For almost as long as there have been Girl Scouts, there have been Girl Scout stories. Stop by the GSCNC office this summer to see an exhibit of Girl Scout fiction books.
The Council’s Archives and History Committee has books ranging from The Girl Scouts at Bellaire, published in 1920, to the Giggling Ghost Girl Scout Mystery from 2012.
In the 1920s and 1930s, when the Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, and other juvenile mystery series became popular, the Girl Scouts followed with their own versions.
Edith Lavell published a 10-volume series in the 1920s that followed Girl Scout Marjorie Wilkinson through her college years. In the 1930s, Virginia Fairfax penned the six-volume mystery series about a group of Mississippi Girl Scouts.
But Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson was most famous for the books she wrote under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.
She wrote 23 of the original Nancy Drew books, including the first seven, and is largely thought to be responsible for developing the Nancy character. Her editor criticized the first draft of The Secret of the Old Clock, saying that the heroine was “too flip,” but sent the manuscript to the publisher anyway, launching an industry that remains popular decades later. (For more on the many lives of Carolyn Keene, see the new book The History of Nancy Drew, by Christine Keleny.) By the time of her death in 2002, at age 96, Benson had written more than 130 books.
Other book series have been issued over the years, including the three-volume Nancy series by Jean Henry Large, younger sister of Lou Henry Hoover, collections of articles from American Girl magazine, and the more recent Here Come the Brownies series.
Girl Scouts has long promoted reading and the love of books.
Badges related to reading have been around since the 1920s and national patch programs, many in cooperation with the QSP magazine program, have also encouraged reading skills. Over the years, Girl Scouts have also had opportunities to learn about how books are made, including the Intermediate-level Bibliophile badge available from 1938 to 1963. More recently, Cadettes can try the new Book Artist badge.
Next time you are at the Council main office of Girl Scout Shop, take time to stop by the history display cases and don’t forget to pick up a copy of the council history book. That one is not fiction!
Seventy-five years ago, in June 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Washington, DC. Girl Scout Leah Burket was selected to present the Queen with a bouquet of flowers as the royal couple left the White House en route to a garden party at the British Embassy. Her Majesty was enchanted by Leah and paused the procession for a closer look at one of Leah’s badges.
Today, June 8, 2014, Washington Post columnist John Kelly recalled “Their majesties’ magical tour of Washington 75 years ago.” He included a version of this photo, but the print version cropped out poor Leah. That is a shame, as she was an outstanding Girl Scout.
Leah was a member of Takoma Park, Maryland, Troop 51. She was in the same troop as Jean Boyer Porter, who remained an active Girl Scout in the Washington area until her death last year. Jean’s children generously donated her Girl Scout memorabilia to the Nation’s Capital Council, including scrapbooks and photo albums full of Troop 51′s exploits in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Leah, 15, became quite the celebrity. She told the Evening Star newspaper that after she presented Queen Elizabeth with a bouquet of forget-me-nots, sweet peas, and lilies of the valley, the royal asked to shake her hand.
“Then she asked how many badges I had, and I said there were 15 on this uniform. She asked about one in particular. That is the book-finder badge. She told me that her daughter Elizabeth [now Queen Elizabeth II] is working for her badges.”
The photo of Leah and the royals was reproduced around the world. She recalled getting letters containing the clipping from people across the United States, as well as from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and India. She became pen pals with several of them and learned about the hardships many people faced in war-torn Britain.
Leah put her Girl Scout leadership skills to work to organize a “Bundles for Britain” dance at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. Bundles for Britain sent packages of warm clothing, first aid kits, and other items to British families. Inspired by Leah, the Silver Spring Young Men’s Democratic Club and the Indian Springs Country Club also held similar dances.
Three cheers for Leah Burket!
One hundred years ago, the onset of World War I provided many opportunities for the new Girl Scout movement.
A December 20, 1914, Washington Post clipping reports Takoma Park Troop 5 busily knitting scarves “for the European soldiers.”
In February 1915, Juliette Gordon Low arrived in Washington from England. She met with troop leaders at the National Headquarters (the Munsey Building at 1327 E Street NW) and “gave a graphic account of the remarkable relief work being done in England by the Girl [Guides].”
After the United States entered the war in 1917, Girl Scouts stepped up their efforts. Girls joined Lou Henry Hoover to distribute sandwiches to soldiers passing through town, raised homing pigeons destined for the front lines, and made bandages for the Red Cross.
