The Girl Guides were formed on May 31, 1910, just three years after the Boy Scouts came into being. Co-founded by Robert Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes, the Girl Guide movement was to be run very much on the lines of the Boy Scouts with much emphasis on discipline, physical fitness and cleanliness of body and mind.
The idea of a special organisation for girls had been much discussed since the previous year: a suitable uniform was devised by a jacket, skirt, tie, a broad-brimmed hat, and black shoes and stockings. A system of Girl Guide troops was set up, with patrols, guide mistresses and merit badges for every conceivable feminine skill, with much concentration on cookery, child care and needlework.
The Girl Guides were soon very popular and within a few years there were hundreds of troops all over the United Kingdom. The movement was born in England but groups of Guides got going in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and South Africa, sometimes even before an official association had been founded there. By 1912, there were also groups in Ireland, Portugal, Norway and the United States of America. The Movement spread rapidly, and was even established in some countries without the knowledge of the Baden-Powell’s.
Many Girl Guides offering their services during World War I provided for a progression of the movement. Enthusiastic, resourceful and forward-looking Western girls moved to African and Asian colonies to spread its popularity even more. In the United States of America, the term Guide was unacceptable, as it already had a widely accepted application to Indian hunters. The first groups were therefore called Girl Scouts, and several other countries adopted the same name.
An international council was set up in 1919, which would function as a spider in the web. This essential link in the now worldwide organisation was an advisory body, arranging International Conferences of which the 1920 England Conference was the first.
By 1931, the number of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts within the organisation from then on known as WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) exceeded one million. Today, nearly ten million girls and young women are members, in 140 Member Organizations worldwide.
(I was informed by shimmer that the US Girl Guides were set up by Juliette Gordon Low and the Girl Guides in the UK nowadays are known as The Guide Association)