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.

Cadette Girl Scouts, Girl Scout History Project
Cadette Girl Scouts, Girl Scout History Project

The University of Michigan Study

Cadette Girl Scouts, Girl Scout History Project

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.

Cadette Girl Scouts, Girl Scout History Project
1963 Cadette Insignia


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
Cadette Girl Scouts, Girl Scout History Project
Uniform Changes

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.

Cadette Girl Scouts, Girl Scout History Project
Cadette Awards and uniform

Wider Opportunities

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.

Building Bridges

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. 

Cadette Girl Scouts, Girl Scout History Project
Both staff and volunteers received training in the new program.
Cadette Girl Scouts, Girl Scout History Project
Training materials for each age level.

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!

Cadette Girl Scouts, Girl Scout History Project

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

6 responses to “Cadette Girl Scouts Turn 60”

  1. Ann, thanks for the detailed post. I love the period graphics at the top. I became a 7th grade Cadette in 1965. I had earned the 2 signs as a Junior. Such a trip down Memory Lane. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Gayle! The graphics are from the cover of the April 1963 Leader magazine. The cover featured four strips of images, each from one of the new, 1963 handbooks. https://gsleader.online/resources/1960s/1963/GSL-1963-04-April.pdf

  2. Marianna Gilbertson Avatar
    Marianna Gilbertson

    Love this piece of history. Whenever we had style shows here with my troop members, I would get excited about this time period. My time period. 1959-1970. My troop work hard to receive the level of Scout First Class. Old sash has all my history in one spot. My dark green sash with both Junior signs and 4 pins of : Social responsibility, Active citizenship, Girl Scout promise and emergency preparedness. Trop 831of Columbia River Council.

    1. Thanks, Marianna!

  3. Sharon Steele (Scout last name Swick) Avatar
    Sharon Steele (Scout last name Swick)

    Thank you so much for all of this invaluable information. I was a Cadette and quite excited to be one. All that Cadette effort later led to future in Scouting of attending the last international Roundup held in Idaho in 1965.

    1. Thanks Sharon!

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