The March 1918 edition of The Rally (the first Girl Scout magazine) introduced a Girl Scout War Service Award to “stimulate thoughtful direct effort that would have a distinct value to those in the war.” To earn the award, girls had to knit two pounds of wool, make 50 jars of jam, and sell at least 10 Liberty Bonds. The Rally also directed Girl Scouts to collect and dry fruit pits and nut shells:
A CAMPAIGN FOR PITS
Gather up the peach pits,
Olive pits as well.
Every prune and date seed
Every walnut shell.
The magazine article explained that “200 peach pits or seven pounds of nut shells produced enough carbon for one filter for a solider’s gas mask” (GS Collector’s Guide, p. 87). With the German military deploying highly toxic chlorine gas against the Allied troops, the Red Cross and other organizations launched peach pit collection drives across the country, according to The Atlantic magazine.
The Girl Scouts rose to the occasion, and three Washington, DC, Girl Scouts — all under age 13 — were declared “Peace Pit Champions.”
Well done, ladies!
You’ve seen her photo, but how much do you know about Eleanor Putzki?
Eleanor Putzki was an original member of Washington, DC, Troop 1. Formed in late 1913, the troop met at Wilson Normal school and was led by Mrs. Giles Scott Rafter, a leader in the PTA movement and vigorous advocate of education for girls and statehood for the District of Columbia.
Eleanor was an outstanding Girl Scout, whose accomplishments were regularly mentioned in newspaper reports about the young movement. At the October 9, 1915, all-troop hike, for example, Eleanor was praised for correctly identifying 25 varieties of wildflowers. She received her Red Cross badge from none other than Juliette Gordon Low herself in January 1916. In May 1916 she was asked to “display her assortment of proficiency badges and explain what they meant” for other troops.
She had to impress an unusually well qualified board of examiners to receive those badges. She was quizzed by Professor Wells Cook of the US Department of Agriculture and experts at the Smithsonian Institution and Department of the Interior. Her nursing exam was administered by the head of the Visiting Nurse Association, while Fred Reed, the first Eagle Scout in Washington, assessed her mastery of the material for her pathfinder and pioneer badges.
Eleanor was awarded the Golden Eagle of Merit from Mrs. Woodrow Wilson at a ceremony at the White House on June 21, 1917. She was the first Washingtonian to receive the award and the fifth nationwide. The award was the highest available from 1916 to 1919 and required earning 14 proficiency badges; Eleanor earned 25. Fewer than 50 Golden Eagles of Merit were presented before the honor was revised and renamed the Golden Eaglet.
Eleanor was named “Best Girl Scout in America” in 1918 and explained her enthusiasm for Girl Scouting to Literary Digest:
Why, no one will ever know what the Girl Scout work has done for me. Only three months ago, when I started after my badge for pathfinder, I scarcely knew the difference between northwest and southeast Washington. To win that badge I had to know all the public buildings, schools, streets, and avenues, monuments, parks, circles, playgrounds and, in fact, be qualified as a guide. Going after Girl Scout badges just woke me up. It makes you see things, and see why and to want to do things better and to help others.
At the age of 17, Eleanor was given her own troop at Webster School. The troop grew from seven girls to 34 in just three weeks; and after two weeks’ training 18 of of the girls were rated proficient in first aid and wigwagging (semaphore).
She had ambitious plans for her troop:
Outdoor life is the best thing in the world for girls and I want to encourage every other girl all I can to get out in the open with ears open and eyes open and with lungs open. That’s why I’m going to make my troop of girls the best in the city. I’m going to have every one of them a first-class scout before I’m through.
Born on August 5, 1899, Eleanor was the daughter of Kate Stirling Putzki and the artist Paul Putzki, best known for his china paintings. Eleanor married Freeman Pulsifer Davis and moved to Indianapolis. I’ve located little information about her life in Indiana, aside from a handful of clipping that suggest she was an avid golfer. I hope she remained an avid Girl Scout, as well.
Our new archival inventory program, Collective Access, is finally up and running!!
We actually have had a working version in place for nearly a year, but some bug in the setup blocked all images. We could inventory items, but not attach images or related PDF files. Where’s the fun in that?
Eventually, our Council’s IT consultant, after checking with the software developer, went back to square one and created a new server with a fresh version of the program. Whatever the original problem, we are in business now.
As explained in previous posts, Collective Access is an open source collections management program for museums and archives.
Let me give you a peak behind the curtain and show you how it works.
After logging in, I get my dashboard. Each user can customize their own landing page with a selection of widgets.
