Hurricane Awareness from the Girl Scouts

Hurricane Matthew is on track to slam into Savannah, Georgia, early tomorrow morning (October 8). Who knows what damage the “holiest” city in Girl Scouting will suffer.

I am extra anxious about the impending storm because my daughter is a sophomore at the Savannah College of Art and Design. In fact, her dorm is on the same street as the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, about two blocks west.

She evacuated Tuesday night and is home safe in Maryland, but we have no idea when she will return.

But never fear, the Girl Scouts are ready for anything, including hurricanes.


Hurricane Preparedness

Several years ago, the Girl Scout Council of the Florida Panhandle issued Hurricane Preparedness Council’s Own badges for Brownies and Juniors. While these badges are no longer available, they contained lessons that are still valid today and that can be applied to many disaster scenarios.


Hurricane Preparedness

There is also a similar patch program developed by Nation’s Capital and FEMA.be_prepared_patch

They all teach the same basic lesson: have a plan and review it often. Don’t waste time wondering what you should do, BE PREPARED!

To all of my friends at the Birthplace and First Headquarters, stay safe! We will be thinking of you.

Hurricane Preparedness, Florida Panhandle

Do 5 activities including one starred:

1. Look at a map or globe of the earth. Look for the horizontal lines called latitudes and the vertical lines called longitudes. Any spot on the globe can be pinpointed by the intersection of latitudinal line and the longitudinal line that the town falls on or near. The intersection of these two lines is called coordinates is measured in degrees. Find your city on a hurricane tracking map. Know the coordinates of your city. Learn how to use a tracing map to follow the path of a storm by using the coordinates.

2. Learn the terminology of the storms. Know the difference between a tropical wave, a tropical depression, a tropical storm and a hurricane. Be able to explain “hurricane watch” and “hurricane warning”.

3. Hurricanes are grouped together according to the strength of the storm. A hurricane will fall into one of five groups called categories. Learn the difference between the categories of a hurricane. Find out what categories of hurricanes have affected your area and how each category affected your area in relation to the damage and long term effects felt.

4. Make a hurricane checklist for your family. Include how to decide whether to stay or evacuate. If you evacuate, show on a map what route you would take and where your destination would be. Also indicate what items you would take with you.

*5. Help you family prepare a hurricane preparation kit. Make a list of supplies that you have prepared. Where are these items stored? How do you prepare the house (windows, water supply, outside items) for the storm?

6. Once a storm reaches the strength where it is classified as a tropical storm, it is given a name. What is the history behind naming hurricanes? How are names decided on? Are any names not used anymore and why? Make a chart of hurricane names for 2 different years.

7. Discuss with your troop your personal experience with hurricanes or hurricane warnings. Discuss how you feel before, during and after the storm. Do you and your family feel that you made the best decision whether to stay or evacuate? How do you feel now when hurricane season begins?

8. Invite an emergency management official to visit or take a field trip to the office of a local government, military, or college campus hurricane preparedness department. Learn how information is received into the office and how it is dispersed to the public.

9. With your troop, plan games and activities to do during a hurricane. Discuss what kinds of activities are better that others and why. Share what activities you may have done during a hurricane. Have supplies ready in your hurricane preparedness kit for these activities.

10. Find out about the shelters in your area. Where are they located? How do you decide whether to stay in your house or go to a shelter? Are shelters designed for specific needs such as the handicapped, medical needs, or the elderly? If anyone in your group has ever gone to a shelter during a hurricane, ask them to share their experiences.

11. Find out how hospitals, nursing care facilities, and prisons prepare for hurricanes. What special preparations do zoos, animal shelters and aviaries have to take?

©2016 Ann Robertson


Brownie Badges: We Tried It, Girls Loved It!

How much do you know about the Brownie Try-It?


Girl Scouts Ways

Happy 30th Birthday!

The fall 1986 Girl Scout catalog contained a major surprise: new badges … for Brownies! That means the Try-It has been around for 30 years.

The “Try-It” name reflected the non-competitive emphasis on fun. Brownies did not have to become proficient in a skill, they just had to Try It. Girls had to complete four of six requirements to earn the recognition.


Try-Its debuted in the  1986 Girl Scout catalog.


Bicentennial Byproduct

Try-Its satisfied a growing demand for more Brownie program content, especially after the program expanded from two years (2nd and 3rd grades) to three (1st grade) in 1973.

Many councils issued special badge programs to celebrate the American Bicentennial in 1976. Brownies could earn these, leading many to ask why they didn’t have badges of their own. Some councils responded with their own patch programs. Today these are known as “Pre-Try-Its.”

