Agnes Smyth Baden-Powell (1858-12-16 – 1945-06-02) was the younger sister of Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, and was most noted for her work in establishing the Girl Guides movement as a female counterpart to her older brother's Scouting Movement.
Agnes was born Agnes Smyth Powell into a family of ten children, being the ninth child and the third daughter. Her father, the Reverend Baden Powell, was the Savilian Chair of Geometry at the University of Oxford.
Her mother, Henrietta Grace Smyth, was the third wife of Rev. Baden Powell (the previous two having died), and was a gifted musician and artist.
When Agnes was only two years of age, the Reverend Baden Powell died. In order to honour him after his death, the family added Baden to their names and have since been known as Baden-Powell.
This left the family under the firm control of Henrietta, who was determined to instil a desire to succeed in her children. As Agnes' brother, Robert, has been quoted "The whole secret of my getting on lay with my mother."
Agnes went on to become an accomplished musician, playing the organ, piano and violin. She also had many varied interests, including natural history and astronomy, and kept bees at her home.
The Guide Movement
Following the creation of the Boy Scout Association, Robert Baden-Powell organised a gathering of Scouts at the Crystal Palace in London in 1909. He was mildly surprised to see a significant number of self-styled Girl Scouts who sought to imitate their brothers and join in with the Scouting phenomenon.
Popular opinion at this time was prejudice against girls in Guiding, fearing it would make them immodest, impolite tomboys. Agnes Baden-Powell's character was useful in counteracting these opinions. A friend wrote of her:
Anyone who had come into touch with her gentle influence, her interest in all womanly arts, and her love of birds, insects, and flowers, would scoff at the idea of her being the president of a sort of Amazon Cadet Corps.
In 1909, Agnes and Robert together published "Pamphlet A: Baden-Powell Girl Guides, a Suggestion for Character Training for Girls" and "Pamphlet B: Baden-Powell Girl Guides, a Suggestion for Character Training for Girls". These were precursors to the handbook.
By April, 1910, there were 6,000 young girls registered as Girl Guides.
During this time, Agnes and Robert collaborated on the Guides' first handbook. Entitled "The Handbook for the Girl Guides or How Girls Can Help to Build Up the Empire ", and published in 1912, it was a reworking of the Scouting for Boys book written by Robert several years earlier. It is often referred to simply as "How Girls Can Help To Build Up the Empire".
The Girl Guide Movement was given official recognition in 1915, and Agnes was made the actual President at the same time.
Agnes continued in her role as Vice-President until her death in June, 1945, at the age of 86.
- Jeal, Tim (1989). Baden-Powell. Hutchinson. pp. 79, 82, 86, 145-146, 155, 347-352, 427.
- Kerr, Rose (1976). Story of the Girl Guides 1908-1938. London: Girl Guides Association.
- "Fact Sheet - The Three Baden-Powells: Robert, Agnes and Olave". Girl Guides of Canada Guides du Canada. http://www.girlguides.ca/media/pdfs/14-3/184.108.40.206.pdf. Retrieved 2006-09-28.