Girl Scout History Project Ranked among Best Scout Blogs

I am honored to again have the Girl Scout History Project named one of the 35 Best Scouting Blogs and Websites by FeedSpot. The full list is available here.


FeedSpot reviewed thousands of blogs on the web, and selected this elite group based on traffic, social media followers, domain authority, and freshness.

Of the blogs cited, 24 covered Boy Scouts, while 10 focused on Girl Scouts. Twenty-two blogs were official; that is, written by national or council offices. One-third (12) were written by volunteers.

(Yes, I know this adds up to 34. I don’t know why.)

Screenshot from Girl Scout with a Cause blog.
Screenshot from Girl Scout with a Cause blog

This year the Girl Scout History Project was ranked 23rd. Amy Brown’s Girl Scout with a Cause blog was 21st.

It’s nice to have loyal followers and to be in such esteemed company!!

Rescue Rockwood: New Girl Scout History Book

At very long last, my Girl Scout history book, Rescue Rockwood, has been released!

Between 1938 and 1978, a half-million people visited Rockwood, the Girl Scout national camp in the nation’s capital. When members discovered it had been sold to developers, nine local Girl Scouts sued GSUSA to save their treasured gathering place. 

Packed with photos and eye-witness stories, Rescue Rockwood traces the development of the Girl Scouts of the USA and the Girl Scouts of Washington DC alongside the drive to preserve Rockwood.

Women in vintage dresses holding protest signs in front of brick mansion
Rescue Rockwood Cover

Amazon has both paperback and e-book/Kindle versions available.


Lou Henry Hoover: The Foundation of Girl Scouts

Black and white portrait of Lou Henry Hoover in Girl Scout uniform
Lou Henry Hoover in uniform, ca. 1930s

Juliette Gordon Low was the founder of the Girl Scout movement, but it was Lou Henry Hoover who created the institutions that remain its foundation today.

As first lady, Mrs. Hoover was the honorary president of the Girl Scouts. But she also served two terms as the elected president of Girl Scouts, one pre-White House and one post-White House.

She worked to streamline administration, professionalize staff, and better democratize relations between councils and the national headquarters. She launched the Little House program, encouraged day camping, and promoted commercial cookie sales.

I spoke on this topic for the Hoover Presidential Foundation’s “Third Thursday” talk for June 2022.

The Foundation taped the presentation, which may be accessed here or below. Enjoy!!

Golden Sunday Morning?

Is it just me, or does the CBS Sunday Morning logo look like the Girl Scout Gold Award?

CBS Sunday Morning Logo, golden sun
CBS Sunday Morning Logo
white patch with gold starburst design and gold border
Gold Award patch

CBS Sunday Morning first aired in 1979, one year before the Girl Scout Gold Award was introduced.

However, the Girl Scout sunburst design traces to a Senior membership pin introduced in 1938. At the time, high school girls often did not want classmates to know they were Girl Scouts (hard to believe, right?). This special pin was designed to look like a sorority pin, which presumably was more acceptable.

The Senior interest program introduced in 1953 continued starburst design as a unifying background for the assorted interest-specific programs.

I’ve written about the history of the Gold Award before and the deliberate choice to incorporate history into its design.

I’ve nothing else to add.

No conspiracies, intellectual property wars, or broadcast ambitious. Just, hmmm. They DO look similar.

What Is a Chartreuse Buzzard?

A camp song, a fundraiser, a bond connecting Macy alumni, the elusive Chartreuse Buzzard is a Girl Scout legend.

Girl Scouts of the USA faced huge budget deficits in the early 1970s, a product of slipping membership numbers and rising inflation.

In an effort to save as much money as possible, while cutting as few services as possible, GSUSA informed council presidents and directors in June 1974 that it would close the beloved Edith Macy Training Center in Briarcliff Manor, New York, for the 1975 season and possibly beyond. The sad news spread throughout the membership that summer.

The news arrived at Macy in August, during an “Innovative Training” workshop for adult volunteers. Upset and distressed by this development, students decided to take action. Led by Gloria Quinlan, Ginger Shields, and Betty Lankford McLaughlin from the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Council, the group believed that a grassroots fundraising effort might raise enough money to save Macy.

The women had just learned a new song, “Three Chartreuse Buzzards,” and unanimously agreed to bestow that name on their group.

FYI, It’s CHARTREUSE, not sharp-toothed or short-necked.

Get your buzzards straight.

Thus, the International Order of the Chartreuse Buzzards was born.  Why “international”? Because several of the students were Canadian Girl Guides.