Official Patches and Wedges

Before Try-Its, GSUSA introduced the Brownie Bs program in 1977. The program encouraged troops to create well-rounded programs that reflected the Brownie Bs:

  • Be a Discoverer
  • Be a Ready Helper
  • Be a Friend-maker


Upon completing a year in the program, Brownies received a triangular patch to wear on the front of their sashes.  Each wedge represented one year: Yellow (1st year), Red (2nd), and Blue (3rd). (The bridge and Junior Aide bar were Junior recognitions, but you almost always see them grouped together.)

GSUSA also issued Brownie Bs fun patches that were worn on the back of the sash.  They came in several shapes and colors.


Brownie Fun Patches from 1978. They usually weren’t this dirty!

Try-Its Influenced the Uniform


Brownie fun wear with a Try-It design became available in 1999.

Now that Brownies could earn recognitions, they needed a place to display them. The sash was introduced in 1977 and the vest in 1991. Mothers everywhere rejoiced when iron-on Try-Its were introduced in 2004.


Most Popular

The original Try-Its had borders that matched the Worlds to Explore program: Arts, Out-of-Doors, People, Today and Tomorrow, and Well-Being. The program was wildly popular and members immediately asked for more options. A blank “Our Own Council’s” version was introduced in 1988, followed by 20 new Try-Its in 1989, six in 1993, and five in 1997.

The most popular early Try-Its were:

(1) Girl Scout Ways, (2) Play, (3) Food Fun, (4) Music, and (5) Dance.


The top five Try-Its of the Worlds to Explore era.


Top Brownie Try-Its, 1999-2004.

The Worlds to Explore program was phased out, and by 1999 all Try-Its had brown borders.  The 2001 Brownie handbook included 57 Try-Its, many updated versions of existing ones. The most popular were:

(1) Cookies Count, (2) Girl Scout Ways, (3) Manners, (4) Art to Wear, and (5) Caring and Sharing.

Of course, my personal favorites are the various Council’s Own Try-Its.

Yes, It’s Hyphenated

It’s Try-It, not Try It. (I’m an editor, I care about such things!)

Try-Its Inspired Today’s Girl Scout Way Series

The first group of Try-Its included “Girl Scout Ways.” Now each level (except Daisies) has their own version of this basic badge.



Ambassador Girl Scout Way badge

Now Officially “Badges”

The Discover, Connect, Take Action program included a new set of Brownie recognitions in 2012, and the Try-It name was dropped. Now Brownies earn “badges,”  but the old name is still frequently used.


Learn more by visiting the exhibit at the Nation’s Capital main office, 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC.

©2016 Ann Robertson



Seeking the Silver Fish

“I found a bunch of silver fish!” I recently announced to my family.

“Call the exterminator,” my husband replied.

Then, as a good Man in Green, he corrected himself. “Oh, you mean the other one.”

Indeed, this is what I found in the bargain bin at Jo-Ann Fabrics:


It’s a string of silver-colored, fish-shaped beads. Each is about 1″ in size. I thought they would be perfect additions to a Juliette Gordon Low costume or a Daisy-themed Kim’s Game.

The Silver Fish was the highest award available to Girl Guides. It could be considered the first highest award for Girl Scouts, because it was listed in the 1913 handbook, How Girls Can Help Their Country, along with the list of the 20 badges needed to earn it. But no Girl Scouts ever did. In fact, some of the “required” badges were not even available in the United States.  Instead, Daisy created a US equivalent: the Golden Eagle of Merit.

In October 1917 Girl Guides redefined the Silver Fish as an adult-only award recognizing outstanding contributions to the movement.


Helen Storrow (Wikipedia)

Originally the award depicted a whiting with its tail in its mouth. It changed to a swimming fish on a dark blue/light blue striped ribbon in October 1917.

Today the fish is an Atlantic salmon. According to the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, Lord Baden Powell suggested this species, “a salmon swimming up a river, overcoming every water fall, boulder, and other obstacle in order to reach a quiet place in which to spawn.”

Lady Baden Powell received a specially created golden Silver Fish in 1918.

Three Americans received the prestigious Silver Fish. Lord Baden Powell personally presented the first to JGL at the 1919 national convention in Washington, DC. Anne Hyde Choate and Helen Storrow received theirs at the 1921 national convention in Cincinnati. Choate, JGL’s goddaughter, was national president from 1920 to 1922. Storrow led the effort to build Our Chalet.



Anne Hyde Choate (l) and Juliette Gordon Low wear their Silver Fish (Harris & Ewing photo)


Anne Hyde Choate’s Silver Fish at GSUSA

Daisy was buried in her Girl Scout uniform, including her Silver Fish, at Laurel Grove cemetery in Savannah.

