What Was Realignment?

I was pleased to see this week’s news that the country of Macedonia finally had an official name: Northern Macedonia. Since the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991-1992, the new country had been at odds with Greece, which claimed it had the exclusive right to the name. For over 25 years the former Yugoslav province was saddled with the awkward name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM) whenever it tried to conduct diplomacy or other international business.

Macedonia map

Locator Map for Macedonia (World Atlas)

What does this have to do with Girl Scouts? Stick with me, this is one of those examples of the academic world colliding with the Girl Scout world.

macedonia-flag-std

Flag of Macedonia (The Flag Shop)

Surprisingly, the experience of Macedonia and all of the new countries created by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia should have been a giant red flag pointing to the possible pitfalls of the Realignment project.

Specifically: Names matter. People form strong emotional attachments to places and placenames. They find redrawing borders and renaming places to be emotionally difficult, almost as an attack on their identity. They will object.

 

What Was Realignment?

A decade ago, GSUSA redrew the borders of all councils across the country.  In just two years 315 councils were redistributed into 112.

Realignment began with a vote by the national Board of Directors on August 26, 2006. The policy was intended to create:

high-performance, community-based councils. The new structure will make the most effective use of resources to better serve local communities across the nation and deliver a superior Girl Scout leadership program to even more girls.

“Girl Scouting Undergoes Historic Transformation,” press release, Sept. 18, 2006

Realignment was almost entirely top-down, based on criteria determined by outside, non-Girl Scout consultants who produced a “GSUSA Demographers’ Map.”

Rather than simply combining two or three existing councils and retaining the overall council shape, Realignment created entirely new entities by grouping together multiple existing councils. The new “high-capacity councils” would have:

  • a population with at least 100,000 girls between ages 5 and 17,
  • a combined household income of at least $15 billion, and
  • at least one city with a population of 50,000 or more.

While 29 current councils met those criteria, 283 faced major changes imposed from above. Not only would they no longer exist as an independent unit, many councils would be chopped up, and their girls, properties, and assets allocated among several new councils.

While councils could offer suggestions, it was clear that the program was going to take place. This “no exceptions” mindset was emphasized in GSUSA’s “Realignment News,” a weekly newsletter created in late 2005 and distributed to every council board chair and CEO.  In the first issue, for example:

Q: What if councils don’t want to realign?

A: The future viability of Girl Scouting is tied to this most important nationwide effort. All councils are part of this process and all councils will have multiple opportunities to participate. … This will not be successful as an effort of “some,” it will only be successful as an effort of “all.”

Realignment News (December 5, 2005)

What Happened?

Needless to say, few council staff and volunteers were happy to learn of their impending extinction. Combining coucils would most certainly mean duplicate staff and downsizing.

Members hated to lose the councils they had been part of for decades. They were attached to the old name and found it surprisingly difficult to snip old council ID strips and patches off their sashes and patch jackets.

Many members understood and accepted the rationale for the changes. They agreed that it would be new opportunities for girls. But change, even for the best of intentions, is hard.

Originally, 80 mergers were planned, with an ultimate goal of 109 councils. If a council submitted a map that was similar to that proposed by the demographers, the council could be designated an “early adopter” and procede.  Central Indiana became the first council to complete Realignment, opening for business in January 2007.

Despite the clear statements about Realignment being mandatory, several councils balked.

Manitou Council, headquartered in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, went to court to resist the proposed changes. National headquarters intended to divide Manitou’s territory and 6,000 girls among three new councils (60% to Northwestern Great Lakes, 35% to Wisconsin Southeast, and 5% to Badgerland). While technically Manitou could continue to exist as a legal entity, without the blessing of GSUSA it would not be able to present itself as a Girl Scout council nor could it use Girl Scout servicemarks and materials. Citing Wisconsin’s Fair Dealership Law, Manitou objected to GSUSA unilaterally seizing its territory without good cause. The council had met all of its charter criteria. Without the exclusive territory, the council argued, it would be unable to sell the cookies that comprised two-thirds of its annual budget. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ultimately agreed. Manitou remained intact.

