In honor of President Barack Obama’s second inaugural on January 21, the display cases at GSCNC headquarters feature items from past inaugurations and photographs donated by former First Ladies.
Girl Scouts have had close ties with the White House from the movement’s earliest days. Every First Lady since Edith Wilson has served as Honorary National President.
Lou Henry Hoover is doubly tied to Girl Scouts, serving as both Honorary President while First Lady (1929–33) and as National President twice (1922–25 and 1935–37). We have original photos personally inscribed to the Girl Scouts from Mrs. Hoover, Grace Coolidge, Mamie Eisenhower, and Bess Truman, among others, as a wonderful portrait of Mrs. Coolidge wearing her Girl Scout uniform outside the White House.
Girl Scout units have been involved in Inaugural activities since President Woodrow Wilson was sworn in for a second term in March 1917.*
The 1917 parade was the first to allow women to march. First, however, the Girl Scouts had to prove they were up to the task. The Washington Post reported on February 24, 1917, that 400 girls “went through a practice drill yesterday morning on the ellipse of the White House grounds. The girls were khaki uniforms, khaki hats, black shoes and black or dark brown stockings.” Following their rehearsal, Col. Robert N. Harper, head of inauguration committee, concluded, “The fair Scouts will be a credit to the great procession.” Once accepted, the Girl Scouts used the Post to invite “All Girl Scouts of Washington who have uniforms” to march. “No coats of sweaters will be permitted. Black shoes and stockings and white gloves are also to be worn,” according to the instructions.
More recently, Girl Scouts have served as parade ushers, helping with crowd control, offering directions, helping lost visitors find their bearings. Some 122 girls came out for Jimmy Carter in 1977 and 500 teen Girl Scouts trained for Ronald Reagan’s freezing second inauguration in 1985. President Reagan also arranged for the Girl Scouts to work at Inaugural Balls, where they help open limo doors for lucky ticket holders. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s the girls donned special capes and berets for the event.
On display at GSCNC are a yellow windbreaker from the 1989 ceremonies, a blue knit cap worn by Boy Scout volunteers in 2009 and the red knit cap Girl Scouts will wear on January 21, 2013. We also have a selection of ribbons, patches, and buttons given to Girl Scout and Boy Scout volunteers. (Thank you to the National Capital Area Boy Scout Museum for lending some of these items!!)
*In 1933 the 20th Amendment moved presidential swearing-in ceremonies from March to January.