Anne Hyde Choate’s Silver Fish was donated to GSUSA. Earlier this year, it was on display in the lobby of the 17th floor of national headquarters, 420 Fifth Avenue in New York.

Today Storrow’s fish lives at the Cedar Hill Museum in Massachusetts. 

Thank you to the Cedar Hill staff and volunteers who confirmed the location!

©2016 Ann Robertson

Flying the Flag for 9/11

As we mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, take a moment to look at your right shoulder. Specifically, look at the flag waving atop your uniform sash or vest.

The US flag was not part of the official Girl Scout uniform until after 9/11. Even today, the flag technically is optional, although most girls wear it.

The straight flag was introduced in the 2002 catalog, although no girl pictured in the catalog was wearing one. The wavy flag was introduced in 2008.


GSUSA also introduced three new badges that emphasized flag etiquette, history, and patriotism: Wave the Flag for Brownies, United We Stand for Juniors, and American Patriotism for Cadettes and Seniors.

As troops form and begin meeting this fall, take the opportunity to explain the importance of that small flag on her shoulder.

©2016 Ann Robertson

The Girl Advisory Committee: Girl-led in Action

After GSUSA asked councils to carry out special “Youth Serve Youth” service projects ahead of our 50th anniversary in 1962, they selected a 12-member Girl Advisory Committee to review the submissions and prepare a report for Congress.

Knowing that the Girl Scout program must always be sensitive to the contemporary needs and interests of girls, the national organization uses its Girl Advisory Committee to bring grassroots reactions to activities and events as a direct line from the girls themselves.

Register-Guard, Eugene OR (November 3, 1961): 7A.

Girl Scouts were asked to study youth in their communities and identify areas where they could help. Thousands of projects were carried out. Troops in Wisconsin’s Riverland Council pledged to make 1,000 dolls for less-fortunate families. Public safety was the focus in Asheville, NC, where Pisgah GS Council created emergency game kits for children aged 3-12. The kits taught civil defense lessons and were placed in disaster shelters. Troops in Tumbleweed Council in Kansas “adopted” two dozen girls at Parsons State Hospital, providing “useful items” and writing letters. Councils reported their projects to the national headquarters in late 1961.


Lady B-P (right) with (maybe) Larie Blohm of Oregon.

On March 5, 1962, the national Girl Advisory Committee convened at Rockwood National Camp outside of Washington DC. The Committee was comprised of 12 girls, one selected from each administrative region of the country.

I’ve been able to identify seven of the dozen girls:

  1. Rea Ann Scoville (Portage, IN)
  2. Cheryle Bremer, (Cannon Falls, MN)
  3. Diane Young (Houston, TX)
  4. Larie Blohm (Eugene, OR)
  5. Rebecca Gainey (Charlotte, NC)
  6. Virginia Anne Meeker (NY)
  7. Anita Beth Cutler (MA)

The girls were given a daunting task: to review the submissions, select representative projects, then write and deliver a presentation on Capitol Hill, on March 12, the 50th birthday of the movement.

Between their work sessions, the girls enjoyed sightseeing in Washington and hiking to Great Falls, about a mile from Rockwood. They also attended the national 50th anniversary celebration in Washington and met World Chief Guide Olave Baden Powell.


Members of the 1962 Girls Advisory Committee pose with Lady Baden Powell, Rockwood (GSCNC Archives)

On the morning of March 12, the girls traveled to Capitol Hill, where luncheon was scheduled for 12:30 pm in Room 1302 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. They were joined by 200 guests, including Senators, Representatives, and their Girl Scout wives, daughters, nieces, and granddaughters.


1962 Postage Stamp, from Postal Museum

Other dignitaries included Vice President Lyndon Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, GSUSA President Marjorie Culmer, and Postmaster General J. Edward Day, who announced a new stamp to commemorate the anniversary.

The vice president called on the Girl Scouts to promote citizenship during their next 50 years. He warned that too many Americans avoided learning about their government because they believe “politics are dirty business.”

[The Girl Scouts should] put increasing emphasis on encouraging our young people to learn everything they can about their Government at all levels….I feel sure the culture will belong to the free, the educated and to those who care, those who want to help, those who feel a responsibility for doing their share.

–Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson

The Committee selected Scoville, Bremer and Young to present their findings.  The three 17 year-olds addressed the distinguished guests with ease, poise, and confidence. While they spoke, reported the Washington Post, the Vice President hand wrote gold-edged Senate gallery passes for the girls.