Farthest North in Alaska and Hornet’s Nest in North Carolina also resisted and followed the Manitou lawsuit carefully. After the Manitou ruling, they were allowed to remain un-realigned. Illinois Crossroads and Prairie Winds initially declined to join the new Greater Chicago and NW Indiana council, but ultimately merged.

New Names, Less Local Flavor

Realignment affected many aspects of council life, but this post only focuses on one: council names. I’ll deal with surplus camps and oversubscribed pension plans another time.

Ironically, a program intended to “better serve local communities” began by stripping away any trace of local character.

New councils voted on their new name, but the candidates had to follow a formula specified by GSUSA. Gone were the colorful, descriptive names that had been used for decades. In were bland names with clear geographical reference.

Vivid names such as Mile Hi, Wagon Wheel, Chipeta, and Mountain Prairie were clumped under the rubric “Colorado.” Efficient, but impersonal.

Some councils largely remaining intact still had their names tweaked. Wilderness Road, for example, was renamed Kentucky’s Wilderness Road.

As far as identity is concerned, these changes were disorienting. A major component of your personal story is gone. It was like discovering that your childhood home had been torn down and your high school renamed.

Takeaway

 

Organization names and borders are more than just lines and letters on a page. As I’ve written elsewhere, names, symbols, and mythology are vital to creating popular loyalty to a new country. The same is true for new councils, schools, and even churches. Groups cannot be erased from maps without generating complaints and resistance. (article 1) (article 2)

People who objected to Realignment are not ancient relics stuck in the past. They simply are human, an assertion backed by science.

Compared with Macedonia’s name issue and the battles associated with redrawing maps across post-communist Europe, Realignment was (almost) painless.

At least no council has been stuck with a name like  FGCCBLC: “Former Girl Scout Council of Beaver and Lawrence Counties.”

©2018 Ann Robertson

 

 

Remembering Fran Randall

I checked my email late yesterday, after a long day of driving, and found the sad news that Fran Randall had passed away at age 93.

Fran was one of the first Girl Scouts in Frederick County, Maryland, joining in 1938. She would be a mainstay of the movement in Frederick for the next eight decades.

Braddock_Heights_Staff

The future Mrs. Randall worked at Braddock Heights day camp in 1944.

Fran wore many hats in her lifetime — chemist, journalist, historian, feminist, businesswoman, and more. But my connection to her was through Girl Scouting, and I greatly enjoyed the time spent together swapping stories about the movement, travel, and life in general.

The_Foo

Fran and her brother published their own newspaper in 1942. The Randall family later became the publisher of the Frederick News-Post.

The last time I saw Fran was at the grand opening of our Archives and History Program Center in Frederick. She had made a generous contribution to the center and not even recent surgery was going to keep her away.  Frannie was especially delighted when I showed her the display case holding her former leader’s hat.

Fran_Randall_2012

This photo from the Girl Scout Centennial has hung in the Frederick Center since it opened in 2015 and perfectly captures Fran’s enthusiasm for Girl Scouting.

She leaves a tremendous legacy for Frederick County and the thousands of Girl Scouts active there.

Her obituary is available from the Frederick News-Post.

©2018 Ann Robertson

 

Daisy and Her Travel Documents

My daughter recently mentioned that visitors on her tours at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace are often surprised when Erin says, “She was about my size.”

That comparison surprised me, too.  Erin and I are only 5 feet tall, and even then we really have to stretch on our tippy toes. “Hold on,” I replied. “I think I’ve seen her height.”

Less than a minute later,  I texted her a copy of  Low’s 1919 passport application, which states her height at 5 feet, 4.5 inches.

“OK,” Erin conceded. “But that’s still pretty small.”

