On this day in history : 22nd February 1889 – The birth of Olave Baden-Powell, first Chief Girl Guide for Britain and wife of Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout and Guide Movement….

Lady Olave Baden-Powell – Public domain

Olave was born at Stubbing Court, Chesterfield in Derbyshire and she was educated at home by her parents and by governesses…. She was very keen on outdoor sporting activities such as swimming, rowing, canoeing, skating, tennis, riding and football…. She also played the violin….

It was in 1912 that she met Robert Baden-Powell – whilst onboard the Arcadian, sailing to New York via the Caribbean…. She said he was the only interesting person onboard! They shared the same birthday, the 22nd of February, only he was 32 years her senior….

The couple became engaged on the 20th of September 1912 ~ amidst a media sensation…. They married in a small, private ceremony at Olave’s parish church on the 30th of October the same year…. The following October their first child was born; they had three children altogether, their eldest – a son, Peter – followed by two daughters, Heather and Betty…. In 1919 Olave’s sister died leaving three young daughters – Olave took them in and raised them as her own….

Robert and Olave with their three children, 1917 – Public domain

Robert and Olave’s first home was Ewhurst Place, near to Robertsbridge in East Sussex… Here they formed the 1st Ewhurst Scout Troop for the children of their staff…. In 1914 Robert taught Olave to drive, an activity he didn’t much care for himself – so once accomplished she became his chauffeur….

Ewhurst Place – Photo : The Voice of Hassocks – own work – Public domain

The Girl Guide Movement had formed after growing pressure from girls wanting to join their male counterparts in the Scouts…. The Guides were set up by Robert and his sister Agnes – Olave became involved in 1915 – and in March 1916 became County Commissioner for Sussex…. She encouraged women all over Britain to get involved in organising Girl Guide groups – and in 1918 she was unanimously voted as Chief Guide….

It was in 1919 that the Baden-Powells moved to Bentley in Hampshire, where they lived until October 1938…. They travelled extensively and eventually settled in Kenya…. It was here that Robert died in 1941….

Olave continued to lead the Guides after her husband’s death….and she continued to travel…. She had been made World Chief Guide in 1930 and was awarded the Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DGE) by King George V in 1932, in recognition of her voluntary work….

Lady Baden-Powell visiting Helsinki, 1960 – Public domain

In 1970 Olave was diagnosed with diabetes and advised to stop travelling…. She died on the 25th of June 1977 at Birtley House in Bramley, Surrey…. Her ashes were taken to Kenya to be buried with her husband….

Image credit : Carolandjessie via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

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