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Tomboys were considered to be opposite to femininity. A girl or woman was considered a tomboy if they adopted masculine qualities and neglected developing suitably feminine traits. Early Girl Guides frequently had to work against accusations of tomboyism. Guides engaged in outdoor activities, camping and other activities which were considered to be too manly for girls.

As a result, the Guide Association worked hard to counter this image. Opportunities for camping reduced and girls were encouraged to develop more feminine skills than their Scouting counterparts. Whilst Scouts learnt tracking and camouflaging to prepare themselves for combat, girls learnt first aid skills in order to treat the injured.

Here you can see a group of Guides demonstrating a number of feminine’ skills, helping to combat the Guides’ image of tomboyism – mending a pram, offering emergency assistance and caring for young children. Many of the early Guides were displeased with these activities, especially those that had joined the Scouts expecting adventure and manly activities. However, despite this a number of girls joined the movement and during the interwar period the movement was especially popular. Guiding still exists today (and is one of the most popular youth organisations world wide). Guides no longer have to struggle against accusations of tomboyism however.

 

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