First National Headquarters

Juliette Gordon Low used her carriage house in Savannah for the earliest Girl Scout meetings and the first administrative office.

But she envisioned her movement as a national one, so in June 1913 she set up a national headquarters in the Nation’s Capital — Washington, DC.

Low signed a lease for Room 502 of the Munsey Building at 1327 E Street NW in Washington, DC. Monthly rent was $15, and she spent $2 for a sign on the door.

Munsey Building

Munsey Building (Library of Congress photo)

The building was conveniently located near the Willard Hotel and the Treasury Department.

Munsey Map

Neighborhood map (Library of Congress image)

The Munsey Building was the Washington base of Frank Munsey, a New York newspaperman who had made his fortune publishing racy articles on cheap, low-quality paper — the original pulp fiction. In 1901 he purchased the Washington Times from William Randolph Hearst.

According to Lost Washington, DC, by John DeFerrari, Munsey bought the old Lawrence Hotel on E Street in 1905, razed the building, and erected one of the first Washington “skyscrapers.” He hired the prestigious architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White to design his new offices.

The 12-story building boasted luxury details throughout, including marble Roman Doric pilasters, brass details, and exotic wood paneling. Black and red marble designs on the floor indicated the entrances to each suite.

Munsey 12 floor

Typical suite entry (Library of Congress photo)

The Munsey Building became the center of Washington’s “Newspaper Row.” The Washington Times and Washington Post offices were just doors away, with the Evening Star a few blocks east.

National Executive Secretary Edith Johnston arrived from Savannah, GA, and set up shop with Miss McKeever, a local woman hired to handle mail requests for information, handbooks, and badges. Johnston also publicized troop activities, and local newspapers had a regular column about local Girl Scouts.

DeFerrari writes that the building was home to “a variety of patent attorneys,” which proved convenient when Low patented the trefoil design in 1914. Other tenants included the National American Woman Suffrage Association.


Munsey Interior

Typical office suite in the Munsey Building (Library of Congress photo)

Low paid the rent herself and covered the cost of uniforms, handbooks, and all types of expenses until the organization could become self-funding. She famously sold her wedding pearls in 1914 to raise funds for her girls. Low moved the national headquarters to New York City in 1916.

Johnston later lamented that Washington was not adequately recognized as the site of the first national headquarters:

Johnston June 12 1954

Letter from Edith D. Johnston to Kathleen Eihlers (GSCNC Archives)

The Munsey Building was torn down in the early 1980s.

©2015 Ann Robertson

My Favorite Girl Scout Memorabilia

What is your favorite piece of Girl Scout memorabilia? Your sash? An old handbook?

I had plenty of time to think about this yesterday, on my six-hour drive home from the North Carolina Collector’s Show.

Aside from my old vest, I think my favorite is this unusual pin I purchased a few years ago on eBay.  I wore it at the show, too.

My Worlds to Explore pin

My Worlds to Explore pin

The pin is about 1.5 inches in diameter and stamped “sterling” on the reverse. However, the globe, sun, and heart have a slight golden color, which may be from another metal as well.

The pin is engraved “Suncoast Girl Scout Council” on the back of the rainbow.



The pin is probably from the 1980s, as the symbols are those of the old Worlds to Explore program.

Worlds to Explore Dabbler Interest Projects: (l-r) Arts, Out-of-Doors, People, Today and Tomorrow, Well-Being

Worlds to Explore Dabbler Interest Projects: (l-r) Arts, Out-of-Doors, People, Today and Tomorrow, Well-Being

Suncoast council disappeared in 2007, when the Girl Scouts of West-Central Florida was created.

I don’t know the story behind the pin, but I suspect it was custom made, perhaps as a gift to a special volunteer or board member. I don’t know how it ended up on eBay, either.

But I am happy that the mystery pin wound up in the hands of a Girl Scout who appreciates its symbolism. I am proud to wear and share this unique conversation piece.

@ the North Carolina Girl Scout Collector’s Show

The 2015 North Carolina Girl Scout Collector’s Show is in full swing at Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ in Conover, North Carolina. This is my first Collector’s Show, and I’m amazed at all the items on display.

Becky Byrns and the Girl Scout Council Peaks to Piedmont have put together a wonderful event with nearly 40 vendors. This year’s patch says, “An Antique Show That Is Only Girl Scout Stuff” and that description is definitely accurate!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Vintage uniforms greet arrivals outside the display hall.


Vendors set up at the 2015 show.


