Preserving Our Story in Our Own Ways

The Second Annual “Girl Scout Antiques Road Show” took place on Saturday, April 5, alongside the Nation’s Capital Annual Meeting.

Following the theme of “Preserving Our Story,” members of the GSCNC Archives and History Committee brought scrapbooks, quilts, and other unofficial items created to preserve their unique Girl Scout experiences.  Delegates and guests were encouraged to bring their own Girl Scout memorabilia to share.

Committee member Julie Lineberry (second from right) identifies an old Girl Scout publication.

Committee member Julie Lineberry (second from right) identifies an old Girl Scout publication.

 

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https://www.dropbox.com/sc/isifmam9eadwwll/apKiuOz10G

The authentic Girl Scout bugle was a big hit.

Denise Tomlin explains her bugle technique.

Denise Tomlin explains her bugle technique.

We also enlarged selected photos from the many scrapbooks in our collection that are too fragile too display.

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If you didn’t make it to the Archives exhibit at the Annual Meeting, you can still see many of these items on display at the Council office at 4301 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC.

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We hope to see you in 2015!

Mickey and Me

The death of Mickey Rooney Sunday led me to pull out a piece of my own Girl Scout history, a scrapbook from my Wider Opportunity.

Kentuckiana Girl Scout Council sent a group of Senior scouts to Washington, DC, Virginia Beach, Philadelphia, and New York City in August 1982. We stayed at the International Youth Hostel in Washington, enjoyed home hospitality with Colonial Coast Girl Scouts in Virginia Beach, bunked at the Girl Scout Program Center in Great Neck, Long Island, and met other troops at the Nassau Council office.

Mickey Rooney and my Wider Opp group.  I'm on the far right.  Yes, I'm even shorter than Mickey Rooney, and I think I was even wearing heels.

Mickey Rooney and my Wider Opp group. I’m on the far right. Yes, I’m even shorter than Mickey Rooney, and I think I was even wearing heels.

In New York, I saw my first Broadway show: Sugar Babies, an old-time vaudeville review starring Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller.  We attended the 2 pm Wednesday matinee (seat H107, according to my ticket stub), then went across the street to Luchow’s restaurant for dinner.Sugar_Babies

There in the restaurant, having dinner, was none other than Mickey Rooney and his lovely wife, Jan. Our leader sent a note to his table, explaining who we were, that we’d just seen his show, and could we get an autograph. When a waiter delivered the note, Mickey waved it over his head and shouted, “You bet!”  He was warm, friendly, absolutely gracious, and gave no hint that he had to get back for another show that night.

That little brush with star power sure made an impression on a girl from Paducah, Kentucky.

 

 

We Are Girl Scouts of the USA!

Juliette Gordon Low in 1923.

Juliette Gordon Low in 1923.


Today Girl Scouts celebrate their 102nd birthday. As a gift to our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, let’s resolve to call our movement by its correct name: Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

Because the Boy Scouts, a slightly older organization, are the “Boy Scouts of America” people assume that the Girl Scouts dutifully followed down the same footpath. If the boys are the BSA, then the girls must be GSA. Right? Wrong!

What’s in a Name?

Juliette Gordon Low fought hard for the right to use the name “Girl Scouts.” Lord Baden Powell, who founded the Boy Scouts, insisted the “scout” label was for boys only. He decreed that their sisters would be known as Girl Guides. Low called her first troops in the United States Girl Guides as well, but the girls declared that they wanted to be Scouts. She followed their lead and defended their choice.

Other groups staked claim to the scout name. Clara A. Lisetor-Lane organized a group called Girl Scouts of America in 1910, but it failed to gain a national following. That didn’t stop Lisetor-Lane from accusing Low of stealing her idea.

Rival claim from the Girl Scouts of America

Rival claim from the Girl Scouts of America

The biggest objection came from the Boy Scouts. BSA Chief James E. West was openly hostile to the notion of girls calling themselves Scouts, saying they “trivialized” and “sissified” the term. He helped launch the Camp Fire Girls as an alternative organization and threatened to sue Low for using the name “Scouts.”

Girl Scout leaders argued that they had an equal right to the name, especially after women won the right to vote in 1920. As national board member Caroline Slade explained,

Now that full citizenship has been extended to the women of this state, it seems to me essential that as girls they should learn that their responsibility for their country is equally as great as, if somewhat different from, that of the boys, and I believe there is no better way for them to learn to become good citizens than to learn to become the best kind of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Remember US

The difference between GSUSA and BSA is easy to remember: US.

The Boy Scouts have a long history of fighting to keep specific groups of people out of Scouting. At one time, that included girls and women—us.

Juliette Gordon Low and the other women who established Girl Scouting fought to give us an equal role as citizens of the United States, an equal responsibility to shape our futures, an equal opportunity to be self-sufficient, and an equal dose of “wholesome pleasures” such as camping, singing, and public service.

On this Girl Scout birthday, don’t forget to put the US in GSUSA to thank our past leaders for give US a place in Scouting.

