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Mary Chater MBE (1896-1990)

My Wikipedia journey started organically, and unintentionally.

A growing obsession with collecting old Girl Guide and Girl Scout songbooks for my YouTube channel led me to the name Mary Chater many times in various contexts, as an editor, composer and author for the Girl Guide Association (GGA). I wanted to know more about this prolific woman, but beyond the scantest details*, she was nowhere to be found.

Mary Chater

I started to search:Google - very little, JSTOR - bits (mostly the Musical Times) Then I discovered The British Library's incredible British Newspaper Archive and its 44,498,883 (as of 20/03/2022) scanned pages containing the most local of papers dating back to the 1700s. Staggering!

Mary spent some time representing GGA in Canada. This led me to the global where I found articles from 1950s Ottawa to help add colour to my story.

There was whole new (old) world to explore, and many mentions of Mary, which was just wonderful.

The next resource, gives access to the records of millions of people. Here was my greatest coup so far - I connected with Mary's Grand-Nephew, Christopher. The family had collated her memoirs after she died, and he shared a copy with me. This was just amazing - a brilliant insight into the life of a Music Advisor to the Girl Guides Association for 15 years, and so much more.

At this point I decided I had enough to create a Wikipedia page, but was totally clueless as to the mechanics of how this worked. Cue: Ken, the son of a friend who was a total star, calmly and patiently guiding me through the basic process, with him doing all of the back-end mechanics to get it over the finishing line.

One other small success in the process was I had Mary's memoirs admitted into the Norfolk Girlguiding Archives (as I understand the only permanent archive in the organisation, which seems utterly insane...). This means I was able to cite them as part of my Wikipedia article, and another piece of Guiding history was added to the picture.

This article took 3 months to research, compile, write and upload to Wikipedia. I loved every minute of it.

Next article: Janet E Tobitt, Mary's Girl Scout of USA counterpart


Photo credit: Guiding Magazine, November 1990


* She was mentioned on Wikipedia as a recipient of the Silver Fish - Girl Guiding's highest adult award, and she appeared on the suffragette Cicely Bertha Hale's Wikipedia page as her partner.


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