The sudden loss of both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds this week reminded me of a moment when my teen troop visited the GSUSA museum in 2015. Staff showed them a display on the Piper Project.

“That’s Debbie Reynolds,” said the archivist, pointing to a photo. “Star of Singing in the Rain.”

Blank stares.

Carrie Fisher, Girl Scout History Project
Debbie Reynolds in her Girl Scout uniform (notice she earned the Curved Bar!)
Carrie Fisher, Girl Scout History Project
Debbie Reynolds as Aggie Cromwell (Absolute Horror Wiki)

“Aggie, from Halloweentown,” I translated.

That they understood. The Disney Channel movies are beloved by young women of a certain age. Cheers ensued.

Carrie Fisher, Girl Scout History Project
Piper Pin

Girl Scouts of a slightly older vintage remember Debbie Reynolds as the face of the Piper Project. Launched at the national convention on October 25, 1966, this three-year program sought to improve retention levels among current Girl Scouts, in part by recruiting more adult volunteers. Reynolds was to shoot a color television spot and film a short movie as part of the adult recruitment effort.

Reynolds explained the role Girl Scouting played in her life in the January 1967 issue of Leader magazine:

All my life I’ve been a Girl Scout, from that day long ago when I first said, “On my honor. … Like so many of us here, I have my mother to thank for one of the finest things that ever happened to me. She was my Girl Scout leader. Today I couldn’t begin to count the many ways Girl Scouting has influenced my life. … But we all know that the true values, the real values of Scouting, have to grow on you. You have to be a Scout long enough for them to take hold and endure. First it’s the fun — the songs and games, the being together with other girls, the belonging! And most of all, the chance to try out for yourself all the adventures in self-discovery Girl Scouting has to offer.

But you and I know that the fun, the games, the adventures are only a means in Girl Scouting — a means to a most important end. These are the tools we use to help girls grow into happy and resourceful citizens …

This doesn’t happen in a day, or in a year, or maybe not even in two of three. For that reason Girl Scouting should be a special ingredient in the lives of girls — seven through seventeen. And it can … That’s why I’m a Girl Scout leader.

Reynolds carried on her family tradition by leading a troop for her daughter, Carrie Fisher. While numerous Girl Guide organizations around the world can claim a princess or two as members, only GSUSA can claim Princess Leia as one of their own.

I don’t think I can add much to Reynolds’ comment. Girl Scouting is cumulative. The longer you’re a member, the more you get out of it. Perhaps the most fitting tribute would be for today’s leaders to take a deep breath, remember the year’s best moments, and commit to another year working with girls.

You never know which of today’s Brownies will grow up to save the galaxy from evil.

©2016 Ann Robertson, Girl Scout historian

7 responses to “Farewell to Our Piper and Our Princess”

  1. Ann great article. GSCNCArchives collection has the record with the “Follow the Piper”cover etc. and also sheet music( I think). It was in the Inventory box with the record and music collection.

    Sent by IPhone


    1. Thanks Julie!

      1. Thank you for these wonderful articles. I have been a Girl Scout since 1949. In Girl Scouts I learned strong leadership skills which has aided me all of my life. As an adult I am still active with our alumni working with the historians and serving as secretary. It is an honor to be part of this fine organization. Oh, and I occasionally impersonate Juliette. And did I LOVE camp!

  2. Reblogged this on The Amateur Artist and commented:
    I remember playing Star Wars with my friends after the movie came out. Princess Leia was one of my favorite female characters but I really thought Luke Skywalker was the stuff! Here’s a post about how Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher were both Girl Scouts.

  3. Arielle K Masters Avatar
    Arielle K Masters

    Wonderful article and tribute, Ann. Thank you.

  4. Do you know the years Carrie Fischer was a Girl Scout?

    1. Ann Robertson Avatar
      Ann Robertson

      I have a 1965 newspaper clipping that says Carrie flew up from Brownies to Juniors in 1965. The article is about a new swimming pool at Camp Lakota given in Debbie’s honor. Carrie made the ceremonial first dive. Debbie’s mother also attended, and was a Girl Scout herself. The Greater Los Angeles Council has Debbie’s uniform from when she was a girl!!

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