Little House in the Nation’s Capital

No, it’s not a newly discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder book.   The Little House in Washington, DC, was the first in a series of model homes used by Girl Scouts across the country.  Sadly, the Washington Little House is long gone and one current Little House in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, is about to close.

Built behind the White House in Washington, DC, for the second Better Homes Demonstration Week in June 1923, the Little House was a fully working home, with a modern kitchen, breakfast nook, three bedrooms, and a nursery. Between June 4 and June 10, 2,500–3,500 people visited the house each day. After the exhibition, the Better Homes in America and General Federation of Women’s Clubs donated it to the Girl Scouts for use as a national training and innovation center. It became the first of many “Little Houses” across the country, where Girl Scouts practiced their homemaking and hospitality skills.

Moving the Little House from its exhibition site to 1750 New York Avenue, NW, across from the Octagon House.

Moving the Little House from its exhibition site to 1750 New York Avenue, NW, across from the Octagon House.

Lou Henry Hoover, wife of the secretary of commerce and national president of the Girl Scouts, paid $12,000 for the Little House to be moved from its exhibition site to its new location at 1750 New York Avenue, NW, across from the Octagon House. First Lady Grace Coolidge (right) laid the cornerstone.

Lou Henry Hoover, wife of the secretary of commerce and national president of the Girl Scouts, paid $12,000 to relocate the Little House. First Lady Grace Coolidge (right) laid the cornerstone, as Hoover watched.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Little House was THE place to go on Saturdays. There was always some badge activity to try or new skill to learn, and the First Lady, as honorary president of the Girl Scouts, might decide to drop by. After all, the White House was just around the corner.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Little House was THE place to go on Saturdays. There was always some badge activity to try or new skill to learn, and the First Lady, as honorary president of the Girl Scouts, might decide to drop by.

These girls look a bit tired after preparing a luncheon for First Lady Grace Coolidge (in white).

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These girls are preparing lunch while their guest of honor, Eleanor Roosevelt, observes.

A well-dressed group waits to welcome a distinguished guest to the Little House

A well-dressed group waits to welcome a distinguished guest to the Little House

The Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia rented a room in the northwest corner of the second floor as its headquarters until it outgrew the facility in 1928. The Little House was used continuously for trainings and demonstrations of the domestic arts from June 1923 to April 1945. The building was used as a branch of Girl Scouts of the USA, the national organization, for the next decade then given to the landowners in May 1955. The Little House was torn down in the early 1970s. There is a commemorative plaque in the lobby of the office building that currently sits at the site.

A dollhouse version of the Little House has been on display at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

For more about the original Little House, see the pamphlet, “Girl Scouts Keep House in Washington.”

POSTSCRIPT: All of the photos used here are from the Harris and Ewing collection and may be downloaded FREE OF CHARGE from the Library of Congress.  You don’t need to buy the overpriced copies offered on eBay!!

God Bless the Girl Scouts

On the past two Sundays,  I have played concerts with the Montgomery Village Community Band  As usual, we ended the concerts with “God Bless America.”

What does this have to do with Girl Scouts?  Plenty!

But first, a question: How much have Irving Berlin and his family earned from the royalties on “God Bless America”?

Answer:   $0.

Written in 1917, “God Bless America” debuted on Kate Smith’s radio show in 1938.  It was an instant hit.  Berlin’s lyrics captured his love of the United States, the country that had welcomed his family when they fled Russia in 1893.  He decided to use the royalties from this song to invest in the country’s future, especially its youth.

Sheryl Kaskowitz's book from Oxford University Press, is available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon, among others.

Sheryl Kaskowitz’s book from Oxford University Press.

In July 1940 Berlin set up the God Bless America Fund and instructed its trustees to equally distribute all royalties to two all-American organizations: the Girl Scouts of the USA and the Boy Scouts of America. Berlin sat on the board of directors of the Boy Scouts and his wife on the board of the Girl Scouts.  The Fund’s trustees explained the selection of beneficiaries: “It was felt that the completely nonsectarian work of the Boy and Girl Scouts was calculated to best promote unity of mind and patriotism, two sentiments that are inherent in the song itself.”

Originally the funds were distributed to councils across the country, but since in the 1990s the fund has focused on the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York and the Greater New York Councils: Boy Scouts of America. Both organizations used the funds to provide programs in low-income neighborhoods.

At the time, right-wing fringe groups attacked the Girl Scouts for accepting Berlin’s gift. Noting that the composer was Jewish, they denounced the song as being part of a Jewish conspiracy to replace the “Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem. Historian  Sheryl Kaskowitz reprints excerpts from some of these startling letters, including one that claimed the Girl Scouts had accepted $15,000 from Berlin as part of the conspiracy: “Millions of Christian Americans resent certain forces using a great Patriotic organization such as yours to further their own selfish interests, and further the lid is about to be blown right off this slimy trick.”

The Girl Scouts persevered, and ten years later, in 1950, Fund president Herbert Bayard Swope cited the movement as “a leading factor in the fight to end race, color, and religious discrimination in the United States.”