Luncheon concluded with a round of “Happy Birthday” led by Lady Bird Johnson, and everyone blew out candles on the three-tier cake or individual cupcakes.

Reviewing the event for the October 1962  issue of Leader magazine, national Program Department staffer Marian F. Wells reflected on the process she had witnessed at Rockwood. She praised the girls for their maturity, organization, cooperation, and collaborative approach. National staff were present, but generally unneeded. “The most remarkable thing about the 1962 GAC,” she wrote, “was not that it had an important job to do in connection with our Fiftieth Anniversary; but that, having been given the responsibility, the girls were allowed to carry it out.”

Is it possible that in an organization dedicated to the encouragement of girl initiative, we sometimes stifle it instead? Do we, too often, short-change our Senior Scouts by failing to recognize their capabilities; by doing for them instead of helping them to do for themselves; and by overlooking the fact that, although teenagers don’t have all the answers, they frequently have ideas that are worth listening to? If this is the case, the time has come for more than Program Change! We need to change our attitude toward girls as well, or the basic premise of Girl Scouting–that girls govern their own troops and manage their own affairs under adult guidance–will be nothing but an empty phrase.

–Marian F. Weller, GSUSA Program Department



©2016 Ann Robertson

Camping at Sherando Lake, 1951

This week I have been looking through boxes of scrapbooks, binders, and photo albums donated to the Nation’s Capital archives by the family of Jean Boyer Porter.

Sherando Lake Log 1951 page 3

Camping permit for Sherando Lake, VA (GSCNC Archives)

Jean joined the District of Columbia Girl Scouts in the mid-1930s and stayed active for the next 70 years. She also apparently rarely threw anything away. I’ve found kaper charts and shopping lists going back to the mid-1930s.


Sherando Lake Log 1951 page 4

Grocery list for trip (GSCNC Archives)

My favorite (so far) is this trip to Sherando Lake in Virginia, August 4-12, 1951. Troop scribe Nancy Brown documented this weekend:

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Fortunately the written account explains that the Senior Girl Scouts found a group of Boy Scouts camping nearby. Guess that’s not Girl Scouts swimming topless in the Sunday August 5 picture!


©2016 Ann Robertson


Who’s That Girl Scout? Virginia Hammerley


Virginia “Ginger” Hammerley, ca. 1932

Virginia Hammerley is one of the most important women in the early years of Girl Scouting in Washington, DC.

“Ginger” wasn’t one of Juliette Gordon Low’s debutante friends. She wasn’t a wealthy socialite who could donate buildings with a single check.  She didn’t organize troops in poor neighborhoods.

She was simply a Girl Scout; a teen-age girl who loved her sister scouts and the activities they did together. But she preserved her memories in a series of scrapbooks that provide some of the most extensive documentation of Girl Scout troop life during the Great Depression.

About 10 years ago, a relative of Ginger’s contacted Nation’s Capital. They had five of her scrapbooks; would we like them?  You bet we did!

These five albums are chock full of newspaper clippings, photos, holiday cards, invitations to friends’ weddings, and souvenirs of all kinds.

She was an active troop member, taking part in events held around Washington (click images to enlarge):


Earning her Golden Eaglet award:

Visiting the Little House, attending a national convention, and buying a brick for a new national headquarters building:

Ginger was one of the first campers at Camp May Flather when it opened in 1930, attended regular camp reunions, and became a counselor herself.


Like any teen-ager, she also saved holiday cards, celebrity photos and more:

Born in 1913, Virginia Hammerley was the only child of Charles and Mabel Hammerley. She grew up at 1819 Ingleside Terrace, NW, Washington, DC.

After graduating from McKinley Technical High School, she took a job with the Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia, but she apparently was let go in 1941.


Hammerley ObitI did a little research to find out what became of Ginger and was so sad to discover that she did not live happily ever after.

After the Girl Scouts, she took a clerical post with the Department of Agriculture.

Her father passed away in 1935 and Ginger and her mother moved. first to Iowa Avenue NW, then into an apartment together at 721 Fern Place NW. Mabel died in 1953.

Two years later, on the night of October 17, 1955, Ginger locked her front door, engaged the night chain, picked up a pistol, and took her own life.

I can only imagine what circumstances led to that fateful night in 1955. After spending so much time reading and handling hundreds of items that she carefully clipped, pasted, and preserved, it feels like losing a dear friend.

Ginger likely had no idea that her memories and mementos would still be around decades later, treasured records used by Girl Scouts and historians. Just this summer a graduate student spent days viewing scanned copies of the scrapbooks for a research project.

Virginia Hammerley may be gone, but she is hardly forgotten.


©2016 Ann Robertson