The Trefoil Guild, according to all the official sources, started in 1943. So if you want to skip straight to the era when the Trefoil Guild itself started, you may wish to scroll past the first few sections on this page. If, however, you wish to consider why the 1943 date is at least debatable, the following details of the Trefoil Guild's 'pre-history' may be of interest.
By 1917 the early Girl Guides were outgrowing the section, and Senior Guides were started, as a 'finishing school' for the girls who had come through Guides - and as a more suitable starting point for girls who joined Guiding at 16 years or over. So already, the need was seen for something beyond Guides.
At that time, the girls of 16 and over fell into two distinct categories - and the split was effectively by class.
Girls of the upper and middle classes would stay in school until they were 18 or 19 years of age, after which the majority would help out at home, where they would stay until they were married - they would not normally take on any paid work, but might do good works in the community such as supporting charity funds. Work of this sort could include running Guide or Brownie units - at this time there was a definite emphasis on Guiders being the 'right sort' - in each locality it was a committee formed of such people as the lady mayoress, school mistresses, wives of doctors and of clergy who were tasked with nominating a 'suitable Captain' to headquarters. World War 1 had an impact on the upper and upper-middle class particularly - in the war the largest number of casualties was among the junior officers in the army, and as such, a lot of the young middle-class women in the late 1910s and early 1920s who had assumed that they would be married running a house, and perhaps raising a family before long - found that they were either single, or widowed without children. It was this which allowed Guiding to expand significantly in the 1920s. But it also meant there were a number of young women who were keen to retain their Guide friendships, and who had the time to continue active support of Guiding.
For girls of working or lower middle class, on the other hand, most would leave school at 14 to start full-time work - at this stage, the professions open to girls were mainly service, factory work, shop work or farm work - so by the age of 16 would tend to be well established in a career. They would tend to marry at an earlier age - usually in their late teens or early twenties - at which point they would automatically leave paid employment in order to run the house, and bring up the children. But that didn't mean they couldn't have the occasional evening out, with their old Guide friends.
So Rangers were created to solve two problems. The first was the problem of the girl who didn't join Guiding until she was 16, and found herself having to do Tenderfoot work with the 11-year-olds, and Second Class with the 12-13 year olds. The second problem was that of the Guides of 16+ who had earned all the badges and awards they were going to, and were starting to outgrow Guides but didn't want to leave the movement. As you might expect, Rangers helped with the first problem, but did not solve the second at all! It simply deferred it a little longer - for now it just became a case of what to do about those who did not want to leave Rangers, especially since there was no upper age limit for Rangers - Rangers in their 30s, 40s and beyond were not unheard of!
Many Guide and Ranger Companies encouraged older members to move on but tried to keep in touch their former members whose lives were moving on with careers or husbands and families, particularly where there was a risk of this meaning their former members losing all contact with active Guiding - but it was important that this was kept as an extra, or sideline, and was not to the detriment of the current 16-21 year old active membership of the Ranger Company - the next generation of Rangers who needed to get their turn of being Patrol Leaders and taking charge of running their unit - or at the expense of having an attractive programme with which to encourage new recruits from the Guide Company. .
In April 1919, the Lone Guide section was reorganised, into "Branch A" and "Branch B". Branch A being for Guides between the ages of 11 and 20. Branch B being for Guides over the age of 20. The 1921 edition of Organisation, Policy and Rules stated:
"The object of Branch B is:-
a) To enable Guides and Guiders to keep in touch with the Movement when through force of circumstances they have been obliged to give up active work with a Company.
b) To enable those to join the Movement who have found their work, study, ill-health or duties at home too great a handicap to their joining a regular Company.
c) To make it possible for those to join the Movement who are interested in Girl Guiding and anxious to do propaganda work, but who do not wish to take up the practical side of Guiding.
Lone Guides in Branch B are formed into Circles.
Each Circle contains nominally 12 Guides, with a Leader. A Circle must be registered in the same way as a Company. The registration fee is 5 s.
The Leader should be a former Guider so that she may be able to give practical assistance on Guiding to the Tenderfoot or those who wish to work for badges.
As those who join this Branch have seldom the time or the opportunities for taking up active Guiding to any great extent, they are not expected to work for badges unless they wish.
Those who are interested in the Movement and who wish to do propaganda work, but who do not wish to take up the practical side of Guiding, may wear the Tenderfoot badge without passing the Tenderfoot test.
The Leader runs her Circle as far as possible to meet the needs of her Guides.
Members of a Circle are kept in touch with each other and with the Movement by means of discussions and the exchange of ideas on interesting Guide subjects, the various papers and letters being circulated round the Circle."