Annual income to the two organizations has ranged around  $100,000-$200,000 in recent years. According to a 1996 article in Billboard, other patriotic Berlin songs have been added to the Fund’s catalog, including “This Is the Army” and “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor.”  The bulk of the royalties still comes from “God Bless.”

Royalties swelled to $800,000 for 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  By 2011 some $10 million had been distributed to both organizations.

However, Fund trustees became increasingly uncomfortable with the Boy Scouts’ official policy of discrimination against homosexual members, upheld in a 2000 Supreme Court ruling. Fund publications began to stress that royalties went to the Greater New York Council, not the national organization.  Each year the Greater New York Council had to assure the Fund of its non-discrimination policy.

But things changed dramatically in December 2012.

The Fund was not satisfied by the council’s statement in 2012, and it refused to cut a check to the Boy Scouts. Even when the national Boy Scouts voted in May 2013 to lift the ban on gay boys as members–it still applies to leaders–the GBA Fund stood firm.

“As long as the BSA continues to maintain this discriminatory policy,” the Fund said in a statement, The God Bless America Fund will not provide financial grants to any affiliated chapters of The Boy Scouts of America. As far as I can tell, that policy remains in place.

Girl Scouts representing Justice, Liberty, and Peace strike a pose during a June 19, 1915, rally at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

Girl Scouts representing Justice, Liberty, and Peace strike a pose during a June 19, 1915, rally at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

I don’t know if the Girl Scouts now receive the entire annual royalty check for “God Bless America,” but I hope to find out. For 2012, Girl Scouts of Greater New York reported a donation from the God Bless American Fund of between $75,000 and $149,999. (See Greater New York Annual Report 2012.)

The Girl Scouts of the USA has long advocated inclusion and maintained a strict policy of “For All Girls.” Period.  We know there is always room for one more around the campfire.

God Bless the Girl Scouts, indeed.

Taking Pot Shots at the Girl Scouts

Marijuana and the Girl Scouts?  Not words you’d normally put together, but lately the news is full of stories about Girl Scouts and pot.

The buzz comes from San Francisco, where an enterprising Girl Scout set up a cookie both outside a medical marijuana dispensary and did a booming business.  With states increasingly decriminalizing marijuana, the stage seemed set for an army of girls in green helping legal users satisfy their munchies.

But not so fast. You can’t just go out and deal cookies on any street corner.  There are rules. Most councils have a centralized booth assignment system, which secures and distributes booth locations up to two months in advance. The San Francisco Girl Scout’s booth was not approved by the Northern California Council; instead, it was her mother’s idea.  It was a rogue booth.

The Girl Scout Council of Colorado, a state that recently allowed sales of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, quashed the hopes of many potential Thin Mint dealers. The Council clarified that its policy of not allowing sales outside adult-oriented business (such as liquor stores and gun shops) applies to pot shops, too.

Here in Washington, DC, there also is a movement to decriminalize marijuana, but that is old news for the Girl Scouts.

Patch from 1972 Wider Opportunity, "Petticoats, Pot, and Politics"

Patch from 1972 Wider Opportunity, “Petticoats, Pot, and Politics”

Teen Girl Scouts already weighed in on the marijuana issue, took their views to a Republican White House, and got an endorsement from the First Family.

In 1972 the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital sponsored “Petticoats, Pot, and Politics,” a Wider Opportunity (Destination) for Senior Girl Scouts. One hundred girls aged 14-17 from across the country joined 25 girls from GSCNC for two weeks of political debate at Trinity College in Washington, DC.

The Nation’s Capital girls helped design the program, selecting current issues with particular relevance for teens.  They passed several bills, including one requiring sex education to be taught in school, but defeated a proposal to decriminalize marijuana, instead calling for possession to be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Petticoats Pot_JNixon

Leader Magazine, March 1973.

The experience ended with a reception at the White House attended by First Daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower, who declared that she agreed with the girls’ position on marijuana.

So, Girl Scouts on pot.  Been there, done that, didn’t inhale.

Thinking About the World Centres

In honor of World Thinking Day on February 22, the Nation’s Capital Archives and History Committee has created a display highlighting the four World Centres.  (Since the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts is located in London, “centre” is the official spelling.)

Many committee members have visited one or more of the centres and shared some of their souvenirs.  (Alas, I haven’t been to any…yet!)  Most of the items came from Sandra Alexander, a member of the Friends of Our Cabana, and Joan Paull, who was the WAGGGS liaison in Washington, DC, for many years.

Committee members Joan Paull (left) and Ginger Holinka select items for display.

Committee members Joan Paull (left) and Ginger Holinka select items for display.

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Our display highlights four original pen and ink sketches of the World Centers. They are signed “Chris Bachofer,” but I’m afraid I don’t know the story behind them, or how they came to be part of our collection. (Please let me know if you do!)

For more on the World Centres, see their websites: Pax Lodge, Our Cabana, Our Chalet, Sangam.