“You’re not going to comment on my just happening to have JGL’s passport application sitting around?”

“No, mom.” She replied. “I’ve learned to expect that.”

I had found the passport records earlier on Ancestry.com.  It is fun to see Daisy’s handwritten comments, description of her own appearance, and to read the reasons given for her travel abroad.  The passport photos are great, as well.

The documents have been bound into hardback volumes, and some text is not fully visible.

Her 1915 application gave her destinations as England, Italy, and Egypt, and she requested that the document be delivered to her parents’ home on Oglethorpe Street.

1915-Description

Daisy describes herself as 5 ft, 4.5 inches tall.

1916 Photo

Passport Photo, 1915, 1916

She renewed her passport in 1916, and her brother’s statement served in place of a birth certificate.  The file also includes a letter noting that her landlord in London, Lady Coghlan, was upset to discover that Daisy had used parafin oil lamps and left at least one sink stopped up.

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By 1918 Daisy had misplaced her passport and urgently needed a new one. She included a letter from Boy Scout founder Lord Baden-Powell explaining the reason for her travel.

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In 1919 she explained that she needed to renew her passport for six months to attend an international scouting conference. She handwrote that her travels would include Switzerland, and another letter from Lord Baden-Powell confirmed the international meeting.

 

The last passport on file was for 1923. This trip included Egypt. She also indicates that her previous passport had been canceled.

 

Unfortunately, the photo for the 1923 document is almost illegible. Likely the product of poor quality microfiche.

I always enjoy looking at original documents, especially ones with personal details such as eye color, face shape, and height.

Now I have yet another reason to look up to Daisy Low.

©2018 Ann Robertson

 

Girl Scouts Answer Call to End to Social Unrest

Fifty years ago today, the Girl Scouts of the USA released this telegram:

GSUSA Kerner Telegram copy

From Leader magazine, October 1968

Copies were also sent to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Judge Otto Kerner, every member of the Kerner Commission, every member of Congress, and every Girl Scout council president.

Two months earlier, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorder released a landmark study on race relations in the United States. President Lyndon B. Johnson had convened the 11-man panel of experts following riots in Newark, NJ, Detroit, MI, and 23 other cities the previous year. The violent uprisings, concentrated in African-American neighborhoods, were responsible for the deaths of 69 people in Newark and Detroit.

Known as the Kerner Report, as Judge Kerner of the US Court of Appeals chaired the panel, the report’s conclusion was concise and alarming:  The United States faced such deep social and economic division that

Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.
—Conclusion of the Kerner Commission

 

The Report called for massive investment in housing and jobs to improve living conditions for African Americans and an end to segregation in urban neighborhoods, among other recommendations.

GSUSA received many responses to the telegram, including one from Judge Kerner:

Your message of the action of the Board of Directors of the Girl Scouts of the United States should be hailed by all throughout the United States. I am a great believer in using existing organizations to work on the greatest social problem the country has ever faced. I am sure that through the Girl Scouts you can reach into the economically deprived areas and give new experience and opportunity there as well as to those people outside the depressed areas by becoming acquainted with the conditions. Please extend my congratulations to the officers and the Board of Directors.

—Judge Otto Kerner

 

President Lyndon B. Johnson ignored the Kerner Report’s advice, mainly due to the cost, but the Girl Scouts paid attention.

Pages from GSL 1970-01 January (1)

Leader (Jan 1969)

At the 1969 National Council Session, GSUSA launched “Action 70,” a program to improve race relations within Girl Scouting. Within Nation’s Capital, the leaders of the Southwest Montgomery County and Mid-Eastern Washington Associations took up the challenge of fostering good relationships within the council. Mary Ann Claxton, of Southwest Montgomery County, invited Field Vice President Ethel Harvey to a discussion on “The Kerner Report and Its Implications for Girl Scouting.”

