Happy Birthday, Cadette Girl Scouts!
Sixty years ago, on September 1, 1963, Girl Scouts transformed from three age levels to four. The Intermediate level was rebranded as “Juniors” and a new level—Cadettes —was created for younger teens.
Our latest exhibit at the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital headquarters celebrates this momentous occasion.
The University of Michigan Study
A 1958 study of the Girl Scout program, conducted by the Institute for Survey Research Center at University of Michigan, found that girls were maturing more rapidly than before. The Girl Scout program needed to reflect the needs of early teenagers.
Girl Scouts responded by dividing the Intermediate age level into Juniors (grades 4–6) and Cadettes (grades 7–9). Many US school systems solved a similar problem by shifting to Junior High Schools.
Cadettes and Early Branding
New Cadettes had their own logo, which appeared on many new products in the Girl Scout catalog. Sweaters, dolls, hankies, and jewelry all had a new version for Cadettes.
Badges and New Awards
With four age groups, colored disks were introduced for each level. The disks were positioned behind membership stars, signifying how many years a girl spent at each age level.
The 116 Intermediate-level badges were divided between Juniors (47) and Cadettes (65). The older girls’ badges featured gold edges, while the Junior selection had green borders. Some Intermediate badges were updated, other scrapped altogether.
Junior Girl Scouts could earn two new awards—the Sign of the Arrow and the Sign of the Star. Similar to today’s Journey program, earning the Signs was a multi-step, full-year process. The Sign of the Arrow had nine required activities and earning three badges. For Sign of the Star, Juniors completed nine requirements and earning two additional badges.
The Curved Bar program was replaced with the new First Class award. It required Cadettes to earn badges and to complete challenges (real-world scenarios) devised by leaders.
With family budgets in mind, uniforms changed very little in 1963. Parents were told:
When the program change goes into effect in the fall of 1963, the four age levels will continue to wear the uniforms that we now have for Brownies, Intermediates, older Intermediates and Seniors, with minor modifications, as shown here.Leader Magazine, June 1962
The display includes the Cadette uniform introduced in 1972. It is the only exclusively Cadette uniform to date (and it was my uniform!). The ensemble included the very first insignia vest. Made of green felt, it is often misidentified as homemade.
The Michigan study uncovered a lack of knowledge about Girl Scout opportunities beyond the troop level. Troops of all ages are now encouraged to participate in activities with other Girl Scouts, such as neighborhood Thinking Day celebrations or day camp. Girls are more likely to stay in Girl Scouts when they have contact with other troops, especially older troops.
The Program Study also showed how little one age level knows about what lies ahead, therefore “bridges” from one age level to the next have been built into the program. The concept was emphasized in the new handbooks that accompanied the new program.
GSUSA launched a focused, two-year training blitz to prepare leaders and other volunteers for the new program. In 1962, 123 adults attended workshops at the Edith Macy Training School outside New York City. The 123 then trained 3,000 experienced adult educators from across the United States. Armed with a new film, “This is Girl Scouting,” and new filmstrips for each level, these women had the job of taking the new program to their council and training the front-line volunteers—troop leaders.
We have many old film strips in the council collection, but I could not find these. Then I remembered seeing some old, rather large movie reels in the farthest corner of our workroom. Couldn’t hurt to look….
Box 1, not relevant. Box 2, not relevant. Box 3…. holy moly!
Fellow historian Susan Ducey had a film strip projector that we added to the display.
Perhaps one day the Committee will all get rowdy, make s’mores, and watch old educational film strips!! Wild times for sure.
© 2023 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, Girl Scout historian