Next I can add a new item, entity, or event using the NEW menu or work on an existing record using FIND.
Let’s look at a handmade rug that you’d see if you could scroll down the list:
Non-National Equipment Service items are assigned a sequential object identifier number. Each user has been assigned a specific series of numbers, such as 101-300, so there is no duplication. (I got that tip from Sandy Garrett at Eastern Pennsylvania!)
For National Equipment Service items, we are using the GSUSA catalog number + hyphen + sequential number. That could one day make it easier to share our system with other councils, as it gives a common reference point.
For uniforms, the object title begins with the National Historic Preservation Center’s classification system. Collective Access uses “type-ahead fields” that automatically offer suggestions after typing a few letters in a field, which is a big help.
The blouse photo is a screenshot from an old catalog. Of course we will attach actual photos of garment 2-228-01, but I don’t have them handy at the moment.
This is just a brief introduction to Collective Access at Nation’s Capital. We are just learning the software ourselves, and I will post more examples in the weeks to come.
Questions? Comments? Red flags? Let me know!
Why do I love them? Let me count the ways.
1. The Designs
Maybe it’s the smaller production runs, but Council’s Owns seem to be more brightly colored than ordinary GSUSA-issued badges. They’re just pretty, OK?
2. The Local Flavor
Council’s Owns celebrate local communities, highlighting regional attractions and resources. They feature local histories and traditions.
3. The Quirkiness
Council’s Owns also fill in gaps in traditional badge offerings.
No GSUSA archery badge? Troop leaders could satisfy their own budding Katniss Everdeens with programs developed by councils across the country.
I’m sad that GSUSA has narrowed the opportunities for councils to create badges in favor of back-of-the-sash patch programs. There are so many patch programs and participation patches these days, especially compared with the limited number of badges introduced in 2011, that we may soon have girls with layers of patches on the back and empty real estate on the front of their vests.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to patch programs at all. In fact, I’ve created two Hunger Games-themed patches and have more in development.
And the final reason I love the Council’s Own…
4. I Can Put Them on Pinterest!
I’ve put my Council’s Own collection up on Pinterest, with separate boards for Try Its, Badges, and IPs. They are not exactly in alphabetical order, since Pinterest does not allow pins to be moved around on a board. Perhaps one day I’ll add links to requirements as well.
Take a look at my Council’s Own galleries. I know there are more COs out there, and I will add pins when I can. There are also a few that I need help identifying.
Over the 1954 Independence Day holiday, the attacks on the Girl Scouts spread to the US Congress, courtesy of B.J. Grigsby. Again, the Girl Scouts were accused of promoting communism and internationalism in the 1953 Intermediate handbook.
Grigsby, a Chicago businessman, had read the LeFevre article and reprinted it in his own vanity newspaper, the Spoon River Journal. He also wrote to GSUSA expressing his concern over the new handbook and noting that he had contributed to the Girl Scouts in the past. The response from Leonard Lathrop, head of public relations at GSUSA, did not satisfy him, so Grigsby contacted his Congressmen.
On July 2, Illinois Congressman Timothy P. Sheehan read LeFevre’s article into the Congressional Record. Sheehan added his own concern that one badge in the new Intermediate handbook “requires a knowledge of the United Nations, but nowhere among the merit badges did [LeFevre] find one that required the Girl Scouts to memorize part of the Declaration of Independence or a statement from the Constitution.” [Those were required for the My Government badge.]
Ten days later, Illinois Congressman Edgar Jonas introduced Grigsby’s response to LeFevre into the Congressional Record. While Grigsby dismissed some of LeFevre’s charges, he agreed with others. Jonas also included Lathrop’s response to a letter of concern sent to GSUSA by Grigsby.
After the accusations from the Illinois delegation, GSUSA mobilized supporters in Congress. At the request of GSUSA, Representative Robert Kean of New Jersey inserted an article into the July 21, 1954, Congressional Record written by Dr. Lillian Gilbreth, then at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Gilbreth, a member of the national program committee, was best known for her studies of time management in the household and as the inspiration for the book and movies, Cheaper by the Dozen. Gilbreth argued:
We cannot take comfort in the thought that everyone accepts us as spiritually minded, as patriotic, as trying to be constructive in every thought and deed. We must therefore reaffirm our beliefs, reiterate our pledges. As we think of our motto, “Be prepared,” we must be able to answer for ourselves for others the question, “Prepared for what?”