 

This discussion evolved into the Inter-Association Friendship Committee, a series of joint events between the Girl Scouts from the urban Mid-Eastern Washington and upper-middle class Southwest Montgomery County Associations spanning more than three decades. The Friendship Committee brought together troops for camping, swapping program ideas, service projects, and fun. One of the Committee’s most popular annual traditions was polishing the brass on the carousel at Glen Echo Park, once a whites-only establishment.

049_Glen_Echo

Nation’s Capital troops polishing the brass on the Glen Echo carousel (GSCNC Archives)

A half century later, the United States remains a sharply polarized society.  The Girl Scout’s persistent determination to be inclusive is still a model worthy of consideration.

For more about the 50th Anniversary of the Kerner Report, follow the link to an interview with the last surviving panel member.

©2018 Ann Robertson

 

Revisiting Boypower 76

The Boy Scouts plan to admit girls into their ranks. Again.

The national office of the Boy Scouts of America recently announced that girls will be able to join Cub Scout packs this fall. Under a new program category called “Scouts BSA,” girls will be able to rise through the ranks in the coming years, all the way to Eagle (in other words, the Gold Award for boys). The expansion campaign will be known as “Scout Me In.”

 

 

But while proclaiming the move as a victory for inclusion, equality, and parental convenience, Cub Scout packs will be single-sex only.  This paradox either confirms the value of single-gender group or indicates that Cub Scouts are afraid of girl cooties.

Including Some Girls

This is not the first time that the Boy Scouts have provided a participation option to girls.

 

On October 17, 1968, the Boy Scout organization launched a new membership initiative called “Boypower 76.” The ambitious program set national goals to be achieved by the US Bicentennial Celebration of 1976. Specifically, (1) Expand membership so that one of every three American boys is enrolled. That would require adding 2 million new Boy Scouts by 1976. (2) Double council budgets to a combined level of $150 million.

New members would be recruited through two efforts: establishing troops in inner cities and retaining older boys by allowing girls to participate in the special-interest, career-focused segment of the Explorers program. In other words, girls and ghettos.

The Girl Scouts outlined this new initiative in the October 1969 Leader magazine. According  to the article, potential female Explorer participants must be:

  • registered Girl Scouts or Camp Fire Girls
  • invited to join by a post sponsor
  • in high school, unmarried [!!], and at least 14 years old

In addition,

Participants will not become members of the Boy Scouts of America and will not pay a membership fee to the Boy Scouts of America. (They may pay post dues and “pay their own way” for activities and events.)

Leader (October 1969): 55.

The national slogan for Boypower 76 was “America’s Manpower Begins with Boypower.”  What girl wouldn’t feel welcomed by that greeting?

A key difference between the 1968 announcement and those of 2017 and 2018 is that the earlier expansion news was delivered in a joint statement from the national presidents of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Camp Fire Girls.  Furthermore, the cooperation proposal originated with the Girl Scouts.

 

The_Cincinnati_Enquirer_Sun__Nov_3__1968_

Cincinnati Enquirer Sun (November 3, 1968)

 

Not everyone was pleased with including girls in 1968, prompting a Boy Scout spokesman to reassure the faithful, “We are not going to try to build girls. Our business still is boys.”  Then why add girls? According to BSA chief executive Alden Barber, it was to improve older boy retention.

Young men are interested in young women.

–Alden Barber

This statement makes girls sound like recruitment incentives, not a group worthy of program initiatives.

Membership Quotas

Councils were given strict monthly and annual membership goals to keep them on track to achieve the expansion envisioned in Boypower 76. As the girls were only Explorer “participants,” not members, presumably the main source for new members would be high-poverty pockets in both urban and rural areas.

 

The strategies mentioned in the press reeks of racism and do-goodism. A widely syndicated New York Times article from February 1970 discourages block-by-block recruiting for new Boy Scouts because it might trigger gang conflicts; a new handbook in comic book format appropriate for “youngsters with a minimum of education”; and badges that include treating rat bites.