Although "Branch B" is not listed as being part of Trefoil Guild history, it is clear from the age group served, the objects stated and the structure of small local groups - fits closely with what Trefoil Guild is intended to be.
In July 1925 it was announced that the Society of Ex-Guiders had been formed, run by the Head of Lones - in June 1929 it was announced that it would "be allowed to lapse."
In May 1930, "The Guider" included an article on "The Problem of the Older Ranger". It posed the problem of girls who had been Rangers for five or more years - and Guides before that, where the Guider felt they had reached the stage where they had done all the badges and awards they were destined to, and learned all the skills - some could become Guiders but "there will be many who have not the time or the inclination or the ability to do so". And as it stated "we always have younger Rangers growing up, so that unless we can think of some way of dealing with the situation, we are going to be faced with a problem. Either the old ones will hang on and continue to take the lead from force of habit, even though they may try to efface themselves - in which case the younger half of the company will suffer; or else we can push them gently but firmly out, and thereafter gradually lose touch with them, and perhaps deprive the Guide movement of some very useful members." The first option the unit tried was a 'senior patrol - "The Oaks". But this did not work very well as it was apt to make cliques. Next they tried pairing a senior and junior together so the senior could help the junior - but this didn't work well as it left the seniors in the lead again. Finally it was decided that the seniors should be Acorns, and the younger Patrols be Oaks, Beeches and Birches. The Acorns are attached, and can attend meetings occasionally - and they have a quarterly meeting of their own. They also have a circular letter, to which each adds her news before sending it on. The one obligation is some kind of service.
In the summer of 1933, the letters pages of "The Guider" had an extensive discussion on the question of the 'Guider-Ranger' - the adult who was serving as a Brownie or Guide Guider, but still wanted to be a Ranger in order to take part in activities with those of the same age. Some correspondents were supportive, suggesting that they were helpful to the Ranger Guider, but others suggested that their presence was offputting for other, especially younger, Rangers, with suggestions that a separate group would be better. Discussion on this topic resumed in October 1934 . . .
1935 brought proposals for a 'fourth branch' for former and current Leaders, with the subject being discussed at the Commissioners' Conference held in April. "It was generally agreed that the time has come when such a Branch is needed to absorb those women who, for one reason or another, are obliged to give up taking an active part as Commissioners, Secretaries, Guiders or Rangers, but who still wish to maintain their association with the movement." There was also support for the 'fourth branch' being open to those who were active in the movement in adult roles. Despite concerns that it might attract Guiders away from their units, it was agreed that it would be a positive step. It was agreed that a "Recorder" be appointed at Headquarters, who would receive and analyse suggestions, and draw up a simple scheme. Once created, Local Recorders could be appointed by Commissioners to focus the work of the 'Fourth Branch' in their areas. The request was made "Will anyone who is interested in the scheme and has ideas on the subject of a Fourth Branch, whether favourable or adverse, send these to The Recorder of the Fourth Branch". "Suggestions as to another suitable name and for the composition, functions and administration of the Branch will be especially welcome."
The August 1935 magazine gave more details of the discussion at the conference, and the initial suggestions received. Whilst some opposed a fourth branch, maintaining that the Ranger Branch could cater for young adults, the majority expressed a desire for a separate section. Correspondence also brought proof that in many parts of the country, there were already groups of various kinds in operation. Feedback was also received from the World Committee meeting which had been held in July. "The members were drawn from ten countries, and when asked for their experiences, nearly everyone had something in the way of an experiment to describe". "It seemed to be felt that, if the Fourth Branch is to become the natural outcome or fruition of Guide and Girl Scout training and influence, it should encourage its ex-members to go out into the wide world to take their proper places as individuals who accept their separate responsibilities in their communities and who do not persist in clinging together in companies primarily for their personal enjoyment and recreation.
In October 1935 "Guidons" was suggested as a name for it, and in January 1936 it was stated that a leaflet of the new Guidon scheme would be published shortly.
In "The Guider" in March 1936 the Lone Guide page mentioned the new 'Guidons' and indicated "In it's main lines it follows the Lone Guider's Circles so closely that eventually, no doubt, the two will become one, and all ex-Guides, whether Guides, Rangers or Guiders, unable to do active work, and inelligible for Lone Guide or Ranger Companies, will join the new Branch, if they want to keep in touch with the Movement. The Recorders will keep details of members in just the same way as Leaders of Lone Circles have kept track of their Circle members, and those willing to give practical help to a limited degree will be encouraged to do so. In counties where Guidons are already organised, ex-Guiders, wishing to keep in touch, should explore the possibilities of joining them before deciding to join the Circle."