Patches for Macy

The group designed a brightly colored patch meant to capture the “combination of fun, friendship, and serious purpose, which have always been part of the blend that appeals to enthusiastic Girl Scouts.” Members sent a patch and a brochure to every council president. Patches were sold for $2 and, to further save expenses, buyers were asked to include self-addressed, stamped envelopes with their orders. 

News of the group’s existence spread quickly. After all, no Girl Scouts worth her Thin Mints will pass up a unique patch.

Chartreuse Buzzard Patch 2
Chartreuse Buzzard Patch 2
Chartreuse Buzzard Patch 3
Chartreuse Buzzard Patch 3
Chartruse Spelling Error
Chartreuse Spelling Error

IOCB members ordered 1,000 patches, and all sold out before they were delivered. The design changed slightly before the next order. The word “Macy” was added the spelling of chartreuse fixed.

Donations Fly In

Macy opened for one weekend in June 1976 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The Buzzards chose that event to present a check to GSUSA for $2,200, earned from selling 8,000 patches.

In 1974, the Macy Lamp of Learning ignited a fire of learning under a dead tree. From the tree, the Chartreuse Buzzard took flight. The shadow of its wings has covered North America, Europe, Australia and other regions. This flight has spread the message of Macy Magic. The Chartreuse Buzzard RE-turns with a gift. The gift is to fuel the lamp of Macy.

edith macy lamp knowledge pin
edith macy lamp knowledge pin

Macy Saved

The Macy Center was taken off the endangered species list in October 1977, when the GSUSA Board of Directors designated it as the movement’s primary program and training center. A massive fund drive helped GSUSA convert the Edith Macy Center into a year-round facility suitable for training, conferences, and other meetings.

buzzard with a skillet cooking over a fire
Buzzard cookbook

That good news did not dampen enthusiasm for the patch. Sales continued by mail and at conventions, and a cookbook was produced as well.

As Macy expanded, Buzzards donations were earmarked for the Camp of Tomorrow, an experimental outdoor education area at Macy, and scholarships to attend Macy training events. By 1992 the Buzzards had raised $15,000 for Macy. 

Is the Chartreuse Buzzard Extinct?

What became of the Chartreuse Buzzards? The last recorded sighting was near the Seal of Ohio Girl Scout Council office in 1992. Patch orders then were directed to council publications manager Betty Rutledge. Betty passed away in 2006, but she was very proud of the Buzzards movement and what the scrappy little group had accomplished. She also wanted GSUSA to do more than cash Buzzard checks.

Writing GSUSA President Betty Pilsbury in February 1989, Betty noted that the group was still waiting for action on GSUSA’s promise to share the Buzzard story with the entire Girl Scout family.

When such an impressive amount of money has been accumulated in $2.00 purchases, an opportunity is being ignored to comment on tangible support for a special Girl Scout place from enthusiastic grass-roots membership.

Betty Rutledge letter to GSUSA President Betty Pilsbury, February 6, 1989

GSUSA ran a two-paragraph notice in the Summer 1989 issue of Leader.

Were you a Buzzard? Let me know!

The Madeleine Albright Girl Scout Badge

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright inspired a new Girl Scout badge issued in 2000.

Many tributes to Dr. Albright, who passed away on March 23, 2022, have mentioned that she had been a Girl Scout in Czechoslovakia before coming to the United States after World War II. She stayed involved with the organization as an adult, especially while her daughters were school-aged.

Wait … Girl Scout or Girl Guide?

Girl Scout is correct, according to the official history of the movement in Czechoslovakia:

History of Girl Scouts in  Czechoslovakia

A Sister to Every Girl Scout

Madeleine Albright consults atlas as Girl Scouts watch

In August 1999, Dr. Albright welcomed a group from the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital and the GSUSA headquarters to her office at the State Department to talk about ways that the Girl Scout program promotes international understanding.

In August 1999, Dr. Albright welcomed a group from the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital and the GSUSA headquarters to her office at the State Department to talk about ways that the Girl Scout program promotes international understanding.

The Winter 2000 issue of Leader magazine included an interview with Dr. Albright and an extensive article about the importance of context and cross-cultural understanding to build world citizens.

Fun Fact: All three female US Secretaries of State (Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hilary Clinton) are former Girl Scouts.

The article also announced a new badge for Junior Girl Scouts: Global Awareness. Developed by USA Girl Scouts Overseas, the requirements ask girls to learn about other countries and how they get along with each other.

Global Awareness Badge 2
Global Awareness Badge 2

Multicultural Awareness

The Global Awareness badge is also remarkable for its design. Take a look at the poster image of the badge above. See the skin tone of the arms? Not very multicultural.

