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Gallery: From delicate Rosebuds who focused on home-making to adventurous, socially-aware Brownies

10:00 18 January 2014

First Old Felixstowe Brownies  taking part in a road saftey exercise in the latest version of the uniform

First Old Felixstowe Brownies taking part in a road saftey exercise in the latest version of the uniform


Rosebuds are delicate little flowers, yet to bloom into full blown roses, that must be treated with care.


The new promise reads:

I promise that I will do my best:

To be true to myself and develop my beliefs,

To serve the Queen and my community,

To help other people


To keep the Brownie Guide Law

Looking at the active, adventurous, enthusiastic and strong-minded young women that make up the thousands of Brownie Packs that exist today, you cannot imagine a less fitting name.

But this was the original name given to the units that were opened in 1914 by Lord Robert Baden-Powell, with the idea that these young girls would blossom into Guides.

The founder of the Scouts had created the Girl Guides four years earlier after much pressure from an army of young women who wanted to share in the opportunities that were being made available to their brothers, cousins and neighbours.

Realising that there were younger girls who also wanted to be a part of the organisation, he created a new section for girls aged eight to 10.

Lord Robert Baden-PowellLord Robert Baden-Powell

The idea was a success, but the name did not prove popular and in 1915, Lord Baden-Powell’s sister Agnes suggested the name ‘Brownies’ instead, naming the girls after the ‘helpful little creatures’ in a fairy tale which she loved.

Initially, there were no official uniforms for Brownies, although it was suggested they wear a blue skirt, knitted jersey, cap or tam and the Rosebud brooch.

In 1917 the first official Brownie uniform was created, and taking inspiration from the new name, it consisted of a brown tunic dress with patch pockets, a straw hat and a gold tie.

The new name also denoted the names of the Sixes - Elf, Gnome, Sprite, Imp, Pixie, Fairy, Leprechaun, Little People, Bwbachod, Tylwyth Teg.

Early Brownie programmes focused on home-making tasks such as folding clothes or mangling, knitting socks and making milk pudding. Other tests included memorising and delivering a message of 12 words.

Brownies are still encouraged to learn traditional skills and among the current list of badges they can work towards are the Cooks, Home Safety, Brownie Traditions, and First Aid.
But modern Brownie are also encouraged to play an active part in planning their own programme, some units camp under canvas and suggested activities include cinema trips, treasure hunts, canoeing, and visiting a planetarium.

The uniforms have changed many times over the past century , with trousers officially being introduced in April 1990, when Princess Margaret launched a new Jeff Banks- designed uniform.

The out-dated brown dresses were replaced with a plethora of yellow and brown items, and for the first time girls could choose which items they wore - sweatshirts, T-shirts, shorts, culottes, jogging bottoms and a baseball cap. Badges could be sewn onto the sash.

Another designer range was introduced in 2002, with an even greater emphasis on choice.

The current flock of Brownies can choose between hooded jackets, gilets, leggings, shorts, combat trousers, skorts, and long or short-sleeved tops.

Badges can still be sewn on a sash, or onto the gilet, or straight onto a camp blanket.

To accompany the new image, a programme was launched in 2003 called The Brownie Adventure, which aims to boost each girl’s confidence, encourage them to work together and care for others and enhance leadership skills.

New badges like disability awareness and environment were added, to encourage them to think of the wider community.

In September last year, a new Guiding promise was launched, to try and open up the organisation to people “of all faiths and none”.

This weekend, thousands of Brownies in Suffolk and north Essex will remake their promise at parties, sleepovers, activity days and day trips held to mark the launch of their centenary celebrations.



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