A suggested scheme was also published, written by Joan Fryer, Headquarters Recorder, while making it clear that it was only suggestions, not necessarily a final plan:
"The idea behind this new step is that there should be a World Wide Fellowship of Guiding, consisting of all those who have taken the Promise, but who, for some reason or other, are unable to carry on actively with their companies or packs, districts or counties, and who desire keenly to remain part of the Movement and to keep the Guide ideals alive in their hearts. The name Guidons was suggested by the Founder, a Guidon being a pennant which was carried by leaders of the knights when showing the way to their followers. (Guidons are also carried to-day by Dragoon Regiments). The Chief Scout felt that the name Guidons was appropriate in that old Guides, knowing what Guiding meant to them as Guides and in many cases as Guiders, and what the ideals have meant and still meant o them, can be the Guidons of the Guide Movement - showing the way the young should go and where possible lending a hand. a suggestion has been made that the World Order of Guides (and possibly of Girl Scouts) might be used as a name for the whole Fellowship and that the title Guidons could be used for groups formed in Great Britain or elsewhere. It is quite probably that if this scheme was taken up in other countries they would wish to have their own name, as several schemes with different titles are already in existence. Organisation - It is suggested that each county, division, district or even company shall form its own group with a Recorder to undertake the secretarial work. Each group would be run according to its needs, in co-operation with the local Commissioner. Membership would be open to all those with a year's Guide service in any capacity (minimum age to be decided later). Suggested Activities - When possible Guidons should be given the opportunity to: a) Attend an Annual Reunion on Thinking Day, and any other meetings that may be arranged. b) Take an interest in Guiding locally, nationally and internationally. c) Give occasional help to the Movement and join in events connected with old company or district. d) Welcome and offer hospitality to other Guidons and to Guides and Girl Scouts from Overseas. It is hoped that this scheme will also help to absorb some of the older Rangers. Guiding is, and always must remain, a Movement for Youth, and the children must always come first. Surely a leaven of "Old Guides" with their experience and love of Guiding, still linked with the Movement they loved and which meant so much to them, can only help to strengthen our Movement. There may even be some who in the past have slipped away, but now as members of the Fellowship would give occasional help to Guiders or Commissioners, companies or packs. Again, it would be the present-day Brownies and Guides who would benefit. The "Old Guides Fellowship" is not a new idea, for it has been simmering in the minds of many, both in this country and Overseas, and quite a number of local schemes have been started."
In November 1936, a further article appeared in "The Guider". It was headed "Old Guides" - so it looks like by that point the "Guidons" name had already been dropped. "Old Guides. As conditions vary so much in each locality, Headquarters are most anxious that there shall be no red tape nor a set scheme laid down for Old Guide groups. In some cases county, division or district groups are being formed, in others companies already have their own schemes for keeping in touch with their old members and the two following reports may give ideas to those who are thinking of starting an Old Guide group or circle attached to their own company." information was given on the 1st Putney Old Guides Circle, and 1st Streatham Hill Company's Old Guides Association. The article then continued "I am continually being asked if Guiders who are doing 'active Guiding' may join Old Guide groups and if Rangers who are also Guiders or Cubmistresses in other companies and packs are eligible if they still want to keep in touch with their old company. Here again there need be no hard and fast rule, for I am quite certain that past and present Guiders would tremendously appreciate the chance of meeting together sometimes and therefore active Guiders will always be welcome at Old Guide gatherings. Guiders and Rangers who are also Lieutenants or Tawny Owls, will naturally not be able to attend all Old Guide activities as their time will (or should) be taken up working with their own companies and packs, but it is most natural that a Ranger who is now a Guider will occasionally like to feel she can meet her old friends who were with her in the Ranger company, and there is no reason whatever why they and other Guiders should not join in Old Guide activities when it is possible. Joan Fryer, Headquarters Recorder, 'Old Guides'."
In January 1937 was advertised meeting for Old Guides groups at County, Division, District and Unit level. In 1937 the first national Old Guides conference was held, at which it was decided that a special tie would be worn, in navy with red and green stripes - but they opted not to have a special Promise badge.
In December 1938 "The Guider" stated 'an Old Guide who has been previously Warranted as Commissioner, Secretary or Guider may wear an Old Guide Cockade in uniform, which is navy blue with a green and a red stripe, like the 'Old Guide' tie.' It was also stated that 'Old Guide' Recorders will be Warranted and wear the appropriate level Secretary badge. There was also an Old Guides column by the Headquarters Recorder