Dutton’s Dirty Diggers

Finding programs to keep teenagers in Girl Scouting has always been a challenge. The four Senior Roundups may be the best known of these programs, but they certainly were not the only ones.

, Girl Scout History Project

Three years ago I was introduced to the Senior Girl Scout Archaeological Camps. Between 1947 and 1957, over 300 Seniors (high-school age) participated. The University of Utah Press has just published a history of this early STEM program. Dutton’s Dirty Diggers, by Catherine S. Fowler.

Dr. Fowler participated in several expeditions and, like many other veterans of the program, chose to pursue a career in anthropology. She uses her own diaries from the program and those of several other participants to take readers out to the dusty desert, bumping along in vehicles that blew tires several times each day.

The program offered two-week long camping caravans and archaeological excavations that introduced teenage girls to the rich cultural and scientific heritage of the American Southwest as well as new career possibilities. Unlike the Roundups, girls could participate several times, allowing them to follow the painstaking progress of the selected sites.

The star of the book is Dr. Bertha Dutton, a curator at the Museum of New Mexico who served as trip leader. The girls’ respect and affection for Dr. Dutton is evident throughout the book, and many of the girls stayed in touch with her for years.

The National Parks Service has developed classroom materials on “Bert” and the Girl Scout program.

https://www.nps.gov/teachers/classrooms/scouts-shovels-bertha-dutton.htm

GSUSA ended the program after 1957, judging the experimental program a success. Staff at GSUSA announced that it was time for local councils to sponsor similar programs. Without Dr. Dutton’s charisma and intense involvement in the curriculum, local archaeological programs failed to take hold.

The fully illustrated book is a fun read and available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

, Girl Scout History Project

The volume is already getting positive reviews!

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

One thought on “Dutton’s Dirty Diggers

  1. Great story! I hope GSUSA and councils have learned an important lesson from this – that often AND is better than OR. In other words when a program is successful, that is not the time to cancel it and hope councils will be able to take it up themselves. Continue to support the main event, holding it up as an example for local councils to develop on their own IF they have the resources, and most importantly, the people to make it happen.

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