Window on my Heart - The autobiography of Olave, Lady Baden-Powell, G.B.E. as told to Mary Drewery
by Baden-Powell, Olave St. Clair (Soames)
pub. by Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1973 isbn - 0-340-15944-8
- - 256 p. - photos - list of countries visited - genealogical chart - index
This is a delightful autobiography which covers the live of Olave Baden-Powell from her birth through 1971. (She died 25 June 1977.) The chapters in the book are -
1. Victorian Childhood, 1899-1898 ~
This book has a very different slant on the early days of Scouting. It is of course from Olave's point of view, and is deeply personal, and even touches on she and PBs sleeping arrangements which was a matter of some discussion in Jeals biography of BP. It is constructed as a narrative from her diaries. Direct quotes from the diaries appear as needed.
2. A New Century, 1899-1903 ~
3. Edwardian Idyll, 1902-1908 ~
4. A Young Lady Comes Out, 1906-1908 ~
5. The Restless Romantic, 1908-1910 ~
6. A Wedding in the Family, 1911 ~
7. Strange Courtship, 1912 ~
8. A Partnership Begins, 1912 ~
9. A New Life, 1912-1914 ~
10. The War Years, 1914-1917 ~
11. The Girl Guides, 1916-1918 ~
12. The Coming of Peace, 1917-1919 ~
13. Pax Hill, 1919-1920 ~
14. India, 1921 ~
15. Double Harness, 1921-1927 ~
16. Recognition, 1927-1930 ~
17. Mixed Fortunes, 1931-1933 ~
18. Many Journeys, 1934-1937 ~
19. Death of a Hero, 1938-1941 ~
20. Alone, 1941-1942 ~
21. A New Challenge, 1942-1945 ~
22. Ambassadress-at-Large, 1945-1956 ~
23. Autumn Years, 1957-1962 ~
24. My End is My Beginning..., 1963-date (1971) ~
She put in more years working on Scouting than BP did, living over 35 years after his death. She was true to the ideals of Scouting and strongly supported a unified vision of one Scout group per country, mixing ethnic, social and racial groups into a single organization.
Olave expressed some guilt about how much she left her children in the care of others while working for Scouting, but defends the practice as one that most parents of the day who were in her social group did. She felt that the way they pressured her son Peter was particularly out of place. Peter died over 15 years before his mother, and although they had a good relationship Olave worried about her and BPs expectations for him. She flatly wrote that they should not have sent him to Sandhurst (UK military school.) In his own right Peter was successful in Africa, had a good marriage and children. Olave was very fond of Peters wife.
Olave's relationship with her mother was stormy, as was her relationship with her brother Arthur. Late in life things smoothed out, and all became well.
Baden-Powell wrote several letters to Olave to be read after he had died. Several times in his life he expected that he might die and he wrote them to console her and guide her after his death. Instead of one being replaced by another he added to the original(s). The biography reproduces them at the beginning of chapter 20.
After the funeral Olave managed to book passage via steamer from S. Africa to England, having a few close calls with German submarines. Arriving in England, she had no place to stay. Pax Hill was being used by the Canadian military and was not available, and anyway she could not afford to live there anyway. For a short time she lived in the International Scout office. When her powerful friends heard of her plight they prevailed on the crown and she was provided a -Grace and Favor- apartment at Hampton Court Palace. It included 8 rooms and an additional 8 rooms which were eventually used for visiting friends and a servant. She moved in on December 21, 1942 and lived there as a permanent residence for the rest of her life.
It may sound odd, but the Baden-Powells often had to watch their spending. They were in high social class, but were not really wealthy. They always seemed to have enough to do what was needed. Olave's father, who was more wealthy and sometimes helped, for instance with the purchase of Pax Hill, their home for over 20 years.
After BP died, among other things, Olave was given a large diamond from S. Africa to sell and defray expenses. The Scouts of USA gave her a credit card to help defray travel expenses, which was used in her final years to defray postage for the over 2000 Christmas cards she sent out.
This book is a comfortable read. It is useful to get a better undrestanding of Baden Powell and his family, and the early years of Scouting throughout the world. I recommend it.
Much of this book - chapters 7 - 12 - are available online at http://pinetreeweb.com/bp-olave-07.htm
If you can get the whole book - perhaps by interlibrary loan - read it. The chapters at the beginning and at the end are well worth the effort.
~ 2010-03-07 ~
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