The Canadian equivalent of the Girl Scouts is dropping the name “Brownie,” the membership branch of some of its youngest scouts, after current and former scouts raised concern that it could harm Black members and girls of color.
Now, 7- and 8-year-old members of the Girl Guides of Canada will be called Embers, a name chosen with the help of current scouts and adult alumni. Other scouting organizations, including Girl Scouts of the USA, still use the name Brownies, but the origin of the word itself is less important than the way it made girls feel, Girl Guides of Canada CEO Jill Zelmanovits said in a statement.
Girl Guides of Canada said it made the change after members said the former name was offensive to them: “This was a name that made them feel extremely uncomfortable, prompted teasing and racist comments and was a barrier to feeling that they belong at Girl Guides.”
“Some do not want to be part of this branch because of the name,” the organization said. “Some girls choose to skip this branch altogether or delay joining Girl Guides until after this branch.”
Girl Guide troops are expected to start using the Embers name immediately, per Girl Guides, with updated Embers materials and uniforms to follow.
Brownies began as a membership level of the UK scouting group Girlguiding – a Guide Association was established in 1909. The Brownies (originally called Rosebuds) came about so that girls under age 11 could participate.
Many major scouting organizations in the West have adopted the name in the years to follow, including Girl Guides of Canada and the Girl Scouts of the USA. The latter organization uses the Brownie name for its second- and third-grade members.
Both Girl Guides and Girl Scouts have pledged to become “anti-racist organizations” since 2020. “We are dedicated to carrying out this pledge, and we are currently evaluating all aspects of our program to ensure alignment with this commitment,” the Girl Scouts of the USA said in a statement to CNN.
The group noted that it supported its “sister organizations throughout the world in making decisions that best reflect the wellness and intentions of their communities, and most importantly, girls.”