There has been limited accounting history research in the areas of nonprofit organizations and women in a non-business environment. This article addresses these two gaps by considering accounting history in a large female-managed nonprofit organization, the Australian Girl Guides Association (GGA). In order to do this the article uses a microhistorical reconstruction of an individual to penetrate underlying motivations (Parker, 1999, p.31) and to allow the reader "to draw conclusions from a story that illustrates a fragment of peoples' lives and activities" (Williams, 1999, p.75) by revealing what would otherwise be unknown about the struggle to develop appropriate accounting practices in the context of organizational culture and history. It discloses that pertinent recommendations by GGA's fourth treasurer, Mrs O'Malley Wood, were ignored by management in a fiscally irresponsible manner. This article demonstrates that by focusing close attention on a seemingly minor individual, the researcher is able to discover the possible constraints that shaped human behaviour at a specific moment in history.
The Struggle to Develop Accounting Practices in the Australian Girl Guides, 1945-9: A Microhistorical Approach
IntroductionAccounting historians have explained and traced the developments of modern accounting and accountability practices in private for-profit firms (Hopper & Armstrong, 1991; Fleischman & Tyson, 2000; Spraakman & Wilkie, 2000) and the public sector (Hoskin & Macve, 1988; Foreman & Tyson, 1998). However there is a dearth of studies of accounting history in nonprofit organizations, despite the significance of the sector, which is indicated by the fact that in Australia there are more than 700,000 nonprofit organizations, which employ 660,000 people and have total annual revenues in excess of AUS$70 billion, representing almost 10 per cent of GDP (Ferguson, 2005, p.47).Furthermore, the few studies of women in accounting history have been set, almost exclusively, in the business environment or in the home. They have included research on female bookkeepers (Wootton & Kemmerer, 2000; Walker, 2003), the admission of women as professional accountants (Lehman, 1992; Shackleton, 1999; Cooper & Taylor, 2000), and household accounting and budgeting in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Walker, 1998; Walker & Carnegie, 2007).This study seeks to address both these gaps in accounting history research by focusing on the struggle to develop accounting practices in a large female-managed nonprofit organization, the Australian Girl Guides Association (GGA), and in particular its NSW branch, which was formally established in 1920 and has operated continuously ever since. Today, it is part of an international affiliation of similar organizations, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), the largest international female organization, having 10 million members across 144 countries (Guides Australia, 2005).By 1945, GGA had a membership of 7,000, revenues of almost £3,000 and assets of £13,000 at a time when the Australian basic wage was around £5 (Olsen, 1959, p.173; Marshall, 2002). It was governed by an Executive Committee (EC) consisting of a chairman (always a titled woman of status in the community), an honorary treasurer, a secretary and other women, mostly upper class and of independent means. Primary archival sources (including minute books a...