Foreground: Scoutiques both, with Tom and Rosemary Ashton

Vendors include private collectors and council archives committees selling excess inventory.

Friday night was setup.  Most committee members had shopping lists of what badges, uniforms, and magazines are missing from their collections.


Ellen DeMaio’s Wonderful Doll Display

One collector's fabulous badge and insignia display.

Susan Dellay’s fabulous badge and insignia display.

Early Khaki uniforms on dislay

Early Khaki uniforms on dislay

Merana Cadorette (left) and Annelise Squieri confer.

Merana Cadorette (left) and Annelise Squieri confer.

Even Daisy is here!

Even Daisy is here!

Sorting and selling

Sorting and selling

I brought items from my own collection, including copies of my book and over 100 Council’s Own badges. (Need requirements? Check my Council’s Own website.)


I’m in the corner by the back door.

Stop by and say hello.  Buy a book and give me a chance to use my new credit card reader!

The show runs until 3pm today, Saturday November 14. I”ll add more photos as the day goes on.

2015 Collector's Show patch

2015 Collector’s Show patch

© 2015 Ann Robertson

Skills Needed: Girl Scout Badges Could Help

A new book claims that today’s college freshman lack basic life skills. This is a gap that Girl Scouts should address.

New book by former Stanford Dean of Freshmen Julie Lythcott-Haims

New book by former Stanford Dean of Freshmen Julie Lythcott-Haims

In How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshman at Stanford University, claims that incoming students had impressive resumes, but were increasingly incapable of taking care of themselves. To remedy this problem, she says that, especially with teenagers, we should “seek out opportunities to put independence in their way,” such as making them responsible for their own food or learning to take public transportation.

She’s not alone in this belief. Many colleges have “College 101” courses to teach some of the basics. US News & World Report suggests that college freshmen need Seven Essential Life Skills.

With college looming, my troop of Seniors and Ambassadors has been focusing on basic life skills. We haven’t found much help from the current badge offerings, especially given the slim pickings for Ambassadors. Let’s see how well current badges satisfy the US News Seven Skills:

Dinner Party

Dinner Party

(1) Cooking:  While learning to host a Dinner Party is a great idea, we’ve taken a more basic approach to cooking. We did one meeting on things you can microwave in a mug, like scrambled eggs (and a Nutella cake that will get you through almost any crisis). Another session is how to boost a packet of ramen noodles into actual food.

On My Own

On My Own

(2) Managing money and (3) Apartment hunting: We did On My Own, which was pretty good, although I wish the actual badge wasn’t screen printed. To teach budgeting and how to manage a checkbook, I turned to Teachers Pay Teachers. This is a great website where teachers upload materials they have developed for various age levels. For about $5 I downloaded a PDF packet with blank checks to cut out, registers to fill out, and more.

(4) Getting around town: This includes both auto care (which the Senior Car Care badge somewhat covers), but also public transportation, especially since many colleges do not allow freshmen to bring cars. Perhaps we should bring back the old Transportation badge from the 1940s?

Take Charge (photo by Annelies Squieri)

Take Charge (photo by Annelies Squieri)

(5) Staying safe and healthy: We did the old Studio 2B Take Charge badge, since there is no self-defense badge today. That was a controversial badge in its day, but girls need some blunt talk about domestic violence and rape with a trusted adult. It was surprising how many knew girls who had already been victims.

(6) Studying: I miss the old Reading badges that encouraged girls to read for fun and create troop book clubs.  To fill that gap, I’ve created my own patch programs based on the Hunger Games series and the Princess Diaries. They are fun ways to make stories come alive, learn related skills, and explore unexpected career paths.

(7) Planning: Any girl who has completed a Silver or Gold Award knows the importance of planning, but the current program is not adequately preparing them. I’ve been on my council’s Gold Award Panel for some eight years and have seen hundreds of girls who think adequate planning is a four-slide PowerPoint. With rare exception, project management is a skill that we have to teach girls as we mentor them, not one they’ve acquired in their troop.

I’ll add a few other skills:

Laundry Symbols Explained (

Laundry Symbols Explained (

  • Laundry: We don’t need to resurrect the old Laundress badge, but how about teaching girls (and their leaders) what all those mystery symbols on care tags mean?
  • Sewing: Perhaps GSUSA thinks we don’t need to know how to sew any more, since insignia are now all iron-in, but every now and then you have to sew on a button or fix a hem.
  • Swimming: Yes, swimming. There’s no Girl Scout badge for swimming any more.  But to graduate, every Columbia University student has to be able to swim the length of the pool.

