Be Prepared! Lessons from Peace Scouting for Girls (1910)

Back in 1918 when Christchurch households were coping with the onslaught of the influenza pandemic, many of them would have been in possession of a very useful little book written by Lieutenant-Colonel David Cossgrove, Chief Dominion Scout, and his wife Selina, which was published in Christchurch in 1910. This scouting handbook for girls became an international success, selling widely in other countries including Japan and the United States.

David Cossgrove had a background in teaching, and in 1899 took a position at Kaiapoi Native School, which became Tuahiwi School in 1908, at which time he became its headmaster. He had received two commissions in the South African War and during his time there met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts movement, who had written "Scouting for boys". With Baden-Powell's blessing Cossgrove established the New Zealand scouting movement upon his return from South Africa, and later together with his wife they established the Girl Peace Scouts' Association, with Mrs Cossgrove becoming the first scoutmistress of the organisation. Initially the organisation was distinct from its UK counterpart but changed its name to Guides New Zealand in 1923 and became what we know today as Girl Guides.

Their book, Peace Scouting for Girls, is packed to the brim with handy hints, from reading suggestions suitable for young girls, to some simple rules of jiu-jitsu self-defence such as the “Release from Waist Hold”. There’s also tips on what to do if your dress should catch fire, or you need to rescue someone from drowning, or how to administer a “stomach syphon” in a case of accidental poisoning.

Nursing of invalids, we are informed, might require delivering a purgative enema, using two to four pints of warm suds (made from good soap, of course). However, in present times perhaps the most useful are the pages on invalid cookery and drinks.

Below are a couple of recipes to enjoy when COVID forces you to isolate in the comfort of your home (the niceties of beef tea and calvesfoot broth are withheld in consideration of the more squeamish reader).

And don’t forget to tie a knot in your handkerchief to remind you to do a good turn for someone!

Poached Egg in Gravy

Poach an egg in nicely-flavoured gravy instead of water, put the egg on hot buttered toast, and strain some of the gravy over.

Toast Water

Take a piece of crust of bread and toast it brown all over (it must not be burned), put it into a jug, and pour some cold water over it. Let it stand for half an hour before it is used.

Want more culinary brilliance from years gone by? Try:

More reading

Annette Williams | Family History Librarian
Tuakiri | Identity Team, Tūranga

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