International Women's Day | Meet Vera Barclay, the inspirational co-founder of Cubs

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Today is International Women's Day! We're celebrating Vera Barclay, the inspirational woman who co-founded Wolf Cubs with Robert Baden-Powell in 1916. This year marks 100 years of Cub Scouts.

Creating Wolf Cubs

Vera was an early female leader in Scouting, joining the Movement in 1912 when she was 19. She started working with the Scout troop in her village, and went on to become its first female Scout leader.

Baden-Powell had noticed that lots of boys younger than 11  - the age you had to be to join Scouts at the time – wanted to join the Movement. In late 1913, Baden-Powell announced that a scheme for junior scouts would be coming soon. In January 1914, more details were announced in the Headquarters' Gazette - the Scouting Magazine of its time - under the title Junior Scout or Wolf Cubs.

In her village, Vera was getting similar calls from young children to join the Movement and so recruited her sister, Angela, to help lead the new group, forming 1st Hertford Heath Wolf Cub Pack.

Roles for women

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An image from 'How a lady can train the Cubs'

Using her local experience and realising that there were lots of women who would be interested in leading Cub Packs, Vera wrote an article – ‘How a lady can train the Cubs’ – in 1915, which was published in the Headquarters’ Gazette.

Baden-Powell was impressed by the practical tone and positive attitude, and Vera would later go on to write the ‘Cubmaster’ page for the same magazine a few years later.

Joining Headquarters

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An image from The Wolf Cub Display, published in 1917

Vera and Angela ran a Programme full of games and activities designed to appeal to younger boys, and by 1916 she had been offered a staff job at Scouting Headquarters as assistant secretary – a change from her work as a nurse in a Red Cross Hospital.

‘You can imagine how awfully surprised I was at being offered a “staff job” at Headquarters,’ she wrote, ‘I’m sure I don’t deserve it – but if you think I should be any good of course I am delighted to accept.  I can at counts “Do my best!”’

This made Vera the first woman to hold a leading role in Headquarters, and for the next four years, Vera’s page in the Headquarters Gazette would be the main source of news and information on Wolf Cubs.

The launch of Wolf Cubs

By October 1916, Baden-Powell announced that they would grow Scouting to include Wolf Cubs, having experimented with the idea for two years. On 29 November, the Wolf Cub Handbook was introduced, edited by Vera herself.

The Wolf Cub section was formally launched on 16 December 1916, at London’s Caxton Hall. Following the launch, Vera’s role was expanded to Cub Leader on a wide variety of projects to support the section.

She continued to work at Headquarters, and was involved in large-scale events like the Cubmaster Conference. Vera also went on to write the Wolf Cub Magazine, filled with content aimed at Cubs and their leaders.

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Vera in 1920.

Later years

Vera remained involved in the Movement until 1956. Her last known writing for The Scout Association was in the November issue of The Scouter, in which she wrote about the build up to the 1957 celebrations that would mark the centenary of Baden-Powell’s birth.

She also played a leading role in the introduction of the Cub section to France, Les Louveteaux, and was a recipient of the Cross St Louis, a prestigious award from the Scouts de France. She was a woman of huge energy, with wide interests – she was also at one time both a tobagganist and a writer of detective stories under the name High Chichester.

Today she is remembered as a woman passionate about bringing the adventure of Scouting to many more children, enabling millions of Cubs to enjoy activities and opportunities over the last 100 years.  

Vera died in 1989 and is buried in Sheringham, where she spent the last years of her life.

Vera Grave And Badge

Happy International Women’s Day! To get involved in #Cubs100, take a look at the website. You can also thank the people who've made your Cub Pack a reality by holding your very own Thanks Party! Take a look at the resource and let us know how you get on!

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