Round badge with green border and background arms holding globe
Global Awareness Badges

The badge was recalled and reissued without using any skin tone in the design. The “white arms” version never appeared in the Girl Scout catalog. Now that’s being diplomatic.

Who’s That Girl Scout? Janet Tobitt

By guest blogger Bethan Clark

Known as “Toby” in Girl Scout circles, Janet Tobitt was born in Reading, England in 1898 and educated at St. Andrews (Scotland), King’s College (London) and the Sorbonne (Paris). She first travelled to the United States in 1929 to teach at the innovative Mary C. Wheeler School in Rhode Island. Two years later she joined the Girl Scouts and began spending her summers teaching folk music at Camp Edith Macy before joining the GSUSA Program Department in 1940. She became a US citizen in 1940

Skip to my Lou cover
Skip to my Lou cover

She became involved with Brownies and Guides whilst teaching at an English boarding school in the 1920s, where she discovered how well folk songs and dances were suited to young people. Tobitt was an inveterate traveller, and she gradually compiled an extensive collection of songs and dances from Europe (France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Malta), Asia (Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka) and throughout North America.  

Although based in the United States, she retained connections with the UK’s Girl Guiding Association (GGA). In 1936 she returned to the United Kingdom for 18 months, partly for the coronation of King George VI, and partly to travel around England and Scotland leading campfire singing workshops for Girl Guides and leaders for GGA. She took a year’s sabbatical from Girl Scout work during this trip to carry out a survey of music-related activities in 200 towns and hamlets in the United Kingdom.

We certainly tried to get all we could out of “Toby” before she went home to England last fall. We practically have a “Five-Inch Janet E. Tobitt Music Shelf” now.

Marie Gaudette, Leader (January 1937)

From 1947 to 1948 she traveled through more than 100 American communities giving song and dance sessions for 16,000 people. The tour, she wrote, “proved to be not a mangling experience, but a rejuvenating one”. People referred to Toby as an “itinerant Scout executive,” perhaps unsurprising when her work took her to 40 states, some repeatedly, leading workshops for up to 1,000 people at a time.  

As an educator, she believed that “any adult equipped with some basic recreational material, plus sound teaching principles, can go forth as a leader and have fun.” She encouraged groups to sing rounds, stating they “afford a painless, even joyful introduction to part singing.” Her 1937 “Notes for Song Leaders,” listed at the end of the Ditty Bag, are as valid today as they were nearly 90 years ago, and are highly recommended. 

Ditty Bag Cover
Ditty Bag Songbook

Tobitt achieved several “firsts” during her lifetime. In 1933, she became the first person to introduce the making and playing of shepherd’s pipes to the Girl Scouts. Soon after, she introduced the pipes to a nationwide audience, by playing them on a radio show broadcast from the newly opened Rockefeller Center. 

Tobitt contributed several articles to Girl Scout Leader magazine over the years, and held many Girl Scout job titles, including National Supervisor for Singing and Folk Dancing, where she was credited with creating “a strong musical culture for the organization. “As Music Director, she was considered principally responsible for the “national movement towards keener appreciation of music by Girl Scouts”; and, most notably, the first GSUSA staff member assigned to overseas duty in 1951. 

Her overseas assignment was as head of the North Atlantic Girl Scouts (NORAGS). This new division was based in “the American Zone” in Heidelberg, Germany. She trained 650 women, and organized activities for 3,000 girls in more than 100 troops at 17 US bases. As result of her efforts, the Army granted her the civilian equivalent of a Colonel’s rank. 

Tobitt organizes Girl Scouts in Japan
Tobitt Clipping

From 1953 to 1954 she directed the Far East American Girl Scout Association in Japan. “These wives and daughters of our security forces’ personnel, State Department officials, traders, and clergymen,” she explained, “have a unique opportunity as ambassadors of good will to effect understanding and to bring back to their homeland their broader knowledge of the world.” Her duties included introducing Japanese women to Girl Scouts. “Our objective was to give understanding, not to change Japanese women.”

She used her contacts in Japan to facilitate the 1955 “Hiroshima Maidens” airlift, which brought 25 severely disfigured young women to the United States for reconstructive surgery. When journalist and peace advocate Norman Cousins repeatedly failed to find financial backing for the venture, Tobitt suggested an appeal to the editor of the Nippon Times, which resulted in the U.S. Far East Command arranging air transportation for the women. 

Once the Maidens were in the United States, Tobitt, together with C. Frank Ortloff from  the Religious Society of Friends in New York City, was in charge of their outpatient care. The women stayed in private homes in New York City, as they prepared for and recuperated from multiple surgical procedures.