So there are my suggestions. Some of these skills are covered at earlier Girl Scout levels, but Ambassadors at least need a good review.

But of course, that would mean revamping the flimsy Ambassador program.

©2015 Ann Robertson

Bomb Squad Called In To Remove Potentially Explosive Girl Scout Memorabilia–Denver

Nation’s Capital discovered some of these pads in a kit a few years ago. The DC Bomb Squad came and cleared the scene.

Quite exciting, I understand!

Gauze pads with picric acid may explode as they age.

Gauze pads with picric acid may explode as they age.

Weld County’s bomb squad exercised extreme care for a package the size of a credit card: picric acid gauze pads found in a 1930s Girl Scout first aid kit.

Click below to view article:

Source: Bomb Squad Called In To Remove Potentially Explosive Girl Scout Memorabilia « CBS Denver

See Our New History Program Center (Video)

See Our New History Program Center (Video)

Warning: Major cuteness alert.

Following the grand opening of the Nation’s Capital Archives and Program Center, the PR department made a video tour of the center.

(Yes, that’s the Center patch she’s holding, not a Girl Scout Way badge, but you get the idea.)

Our first workshops begin this Saturday, October 19.

Not registered for a workshop? Drop by Sunday, October 20, between 2 and 4 pm for a tour.

Rocking Rededication

multi-year_rededicationFall is an exciting time for Girl Scouts, as new girls join, new troops form, and returning members recommit themselves to the Girl Scout Promise and Law. Each is marked by a special ceremony, either an Investiture or a Rededication.

Both are beautiful rituals that have been performed since the earliest troops met.

But too often, once the ceremony ends, mothers rush over to the leaders and immediately begin arguing. The issue? The dreaded Rededication Rocker – the iron-on patch reading “First Year,” “Second, Year,” etc.

“Susie’s been in your troop three years, but you gave her a Second Year rocker. Can’t you get your paperwork right?”

And so it begins.

Let’s set the record straight about Rededication Rockers.

Rededication Rockers first appeared in the 1999 patch catalog.

Rededication Rockers first appeared in the 1999 patch catalog.

First, Rededication Patches and Rockers are not official insignia, like the Girl Scout pin, Council ID Strip, or even the troop numerals. They fall into the same category as cookie patches and event participation patches and go on the back of the uniform sash or vest.

Look at the girls in the latest Girl Scout Catalog. Are any of them wearing Rededication patches? Do you even see Rededication patches listed for sale? No. With the exception of the 2004 catalog, Rededication patches have not been included; they have been offered in separate “Fun Patch” catalogs.

When Daisies expanded to Kindergarten, new 11th and 12th year rockers were added to the 2004 catalog.

When Daisies expanded to Kindergarten, new 11th and 12th year rockers were added to the 2004 catalog.

Second, Rededication Patches and Rockers are optional. The uniform police aren’t going to come after you if your troop decides to skip them. And even if you do pass them out, Ambassadors really don’t need a huge row going back to their birth. Personally, I don’t think it’s a wise use of resources; a dozen rockers take up a lot of acreage on a teen vest, and at $1.75 each, I don’t think a troop should spend funds on patches “earned” six or seven years ago. If it’s that important, parents can buy the whole series.

A new design was introduced in 2006.

A new design was introduced in 2006.

Third, because they are not official insignia, Rededication Patches and Rockers do not have requirements to earn them. If a girl commits to another of Girl Scouts by reregistering, that’s sufficient for me. If she can’t make the rededication meeting, but comes later and asks, I’ll give her one. I’m just happy to have her back for another year.

Fourth, Rededication Years are one less than membership years. This is my biggest complaint about Rededication Rockers, the annual debate over what year a girl should receive. When you join Girl Scouts, you are invested; when you re-up for another year, you rededicate. Your second year as a Girl Scout is the first time you have a Rededication Ceremony; therefore, it is year one.

Really.  Yes, it is.

OK, let’s try it this way. If you believe that a returning first grader would receive a Year Two Rededication Rocker, then when she hits 12th grade she should receive a Year 13 Rocker, right?

Wrong!! There is no Year 13 Rocker. Now do you believe me?


There is way too much drama about who gets what scrap of fabric at a Rededication Ceremony. Let’s keep the attention on the real meaning of Rededication. She came back!!!! Isn’t that enough reason to celebrate?

©2015 Ann Robertson