One of the pleasures of writing a blog is to dive down any rabbit hole of interest, and this week’s interest is the varying requirements for a Girl Guide to earn her Folk Dancer Badge. Elsie Oxenham was both a Guide leader and a Camp Fire Guardian, and taught English folk dances to both of her groups. Which dances? Well, any that she knew, I suppose (including rapper sword), but now we have some further information starting in 1929 as to what dances a girl would be expected to demonstrate mastery of, and how these requirements changed over time with changing politics and interests.
This post would not have been possible without the brilliance of “Leslie,” whom I do not know but who I embrace as a spiritual sister. Leslie has done an amazing and comprehensive job of documenting the history of the Girl Guide movement. Check out her home page and particularly the history of the founding of the Girl Guides in 1910 by Agnes Baden-Powell at her elder brother Sir Robert Baden-Powell’s request.
Here is an early but undated image of Agnes Baden-Powell. You’ll see her “smart” uniform—here “smart” doesn’t mean fashionable or dashing as it can in other contexts, but “well-turned-out,” as an officer would look on the parade ground. Note the well-fit coat with belt that was worn over a well-fit skirt, the hat, the tie, and the vaguely military-looking badge. This is attire that shapes the girl or woman into the image of the male officer—but without the physical freedom of trousers or a loose-fitting skirt, although Leslie writes that this early uniform was actually comparatively practical for the gently-born ladies who led the local Patrols. This was parade dress for leaders in the organization; while engaged in out-door activities in the 1920s, Girl Guides seem to have worn middy blouses and loose skirts over long dark stockings. Here’s a girl in a 1909 uniform (pre-standardization) courtesy of Leslie. [Read more…]