In addition to work and travel, Tobitt found time to edit and publish 34 books, including the highly popular Sing Together (1936), The Ditty Bag (1946) and the original Canciones De Nuestra Cabana (1963). She co-authored five books with another British-born naturalized American, Alice G. W. White, aka Alicen White.  

Tobitt continued to lead folk dance and singing workshops until she retired in 1963. She died in February 1984 age 86, in her adopted home of Manhattan.

Bethan Clark is a British woman who has lived in Hong Kong since 1999. She was a Brownie, Girl Guide, Ranger and Young Leader whilst living in the UK and has spent the majority of her career working with amateur singers, much like Janet Tobitt but on a smaller scale! She is currently a District Commissioner for Bauhinia Division, Hong Kong Girl Guides Association’s English-speaking Division, and is Guider In Charge of a Guide Company comprising 27 girls aged 11-17. Last year she created a YouTube channel ‘Songs for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ which, as far as she is aware, is the largest repository of Guide and Scout songs on the internet (500 and counting). It was through this project that she discovered Janet Tobitt and wanted to know more. Hence this article, and now a Wikipedia page too:  

Cheaper by the Dozen and the Girl Scouts

Disney studios released a new version of the movie Cheaper by the Dozen on March 18, 2022. Who knew that the story has an impressive Girl Scout connection?

The original movie, released in 1950, tells the story of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth and their 12 children. It was based on a book written by two of their children, Ernestine and Frank Jr.

Frank Gilbreth came from a blue-collar background and built a thriving construction business. Lillian was one of nine children herself and earned BA and MA degrees in literature from the University of California. She met Frank while pursuing her PhD and became fascinated with the time-saving techniques that he had developed to make his construction crews more efficient.

TheGilbrethsCom Family in Foolish Carriage
The Gilbreth Family in their “Foolish Carriage,” via
Cover of first edition of Cheaper by the Dozen
First edition, published in 1948

She also became fascinated with Frank. Despite a 10-year age difference, the couple married in 1904. Lillian became a partner in Frank’s engineering firm and switched her studies to psychology at Brown University.

Their partnership combined psychology and business management to develop the new field of time-and-motion studies. Along the way, they had 12 children and she earned a doctoral degree in psychology.

Group portrait of the Gilbreth family, the real-life family in Cheaper by the Dozen
The Gilbreth family in 1924, shortly before Frank Bunker Gilbreth Sr’s death, with all eleven children who survived to adulthood. Standing are Fred, Dan and Jack. Seated are Frank Jr, Martha, Dr. Lillian Moller Gilbreth, Frank Sr, Ernestine and Anne. On laps are Jane and Bob. Seated in front are Bill and Lillian Jr. (Original image from Purdue University archives via

With busy careers and a large household to manage, the Gilbreths applied their time-saving techniques to their family. According to daughter Ernestine, “They believed that what would work In the home would work In the factory, and what would work in the factory would work in the home.”

Like most of Dad’s and Mother’s ideas, the Family Council was basically sound and, although it verged sometimes on the hysterical, brought results. Family purchasing committees, duly elected, bought the food, clothes, furniture, and athletic equipment. A utilities commit­tee levied one-cent fines on wastes of water and electricity. A projects com­mittee saw that work was completed as scheduled. Allowances were de­cided by the Council, which also meted out rewards and punishments. Despite Dad’s forebodings, there were no pon­ies or roadsters.

“The Amazing Lillian Gilbreth,” Leader (summer 1984): 20-22.

Widowed at age 46, Lillian popularized her managerial psychology as a highly-sought-after lecturer.

First Lady Lou Henry Hoover, who twice served as GSUSA national president, asked Dr. Gilbreth in 1930 to be an unpaid consultant to the Girl Scouts. Lillian was reluctant, but few people could resist Mrs. Hoover.

I went over to national head­quarters and found that they felt perhaps the Personnel Department was just the one that would be of most in­terest to me and one that needed my help. That was where I began to work. I went into the Personnel Department as a member of the Personnel Committee and found the committee and Agnes Leahy, the director, so congenial to work with that I was very happy. I needn’t tell you that once a Girl Scout. you’re always a Girl Scout. I remember going to meetings even before I made my Promise.

“The Amazing Lillian Gilbreth,” Leader (summer 1984): 20-22.

Lillian Gilbreth in her Girl Scout uniform
Lillian Gilbreth in her Girl Scout uniform

Dr. Gilbreth set high standards for various Girl Scout role, both professional and volunteer. Former GSUSA President Marjorie Culmer (1956-1963) recalled:

Dr. Gilbreth felt very strongly that the only difference between volunteers and staff was that the staff got paid for their work. She drew no distinc­tion between the calibre of per­formance expected from volunteers and staff; she believed that the volunteers should get the same satisfaction from their work.

