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Weekly Discussion: Revisionism and Guiding History

Do you think there is revisionism in Guiding?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Unsure

  • Mixed

  • Other


Results are only viewable after voting.

badgemad4

Veteran (100+ posts)
#1
Everyone knows their Guiding history, don’t they?

The first ever time “Girl Scouts” were entertained as an idea by BP was at the Crystal Palace rally, the JB uniform was welcomed by all with open arms as a breath of fresh air and the old GO! and Join Us worked perfectly for years until the horrible new Go was foist upon us. The latters sadness is clearly demonstrated by the lack of exclamation point.

Revisionism can be a complex term with several meanings, here I am using it very basically to describe reinterpretation or purposeful editing. This can be by both the members themselves or encouraged by central Guiding. It can be slightly different from simple nostalgia (of course thirty years ago each girl turned up exactly on time in perfect uniform and never forgot subs every single week) as it can actively impact on our Guiding experience and it can change what Guiding means.

Some might say that the finer points of history don’t matter, it’s what we do now. We tend to romanticise the past regardless so does it matter if the Crystal Palace is used as a nice story of early members demanding to be recognised? It sounds more fun rather than the truth that BP was aware of female groupings and discussed exploring options for them before, and the admin of sorting it all out. Others might say continuing this story is unfair to the early leaders who faced criticism in their communities, battled with Scouting to get badges and who got their girls legitimate tickets. Do we easily forget the hard work of “ordinary” units and volunteers for the more flashy and radical?

On to more recent history. Others say that experiences they had at a localised level in the past (being asked to leave/prevented from progress due to religion/sexuality/disability) are even more of a slap in the face with the “we’ve been for all girls and women forever in the past and forever in the future” type messages now. It’s really not so long ago (and for some leaders its still unofficially happening) they were forced to step down as GiC or hand in their leadership qualification either by social pressure or by a commissioner. It’s the lack of acknowledgement that it’s something that happened that hurts for them, because even if it wasn’t “official” policy they didn’t feel supported.

What do you all think?
  • Do we as members focus too much on how things were done, rather than looking forward?
  • Is central Guiding too convenient with how they portray our history?
  • Do you feel sometimes the past Guiding talked about doesn’t really line up with what you experienced?
 

badgemad4

Veteran (100+ posts)
#2
Personally:

I think there’s two categories: intentional focus on positives/a current agenda and nostalgia that unintentionally favours certain aspects of Guiding.

Some nostalgia or tact doesn’t hurt (who’s going to stand up at crotchety old Guiders retirement do and say that was stubborn rather than talk about her delicious camp stew?) but I think it can get in the way of discussion of what should be done now. For example on policy/procedure, admin and qualifications. There’s nothing wrong about reminiscing- but it shouldn’t come at the cost of modern Guiding.

I’d like a few more Guiding history books and readily available information on the past, mainly out of personal interest but also to do justice to the ladies that lived out those times. There seems to be certain key aspects of history favoured (mainly the very early days , wartime Guiding and the 60s). It would also help clear up some misinterpretation, both from a myth busing stand point and to make things clearer. For example when certain cut off points or manual changes were. At the moment it relies on someone having an email/newsletter/minutes from the time or having a clear memory.
 

Tregi

Veteran (100+ posts)
#3
It would be nice for there to be a website that people (Guiders, members etc) could send their memories to be collated - run by Girlguiding and containing official information as well as memories, then that would cover the actual happenings/date but also be a space where reminiscing could occur and the 'modern' leader find out that there have always been Flossie's who turn up without uniform, parents who don't know what is going on, and local areas having by-laws, as well as older leaders finding out that us 'modern' leaders also have these issues!!! People don't change!! A History of uniform, badges, promise changes, laws, how the programme has changed etc.
 

Tawnyowl51

Veteran (100+ posts)
#4
Yes I think that there has been some revisionism of the history of guiding, and I think it will continue.
No one likes to be reminded of things which now seem inappropriate or even wrong. I don't think Guiding is unique is that respect either, many organisations prefer to conveniently forget the uncomfortable bits of their history and reminisce with rose tinted glasses.
Times have changed and while recent scandals involving celebrities have come to light, no one can deny things that we now throw up our hands in horror at, used to swept under the carpet. They were wrong then and they still are.

I am not in any way suggesting that Guiding is sweeping anything under the carpet, but I do think that those at the top are more forward focussed and history, good or not so good, is of little or no importance.
The old saying History books are written by the winners can be applied. The grumpy old guider who moaned at every girl, but ran a full unit for 60 years never wrote that book, only the high flying one who went round th world with her guides
 

vickyj

Guide Guider / GiC
#5
It would be nice for there to be a website that people (Guiders, members etc) could send their memories to be collated - run by Girlguiding and containing official information as well as memories, then that would cover the actual happenings/date but also be a space where reminiscing could occur and the 'modern' leader find out that there have always been Flossie's who turn up without uniform, parents who don't know what is going on, and local areas having by-laws, as well as older leaders finding out that us 'modern' leaders also have these issues!!! People don't change!! A History of uniform, badges, promise changes, laws, how the programme has changed etc.
Around the centenary there were volunteers who were story gatherers - my mum was one - sent out by HQ to interview and record memories. But the project was run by an intern and contact was lost with HQ when she left. The last few recordings my mum sent in weren't even added to the database. She interviewed ladies who are now dead (my mum is 80 now) for example the guider who went as part of a GIS service team at the end of WW2, she became the godmother to a baby of a young woman she met who had no family or friends. Many years later the child traced her. One old lady she visited just sat and held her camp blanket and told her story through the badges on it. These recordings must be available somehow still but I neither myself or my mum now how to access them now.
 

Tawnyowl51

Veteran (100+ posts)
#6
That is such a shame, have you tried contacting hq to see if they can find out wherevthey can be accessed. They must be available digitally, it was only a few years ago. Probably on a file on someones computer somewhere,
 

fenris

fenris
GuiderPlus
#7
As an amateur Guiding historian I've refrained from commenting on this topic so far, to allow others their say.

I'd say there has been revision, of two sorts.

The first sort has been de-mything. Sorting out the respective roles of the three Baden-Powells and giving due credit to each. Recognising the role of the early Girl Scouts and the extent to which they were authorised, and welcomed in Scouting through until late 1909 etc.

But there has been some historical censorship, in recognition of modern terminology, expectations etc. Terminology used in the past regarding race/nationality, disability and class would not be used now, and can cause discomfort.