Reply to Co-ed Boy Scouts
David D. Miller +49 6221 404415 (DDM@DHDIBM1.BITNET)
Thu, 6 Feb 1992 16:57:45 CET
> The grapevine has it that Boy Scouts of Great Britain for years and years
> tried to work out some arrangement with the Girl Scouts, to no avail, and
> so finally went Co-Ed all the way by themselves. Is this true? If so,
> what did it do for both organizations?
Yes, there were negotiations for many years before the final decisions
The first steps towards co-ed Scouting in Britain came with the
Advance Party Committee, which met from 1964-1966, and published its
report in 1966. The Committee was set up by the Chief Scout of the U.K.,
and had about 40 Scout Leaders of all ages and different walks of life.
There were no women in the Advance Party, nor were any minorities
represented - such things were not considered important. Their brief
was to examine *all* aspects of The Boy Scout Association.
The Advance Party Report was published by the Committee of the Council
of the Association in 1966. The full version was the size of a large
telephone directory, and a smaller version (paperback size) was produced
for the masses. Nothing was untouched: The Scout Law was reduced from
ten laws to seven, with wording that young people could understand. The
Scout oath was simplified. The old-style Scout Hats were abolished, and
short trousers effectively banned. The Senior Scout and Rover Scout
sections were abolished, to be replaced by Venture Scouts for the 16-20
age group, and Scout Fellowship for the adults.
However, very significantly, the name of the Association was changed
from the Boy Scout Association to the Scout Association, and the Aim of
the Association changed to use the words "young people" rather than
either "boys" or "young men". The members of the committee didn't
imagine that Scouting would become co-ed, but had discussed allowing
young women as guests at some Venture Scout events. But that was the
(On a side note, a document was published by a group of Scouters who
were outraged by the changes. "A Boy Scout Black Paper" showed evidence
that some of the changes, most notably the change in the number of laws,
change in uniform, and in the name, were totally wrong, and were not in
the best interests of the movement. They felt that they had been let
down by the Committee of the Council. As a result of this document, a
splinter group was formed calling itself the B-P Scouts. They still
exist in small numbers in the U.K., although the name may have changed:
on this very list is a member of F.S.E. living in the U.K. It should
perhaps be noted that some of the breakaway movements changed to long
trousers fairly early on, and that they accepted girls long before that
was considered politically correct for the mainstream of the movement.)
The changes were implemented between 1966 and 1968, in some cases by
leaders who didn't wait for the new program to be finished and rounded
off before starting. The chaos led to changes in the way new programmes
The next part of the saga came in the mid 1970s, when a committee was
set up between the Scout Association and the Girl Guide Association to
discuss the setting up of a common senior section for the two
Associations. After more than two years of discussion, the Girl Guides
withdrew from the talks, leaving an impression that they had never been
serious about the idea. Almost immediately, the Scout Association set
in motion letting young women join Venture Scouts as full members.
It should perhaps be noted that Cub Pack Leaders in the U.K. are
traditionally women, although I recall reading that less than half are.
The outcry was tremendous, and almost as great as had been for the
Advance Party Report some ten years previously. However, the change was
implemented without too many problems. The recommendation was made
that there be female leaders present when there were young women in the
Unit, but this was not mandatory. (Even today, there is no rule that
says female Ventures must have a female leader.) On the amusing side,
Scouting author and artist John Sweet (who died last year) created a
cartoon showing an unhappy male Venture Scout with the caption along the
lines of "I only joined the Unit to get away from five sisters, six
female cousins and four maiden aunts."
The next phase of the story is still in doubt, but it is assumed that
during the 1980s the Scout Association repeatedly approached the Girl
Guides with a view to merging. What discussions there were have been
kept secret, and it was only at the end of '89 or early in '90 that
press in Britain suddenly revealed that the decision had been taken to
open all sections of the movement to girls. (The 1980s were notable for
other reasons, like the introduction of a new training section for
younger boys: Beavers, later Beaver Scouts.) The press reports were not
the result of an official press release, but rather a leak from
somewhere close to the centre of power (accidental or otherwise). The
news was not denied by the Association, but the schedule was changed
very suddenly. Scouting Magazine held back and didn't publish letters to
the Editor on the subject, preferring to wait until the official view
was known and could be commented on.
The following year were busy with surveys of the (male) membership on
what they thought: discussions at all levels from Beaver up to Scout
(Ventures couldn't understand what all the fuss was about.) --- can you
imagine a serious debate with 6 year old boys. "Do you want to let
girls into the colony?" "NNOOOO!!!!!!"
Many Colonies and Cub Packs already had the required female leadership,
and had leaders in favor of mixing at that age group, but there was no
point in letting girls in at age six if there wasn't a mixed Troop for
them to transfer to at age 10. The vast majority of leaders in the
Scout Section are male, and find the idea of dealing with girls in the
10-15 age group a not very attractive one. The Final decision was that
the whole group had to become co-educational at once, or at least as
fast as the oldest girls moved up through the training sections. In
Groups with two or more Colonies, Packs or Troops, at least one of each
age section had to accept girls. There had to be a path upwards.
Another decision made very early on was that there had to be a female
leader (Section Leader, or Assistant) in every section accepting girls.
As far as I can see, this doesn't mean that there must always be a
female leader present, only that there must be one available most of the
Something else that was made clear was that "poaching" membership from
the Girl Guides was not acceptable, in just the same way that poaching
from the Boys' Brigade was not tolerated. (It's done anyway.)
What isn't perhaps obvious from the above is that at the first leaks to
the press, thousands of girls started to drift towards their nearest
Scout Group, only to be told "Please wait until we hear something
officially." The pressure was very great from the girls, almost as
great as the initial rejection from the boys. However, 18 months of
preparation followed the initial news before girls eventually joined.
With the usual three months delay, it was October 1991 issue of Scouting
Magazine which included the first pictures of girls in Scout uniform.
The effect on Scouting is to open up new opportunities. Much of Britain
is still rural, with small communities - too small to support both Scouts
and Guides, but just large enough to support a single mixed Group. In
the cities, with a much larger source of raw material, some Groups
are remaining all male (their choice, remember). Girl Guide units are
relatively unaffected. But many groups are going co-ed, or new Scout
Groups are being formed with virtually all female membership.
As to the effect on the Girl Guide Association, we don't know yet. They
are still the "sister organisation", and cooperation is still wanted at
all levels. What is expected is that initially the Scouts will pick up
all the girls who had already left Guiding. However, with parents
pushing their daughters into Beavers rather than Daisies (or whatever
they're called), it will be ten or fifteen years before we can say for
certain. That's how long it takes for kids to work through the system.
What is expected is an initial increase in the total membership (Scout
plus Guide), followed by a gradual decrease in the Guide figures.
One thing is now clear, and that is that a peaceful merger of the two
Associations is now impossible. The only possible change is that the
Guide Association withers away to the point where they become
insignificant, and the Scout Association tries to oust them from their
role as the U.K. element of WAGGGS.
That won't be for many years yet. Looking at the German situation,
there are four official Scout associations, three mixed, and one for
girls only. There are two "holding bodies" or Rings, one to be
affiliated with each of the world organisations. Each ring has just
three of the four, although there are girls in all four associations.
Membership of WAGGGS is not necessary for a WOSM association to have
(Much of the history of the Advance Party is published in the January
and February '92 issues of Scouting Magazine. It's typed from memory.)
Must run now. Girl Scout meeting at 1830, Boy Scouts at 1900 (TWICE).
I'll just have to be late for one of the BS Troops (But they already
David D. Miller
Scouting in Europe - A Unique Experience
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City