By April 1971, girls could be full members of Explorer posts, thereby contributing to the overall membership goals.

The Controversial Collapse of Boypower

BSA canceled the Boypower program two years early, amid widespread reports of inflated membership numbers.  Articles in the New York Daily News, the Central New Jersey Home News, and many other newspapers enumerated the problems. The Chicago council was accused of selling one-month memberships for ten cents; other councils for inventing names to register. At least 13 major cities were discovered to have falsified records, involving some 30,000-40,000 “phantom” scouts.

Furthermore, only about half of the $65 million fundraising goal was met, and much of that was from long-time donors who directed their gifts to the national organization instead of the local council.

Looking Ahead

I will be watching the rollout of “Scout Me In” closely. This initiative also comes at a time of falling membership among the Boy Scouts, and I certainly prefer enrolling real children who will actually participate instead of inventing new members.

It is also important to note that the Boy Scouts are enrolling girls, not necessarily Girl Scouts. I have not seen any statement preventing girls from being members of both organizations. There have always been “bi-Scoutal” girls enrolled in both Girl Scouts and Venturing, the current incarnation of the Explorer program.

Personally, I’ll stick with Girl Scouting. I have a hard time seeing myself as a welcome, valued member of any organization whose very name fails to include me. Girls are more than just membership statistics. Girls, and especially Girl Scouts, are great!

Girls Great

© 2018, Ann Robertson

 

 

Putting Our Priorities First: Girls

For the 80th anniversary of Girl Scouting in 1992, the Girl Scouts of the USA adopted a new slogan, “The Girl Comes First in Girl Scouting.”

This clear statement of the movement’s priorities was available on patches, magnets, and pins.

 

Girls Come First

80th Anniversary slogan patch (1982)

As we face increasing challenges to our movement, I invite you to download this image and declare your priorities on social media. Post the patch!!

©2018 Ann Robertson

 

 

Picture Yourself in the Girl Scout Archives

Last Saturday was the Nation’s Capital 2018 Annual Meeting, and the Archives and History Committee arranged an exhibit.

2018 Annual Meeting Patch

 

The exhibit theme was “Picture Yourself in the Girl Scout Archives,” and it had two parts. First, Committee members brought a current project to share. We are informally divided by specialty (uniforms, patch programs, books, publications, etc.) and this seemed a good way to demonstrate what the Committee does.

I brought some of our camera collection to decorate our display, and many girls were fascinated by them. We had to explain that these cameras did not have phones.

Second, we organized a photo booth with old uniforms. Last year we had a large exhibit of adult uniforms and people were literally lining up to have their picture made with the mannequins. We decided to build on that by having uniform pieces to try on.

 

Hats were easy to arrange.  We’d been advised by other history groups to be vigilant about hygiene since we didn’t want to accidentally spread germs or unwelcome critters. We lined each hat with a basket-style coffee filter that we changed after each wearing.

Uniforms were more challenging. Folks today are larger than people a few decades ago and some of our uniforms are tiny! We know that for fashion shows, we have to go for younger models.  Sometimes only a Daisy in kindergarten can fit into a vintage Brownie dress, and we have to use a fifth-grade Junior for one of the vintage teen uniforms.

But we’d gotten a fabulous idea from other historians: split uniforms. I saw them up close at the North Carolina Girl Scout Collector’s Show in March, and organizer Becky Byrnes offered some great advice.

 

Uniforms are split along the spine, hemmed, and ribbons or bias tape is sewn in to use as ties. Girls and adults slip the old uniform on over their clothing, much like a doctor slipping into a surgical gown. It doesn’t completely solve the size issue (tiny uniform + clothing = tight squeeze) but everyone seemed pleased with the results.

Our designated photographer reported snapping pictures of 74 groups, and many more visitors took selfies.

This experiment worked well and we plan to have more split uniforms available at our Program Centers.

©2018 Ann Robertson