Wednesday, February 9, 2011

History Lessons, Part 2

 For those of you who might be new to my blog, click here to read History Lessons, Part 1.  Thanks for stopping by!

It is I Love to Read week in our school division.  This seems like a good time to talk about a book I recently read.

  How the Girl Guides Won the War is a fascinating story about the role European Girl Guides took during WWII. In the introduction, the author talks about how she was planning on writing a humor book, making fun of the Guides. During her research she realized she had to change the tone of her book as she learned more and more about how the Guiding movement helped the Women's Movement and girls who might not have had educational opportunities otherwise.

Can I just say that Girl Guides were seriously badass.  Brownies were taught to put out incendiary bombs with sand.  Guides ran foster homes out of abandoned manors in the countryside for evacuated city children.  There were Guide and Brownie groups run out of POW camps and in secret in Concentration Camps.   Merit Badges could be earned in rifle shooting and airplane mechanics.  Guiding gave these girls valuable survival skills that they taught to those around them.  Guiding gave them a routine to follow and a bit of normalcy to a crazy, scary time in their lives. The uniform was sometimes the only nice article of clothing these girls had.

I grew up in Guiding.  I started as a Brownie, worked my way through Guides and Pathfinders and then became a Jr. Leader in Brownies and then Assistant Leader in Guides.  I am now a Sparks Guider and starting Charlotte on her own Guiding journey..  I am proud to be part of an organization that was started by women and is still run by and for women.

I have learned some useful skills through Guiding and in reading this book, learned that some of the things I have learned for fun were actually used for survival at the beginning.  Fellow Guides out there:  do you remember having to cook sandwiches with Buddy Burners on a  coffee can camping stove?  I used them for fun and to earn a badge.  Guides in war-torn London taught people how to cook their daily meals on them.  Guides used to hold bomb shelter singalongs to help pass the time during air raids and to help calm people down by distracting them (it falls under one of the old Laws:  A Guide smiles and sings, even under difficulty.) I did that once too.  I once had to escort a rural patient by ambulance to a city hospital to have some tests done and get a terminal diagnosis confirmed.  The poor person was understandably worried and scared and stressed.  What did I do to help?  I sang silly campfire songs to him in the back of the ambulance to help take his mind off things for a moment.  The paramedics in the front thought I was nuts, but the patient managed to crack a smile and stayed relatively calm for our journey.

Even if you are not a Guide, I highly recommend this book.  It is a very interesting story about a very important time in world history.

I think it is essential reading for Guides, especially this month, when we celebrate the anniversary of the birthdays of our founders.


Carolyn said...

Wasn't that an awesome book? And yes, I too used a coffee-can stove although I never sang to anyone in the back of an ambulance.

My children, however, do think I'm strange for trying to teach them the song "Princess Pat".

Unknown said...

Carolyn--did you know the Princess Pat song has a cool back story as well? I looked up the lyrics not too long ago to teach my Sparks and found out we sing a modified version of a regimental marching song for the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry.
Here is a link to the story and original lyrics: