Meet Minnie Hill

Wednesday began as an ordinary work day at the Nation’s Capital Archives and History Program Center in Frederick, Maryland.

GS-1B

Girl Scout Uniform, 1917-1919

While chatting over recent trips and eclipse plans, committee members worked to update the badge and patch collection and to continue processing the extensive donation of vintage Girl Scout and Girl Guide uniforms that we received in April. (With over 100 uniforms, it is a long, but fascinating task.)

We focused on one of the vintage suitcases that came with the collection.  (Even the suitcases are in pristine shape.) There were about a dozen bags to go through.

First, we found the tiniest khaki uniform I’ve ever seen. Skirt, jacket, even the bloomers were included. It appears home-made.

Then I heard someone yell, “Look at the badges!” One sleeve of the uniform was covered with an impressive, colorful record of hard work.

Minnie Hill Sleeve

Elusive White Felt badges: (from top left clockwise): Clerk, Civics, Matron Housekeeper, Attendance, Signaling, Dairy Maid, and Laundress (GSCNC Archives)

Yes, those are seven White Felt badges–the rarest of rare Girl Scout badges, available only from 1913 to 1918. The seven new White Felts bring our total number to — 10!

But when we turned the jacket over, we got an even bigger surprise:

Minnie Hill Pins

Minnie Hill’s Golden Eaglet, Buttercup Troop Crest, War Service Pin, and US Treasury War Service Award (GSCNC Archives)

According to a tattered paper in the suitcase, the uniform belonged to Minnie Hill.

Of course, this called for more research.

The included paper had three typed paragraphs, two faded newspaper clippings, and one ripped photo. They reported that Minnie Hill attended Central High School in Washington, DC, and was a Girl Scout in Troop 9 from 1917 to 1919.

She received her First Class badge from Mrs. Woodrow Wilson at a White House ceremony 100 years ago — on June 21, 1917.

Two years later she was back at the White House, this time to receive her Golden Eaglet from Queen Elizabeth of Belgium on October 31, 1919. The Queen, her husband, and their son were touring the United States at the time, and her participation in the ceremony had a special significance for Minnie, as Troop 9 had practiced their sewing and knitting skills by making layette sets for newborns in Belgium.

A Washington Times article about the 1919 ceremony noted that Minnie had earned 19 badges; all of which are still on her uniform sleeve.

In between those awards, Minnie was recognized for selling Liberty Bonds during World War I. The Washington Post reported that she had sold eleven war bonds for a total of $900. In addition to a medal, high sellers usually were honored with a parade. Alas, the 1918 parade was canceled due to the Spanish flu outbreak.

Sadly, our photo of Minnie is torn, crumbling, and not terribly useful. Attempts to repair it have done more harm than good:

Minnie Hill 3

I searched the electronic archives of three different Washington newspapers, but did not find the photo.

Then I had another idea. That ceremony in 1917 was well documented. In fact, it was the ceremony where two Washington scouts, Eleanor Putzki and Ruth Colman received their Golden Eagles of Merit. Could Minnie be in one of those photos?

Here is the group shot from after the Court of Awards:

 

10606v

White House Court of Awards, June 21, 1917. That’s Ruth Colman front and center, with her sleeve full of badges and her Golden Eagle of Merit pin. (Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection)

 

Take a closer look at the young lady on the back row, far left. I think that is Minnie Hill.

History hasn’t lost her after all.

©2017 Ann Robertson

21 thoughts on “Meet Minnie Hill

  1. Your heart must have skipped a beat. Wish I could have known that troop that gave us such wonderful girls. Wonder what the rest of their lives were like.

  2. In a quick search, I found a Minnie J. Hill in the 1900 Census and a Minnie E. Hill in the 1910 Census. Both with the same parents (Arthur and Jennie) so there must have been a recording error between the two years. Minnie was born in May of 1899 and in 1900 the family was living in Potomac, Maryland. By April 20th of 1910, the family had moved to the 7th District of Washington DC. Twelve year old Minnie was the third child of six and the family had two boarders from Italy living with them. Now, if I can just pull up the Central High yearbooks . . . Maybe we can piece together more of Minnie’s story.

    • Good idea! The DC school system archives probably has old yearbooks. I have her listed as “Minnie Mosher Hill” at 1620 18th St. NW. There was another Minnie Hill around the same time that made the newspapers by trying to walk across the entire USA, but that’s a different person!

      • Couldn’t get to the Central High Yearbooks for 1917-1919 from my end. Yeah, the walking Minnie comes up a lot in newspaper searches but she’s too old to be our Minnie.

  3. I hope to be in the DC area tis fall and would like to visit the Archives and History Center.  What are the hours and specific address.  Thank you

    From: Girl Scout History Project To: liladavis@yahoo.com Sent: Friday, August 18, 2017 9:02 AM Subject: [New post] Meet Minnie Hill #yiv2241971369 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv2241971369 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv2241971369 a.yiv2241971369primaryactionlink:link, #yiv2241971369 a.yiv2241971369primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv2241971369 a.yiv2241971369primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv2241971369 a.yiv2241971369primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv2241971369 WordPress.com | Ann Robertson posted: “Wednesday began as an ordinary work day at the Nation’s Capital Archives and History Program Center in Frederick, Maryland.While chatting over recent trips and eclipse plans, committee members worked to update the badge and patch collection and to con” | |

    • Lila, we have two display cases at the council headquarters (4301 Connecticut Ave NW, M-2), but the program center is in Frederick, Maryland, some 30 miles northwest. Luckily I live near the closest metro station and occasionally I pick up visitors there. Let me know when you’re coming and we’ll work something out.

  4. Neat, neat story. I am so grateful there are volunteers doing the oh-so-important work of the Archives for Girl Scouts!!!

  5. Kudos to the Archives committee for doing this important task of focusing on Girl Scouting history. Great sleuthing, Ann. Keep sharing these stories!

  6. How can I send you via mail a hard copy of my 4 page article on this WW I program. Unfortunately when I wrote it, I only had information on the Boy Scout side of the program. It’s written from a philatelic view point (Stamp collecting). I have a few other articles around on GG/GS that I could share with your project. I love to re-publish my articles in various venues.

    Mr T.P. McDermott

    T.P. McDermott tpwzrmcd@hotmail.com 914-948-8484

    25 Hillside Ave 2K White Plains NY 10601-1111

    ________________________________

  7. There are very talented computer-type people who would likely be able to reconstruct your crumbling picture. You might start with a search of photo restorers. Your uniform is marvelous. I am on the wrong coast to get a look at it. Wish I could

  8. What an incredible find! So often I look at the very old uniforms and wonder who wore them. To have that info is just incredible. Looks like someone with some good genealogy skills found you some of her background. Keep trying for the school records.

  9. Loved hearing about the uniforms and badges and Minnie Hill. I still have my sash with junior and cadet badges and pins. I’m so glad I saved them. I just found the junior handbook and liked reading all the effort that goes into getting a badge.it was a nice trip down memory lane.

  10. What an accomplished young lady! I was also going to suggest a professional photo restorer and genealogy research, to find out more about her. Need to determine whether the Minnie E. and Minnie J. in the census are “Minnie Mosher Hill”, the walking Minnie, or another girl entirely.

    It would also help to know which local papers’ archives you checked. I agree that the back left person in the group photo is most likely her (unless she had a sibling or twin in that photo).

    Once you find out more about Minnie (and the other young women in that photo), I hope you’ll have a special display (online or otherwise) about her: who she was, what she achieved in Girl Scouts (including links to the requirements for each of her badges – click on a picture of the badge; get a requirements page), and what she went on to do/who she went on to be after these ceremonies. Someone that determined probably showed up elsewhere in publications.

    If you have backstories like that on multiple people, they’d make for another great kit to lend troops. Story cards on each of the featured GS about their journeys before, in, and after GS; explanations of what they earned and their other uniform pieces; samples to try on/pass around.

    • More great comments, Arielle! Given the interest in Minnie, I would like to pursue more leads. I’ve contacted the uniform donor’s family with questions. The DC Public Library’s Washingtoniana Room is currently closed for renovation, but I have contacted at the Washington Historical Society and have wanted to check out the DC Public Schools archive for some time. Now if I can just find some free time to continue sleuthing!

  11. Pingback: Meeting Minnie: Crowdsourcing History – Girl Scout History Project

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