presentation did. 

‘Since the War, there has been more co-operation with the Girl Guides than in the earlier years.  I think that in a small way it helped when I opened the Guide Section at the Shop about 1945, commencing selling their uniforms when clothes rationing ended. ‘(Ken North)

1946                            Miss Jarman’s Rangers to use Grafton Street HQ

1947                            Ranger Senior Scout YHA w/e ‘Agreed that a Scouter or Guider should be present at this event.’  District Minutes

1948                            5th Cambridge note ‘the sudden and – we must admit – quite unexpected awakening of the Rangers Senior Scout Club.  This body…having lain dormant since its formation last year’ The 5th was ‘poorly represented’ atClub meetings

1948                            60th The Leys, notes ‘combined operations’ with the Rangers (also Rangers Senior Scout Club)

1950                            Guide/ Rover Cycle hike and three evenings of Scottish Dancing                                           Guides invited to join the Alert competition (which they won readily)

1951                            Some very happy cooperation with Rangers

1953                            Cambridge University Scout and Guide Club formed.  The Cambridge University Rovers continued as a male only part of this organisation for some years.

1954                            CUSAGC Annual subscription10/- (ladies 7/6) or 4/- (ladies 3/-) a term

1957    May                 Brownie and Cub Quiz

Joint Guide and Scout meetings were trialled before the mixed Venture Units in 1976.

1961                            54th Cambridge           Social with Rangers and Guides

1963                            Scout and Guide Club restarted  (Also called Scout and Guide Troop)

Pre 1965                      The 5th/ 7th had existing ties with Guide Ranger Units before the Ranger/ Rover Unit and held joint training schemes.

1965    cc 37.9                A Combined VS and Ranger guide unit started 1965 – in 1970 had 30 members.     This predates VSU’s by two years

1966                            Combined Unit ‘very successful’ and made a film and held a joint camp

                                    13th held first Rangers Rovers Conference

1967                            £10 grant to combined unit which met at Perne Road

1970    Oct                  Venture Scout meeting with Guides ‘successful’, but the (District Executive) committee was ‘not in favour of (supporting) a purely social event’ (a theatre trip)

1970                            The Cambridge Gang show started in 1970 after a gap of 32 years and was a combined Scout and Guide event.

1973                            Guides were attempting to form a Guide and Scout Orchestra for those over 10 years old.

1973/74                       Following the division of the District in 1973 the Guides felt it necessary to withdraw their support from the Combined Scout and Guide Unit, ‘which has served a very useful purpose over several years’.  The reasons for this are not explained. 

In the 1974 report all Units were encouraged to ‘form stronger links with Ranger Guide Sections … than is often the case at present’.

1974 May                    Dist Minutes    ‘agreed that GG might take part in some activities; Morley, Scout Decathlon, First Aid.’

                                    VS and Ranger w/e ‘very successful’

1974 Nov                     Joint Guide and Scout events were happy

1974                            The County Commissioner had received a complaint from the Guides about drinking taking place at Mixed Activities. (Venture Scouts and Rangers both had members legally old enough to drink)

1974 Nov                     Joint Guide and Scout events were happy

1975                            Joint Guide and Scout PL training weekend.  AGM of Ventures and Ranger Guides had been held.

1976    Mike Petty       4000 present at Little Thetford where the Bishop of Ely held an open air service   100 Brownies and Cubs collapsed in the heat

RA – VEN                     Committees of Rangers and Ventures coordinating events for the two groups in Cambridge and elsewhere.

 1976                           Girls could become Venture Scouts

1977                            CUSAGC organised Joint activity day for Scout Troops and Guide Companies

1979    CSG                  ‘District Executive has…  given their support to the DC Crafts Hill for the formation of a mixed Venture Scout Unit in that District on the understanding that it is regarded at present as a unique arrangement having regard to the local conditions and that it must not be assumed that similar support will be forthcoming automatically for experiments elsewhere.  Good luck to Crafts Hill on this new ‘Venture’.’

1980                            Newmarket Camp: 12 Venture Units and 13 Ranger Units

 1991                           All Sections could be co-educational

 2000                           All new Sections must be co-educational

 2007                           All Sections were co-educational

Female Venture Scouts

In 1976 Venture Scouts were the first Section of The Scout Association opened up female participants.  Crafts Hill had been given permission to form a mixed group in 1979 and listed 24 members.  By 1982 numbers had dropped to 8. 

Venture scouts            The Census did not ask for a split by gender until 1979.

            Girls                 Boys                 Total

1982        0                  85                    85

1983       14                 91                    105

1984      38                  93                    131     

 The first female members were recorded in 1983 in Tithe VSU.  Bolstered by the large intake into Tithe VSU 29% of Venture Scouts were female in 1983.  Tithe VSU formed from the Perse School (5th) and County School (7th) VSU’s in 1976, at that time both boys schools.

All scouts                     A smaller reformed District monitored the numbers of girls and the split of leaders in all sections.

            Girls                 Boys                             Female                        Male    (adults)

2001    24                    760                              86                    135

2002    28                    886                              93                    134

2003    45                    883                              83                    140

A strong and long standing Girl Guide network exists in Cambridge.


It is evident that regular social interaction between girls / Girl Guides and Scouts was most often seen in the older Sections.  The nature of the interactions at each event is hard to unpick from these one line reports. 

The skills to negotiate purely social events were generally first tested in the senior sections.