British Boy Scouts to Admit Girls
LONDON (AP) _ Britain’s Boy Scouts said Thursday they have decided to break their 83-year tradition and admit girls, who sometimes find the activities in the Girl Guides movement a little too tame.
The leader of the Guides, who count Queen Elizabeth II as their most famous former member, was less than thrilled at the announcement and said she hoped the Scouts didn’t plan to raid her organization for members.
The Boy Scouts of America has allowed girls, ages 6-15, to belong to its Explorer Division for about 19 years, according to national spokesman Lee Sneath.
″The Explorer Posts are co-ed, so it’s not like we have a troop of girls and a troop of boys,″ Sneath said in Dallas. ″They’re intermingled and they do exactly the same things.″
Chief Scout Garth Morrison said in announcing the British Scouts’ decision that local Scout chapters will be able to choose whether to admit girls because some ″want nothing to do with girls.″ Nobody would be forced to have them, he said.
″We are aware that in some places there is a pressing need for it and we are anxious to meet that need. It is an important move and a move in the right direction,″ Morrison said.
Nicola Lowes, 14, turned down in October when she and two friends applied to join the Scout group in Wark, northern England, said she would reapply Monday.
″I was in the Guides for a little while but I thought it was really boring,″ she said. ″Scouts seem more active and you get outdoors more.
″I was really upset when I was turned down. I kept asking them why, it just wasn’t fair.
″I think the boys will be for it, they treat us just the same as they are.″
Bob Hogarth, Scout leader of the Wark troop, said: ″The three girls have been campaigning strongly, and personally I am in favor of it. We had discussions with the boys in the troop who are aged 10 to 15 and they were in favor of it too.″
Morrison, a former navy lieutenant, said the Scout movement would be opened to girls aged six to 15, with the first girl scouts probably enrolled in 1991.
Older girls were allowed to join Britain’s Venture Scouts in 1976 and there are 11,000 of them now - about a quarter of the total membership.
Girl Guides’ Chief Commissioner June Paterson-Brown said she was ″very angry″ when she learned of the move. The two groups had just finished a two- year joint study on greater cooperation.
″I am extremely disappointed,″ she said, but added, ″I hope we are big enough to say that if the Scouts want this, it’s their decision. It really depends if the Scouts target our girls. If they try to poach our girls then it will make things very difficult.″
Morrison said girl and boy scouts would have separate tents, toilets, and washing facilities on camping trips, with men and women leaders.
A Scout spokesman said there were 680,000 British Scouts and a lot of pressure had built up by girls eager to join, attracted by the more adventurous activities.
Scouts frequently hike and camp out, but Guides don’t go camping as often.