Today the world needs individuals and organizations prepared to meet the challenge of communism. As Girl Scouts we are prepared to do so because we are imbued with the responsibilities and the privilege of following our Promise and Laws day by day, as best we can. [...]
What can communism really offer as it challenges all this? Nothing. What should Girl Scouts do to meet the challenge? Keep busy at our work of service with serenity of spirit. Try to attain the educated mind, the educated hands, the educated heart which will help us to keep our Girl Scout promise and prove ourselves assets to God, our country, and our fellow men. Girl Scouts try.
The tide began to swing in favor of the Girl Scouts, with Indiana Congressman Charles Brownson introducing a rebuttal from Indianapolis civic leader John Burkhart on July 26. The next day, Sheehan seemed to backtrack a bit and read into the Congressional Record a statement from GSUSA President Olivia Layton outlining revisions already underway.
Another pro-Girl Scouts statement was made by Congressman Victor Wickersham of Oklahoma. In preparing this post today, I realized that I did not have a copy of his remarks. I searched the Washington Post online and, to my surprise, discovered that two years earlier, Wickersham had sold 20 acres of land to GSUSA for $30,000 — land that was used to enlarge the entrance to the Rockwood camp outside of Washington, DC.
But, as it turned out, the skirmish on Capitol Hill was merely a lull before an even bigger storm.
In part three, the American Legion escalates the controversy…
Today, May 2, the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival will crown its 2014 queen in Winchester, VA. In 1933 that honor went to a 23-year old Girl Scout leader, Françoise May.
Françoise was the eldest daughter of Paul May, the Belgian ambassador to the United States. She had been an active Girl Guide in Belgium, and when her father was posted to the United States in 1931, she immediately signed up with the Washington, DC, area Girl Scouts. She became captain (leader) of Troop 53, and the troop grew so large that it divided into 53 and 53A. Françoise became a popular speaker about the Girl Guides and a staff member for Camp May Flather. She was awarded the Thanks Badge for her efforts.
Her younger sisters, Ghislane and Elisabeth, also joined Troop 53.
The entire troop traveled to Winchester for the coronation ceremony.
Troop member Virginia Hammerley, who later joined the staff of the Girl Scouts of Washington, DC, kept detailed scrapbooks of Troop 53′s activities, including many clippings and items from the coronation of Queen Françoise. Her scrapbooks are in the archives of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital.
Ambassador May died suddenly in July 1934. When Françoise, her sisters, and their mother returned to Belgium, “Ginger” Hammerley succeeded her as troop captain.
Her touching farewell letter to the troop may be downloaded in its entirety by clicking here.
Happy May Day! The first day of May was always a major event in the USSR and other Communist countries, as it commemorated efforts to improve the rights of workers.
Sixty years ago, in the summer of 1954, the Girl Scouts found themselves embroiled in their own Red Scare.
The problem started with a new edition of the Intermediate Handbook, released in 1953.
Robert LeFevre, a Florida-based television personality, took it upon himself to compare the 1953 edition with the 1940 Handbook. He condemned the revised handbook as UN propaganda promoting socialized medicine, agriculture experiments, prejudice, and other harmful, anti-US values.
LeFevre published his criticism, “Even the Girl Scouts,” in the March 31, 1954, issue of his newspaper, Human Events, and sent copies to many media outlets. Most ignored it, but a few reprinted his piece.
But, in a case of very bad timing, GSUSA was then in the process of revising the Intermediate handbook before its next (5th) printing. Based on reader responses, editors planned to better distinguish between the United Nations and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and to include the full text of key citizenship documents, such as the Bill of Rights, instead of just excerpts.
Rather than sending a list of minor changes to the printer, GSUSA compiled a 12-page pamphlet detailing the corrections to be made.
LeFevre pounced on this pamphlet and took full credit for triggering the revisions. To some observers, the changes suggested that LeFevre was right — the Girl Scouts had been exposed as trying to undermine the US government.
GSUSA moved to dampen the criticism and emphasized that the revisions were well underway before LeFevre attacked the organization.
GSUSA Executive Director Dorothy Stratton told the Chicago Sun Times, “The revisions cleared our Program Committee on May 19 and the National Executive Committee on May 27. The final copy went to the printer on August 5.”
Most important, as GSUSA President Olivia Layton wrote in a memo to council presidents dated August 26, 1954, the changes “were made to clear up misunderstandings and do not represent any change in the basic beliefs of the organization — there never has been anything un-American in the Handbook.
Unfortunately, the attacks on the Girl Scouts only grew worse, as Congress entered the debate.
(Continued in Part Two)