“The Amazing Lillian Gilbreth,” Leader (summer 1984): 20-22.

She also believed that professional staff and the national board should forge a strong partnership to achieve common goals.

Lillian soon dedicated herself to Girl Scouts, serving in a range of volunteer positions:

  • Per­sonnel Committee
  • Interna­tional Committee
  • Finance Committee
  • Con­stitution Revision Committee
  • Committee on National Personnel
  • National Board of Directors
  • Exec­utive Committee
  • Program Com­mittee
  • National Advisory Council

Gilbreth also deployed her well-earned respect and credibility when the Girl Scouts were (erroneously) accused of promoting communism in 1954.

According to daughter Ernestine,

She loved everything about this organization and all of its associates and opportunities for fur­ther new experience with young peo­ple. This tie-in became one of the key joys of her life. On her professional trips, she gave repeated lectures to Girl Scout groups and vice versa.

“The Amazing Lillian Gilbreth,” Leader (summer 1984): 20-22.

So grab a bucket of popcorn–even better, a box of Girl Scout cookies–and enjoy the latest version of Cheaper by the Dozen. Wouldn’t it be a great STEM tie-in for your troop?

For more on Lillian Gilbreth see:

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 2000s

Counting down to the 110th birth of the Girl Scouts of the USA on March 12, 2022.

Pssst: That’s TOMORROW

The Girl Scout movement underwent dramatic changes in the 2000s. While there had been incremental changes to badges, age levels, and council boundaries before, this time sweeping changes were simultaneous.

All initiatives were part of the all-encompassing Core Business Strategy.

Girl Scout Leadership Experience

GSUSA introduced a completely new program curriculum for all age levels. The centerpiece of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience was the Journey–a vaguely defined theme that structured a troop year.

Journey Ladder
Early Visual Aid for Explaining Journeys

Badges seemed to be an afterthought as they rolled out roughly three years after the journeys. The badges looked completely unfamiliar. Designs that traced as far back as 1912, such as Cooking, were discontinued. A key element of historical continuity was lost.

Variations on Girl Scout cooking badge designs
Evolution of the Cooking Badge by Vintage GS Online Museum
Whats  Happening With Girl Scout Badges
What’s Happening With Badges, from GSUSA

Age Levels Redefined

Girl Scout levels by paragraph
Girl Scout levels explained

Program levels were shuffled. First graders became Daisies, not Brownies. Now each level Brownies, Juniors, Seniors, and Ambassadors (a new level for 11th and 12th graders) were shortened from three-years to two, except for Cadettes, which remained three years, to match middle school grouping.


The realignment project was designed to consolidate 315 councils into 100.

The Un-uniform

While Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors still had recognizable uniform options, the new dress code for all ages was white polo, khaki bottom (pants, skirts, shorts, etc.) plus a sash or vest.

Girl Scout uniform policy
2008 statement copy
  • 2003 00 cover
  • Girl Scout Uniform Essentials for Every Grade Level 1
  • 2020U 00 cover 2
  • 2009 11

Will the Girl Scouts crumble under all of these changes? Will the movement survive? Stay tuned ….(Spoiler alert: YES).

History by Decade 2000s
History by Decade 2000s

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 1990s

Counting down to the 110th birth of the Girl Scouts of the USA on March 12, 2022.

Four Memorable Moments from Girl Scout history in the 1990s. How many do you remember?

Bronze Award Created

When the Gold and Silver Awards were introduced in 1980s, Junior Girl Scouts asked “What about us?”

Explanation of Girl Scout Bronze Award
Leader magazine, Summer 2001

Daisy Pin Redesigned

The original Daisy membership pin was redesigned in 1993 to incorporate a trefoil shape.

Round green pin with daisy flower
Original Daisy Pin
Gold pin with flower center
New Daisy Pin

Cookie Pins Introduced

If cookie patches and cookie badges weren’t sufficient recognition for the venerable product sale, Girl Scouts of all ages could earn a cookie pin. The program ran from 1998 through 2019, when the current Cookie Entrepreneur program launched. So far the Entrepreneur pins seem to be durable. The first cookie pins were plastic and may have come from a gum ball machine. GSUSA soon switched to metal cookie pins, these were also cheap. One good sneeze and they all broke apart.

Box of Girl Scout cookies with pins spilling out
Past cookie pins

New National Headquarters

GSUSA’s Manhattan headquarters relocated from 830 Third Avenue to 420 Fifth Avenue in 1992.

Blue and white patch with letters reading Girl Scout national headquarters in New York
Souvenir Patch
History by Decade 1990s
History by Decade 1990s