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

©2022 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 1980s

Next up, Girl Scout history from the 1980s. Five Great Moments from Girl Scout history in the 1980s. How many do you remember?

Daisy Program Introduced

Young girl in blue smock
GSD 1 sketch

Starting in 1984, kindergarten-age girls could become Daisy Girl Scouts. Daisies wore simple blue smocks. They did not sell cookies and did not have earned recognitions. Daisy petals were introduced in 2002, petals in 2011.

Brownie Try-Its Introduced

Before 1986, the only recognitions for Brownies were patches for well-rounded troop years. Fifteen Try-Its were offered the first year, with more to follow. The triangle-shaped Try-Its were designed to be non-competitive and encouraged trying new things. Girls had to complete four of six requirements to earn the recognition.

Chart of Original Brownie Try Its
Original Try Its

Cookie Sales Turn 50

In 1984 Little Brownie Bakers marked the 50th anniversary of commercial cookie sales with a new cookie: Medallions.

Special Girl Scout cookie 50 years
50th Anniversary Cookie, 1984

Thirty-three years later, in 2017, Girl Scouts celebrated 100 years of cookie sales.

White circle patch says Cookie Troop 100
100th Anniversary, 2017

50 + 33 = 83?

Maybe the Math Whiz badge needs to return.

Teen Uniforms Take Preppy Turn

Girl Scout Cadette and Senior uniforms from the 1980s
Cadette/Senior Uniform, 1980s

New uniforms for Cadettes and Seniors (no Ambassadors until 2008) were introduced in 1980. For the first time, both levels shared the same skirt, pants, vest, and sash. They were distinguished by plaid blouses. The Cadette plaid was predominantly green, the Seniors blue. Catalogs described the green pieces as “apple green,” but it was more like Girl Scout guacamole.

I Earned the Gold Award

Robertson Gold Award certificate
Robertson Gold

The Gold Award was introduced in 1980 as the highest award available to Girl Scouts. I volunteered at my local council office, and they handed me the guidelines. Staff said, “We know you’re going to earn it. We’re also going to send every question about the process to you.”

I earned my Gold Award in 1983. Today, I am still mentoring future golden girls as a member of my council’s Gold Award Panel.

History by Decade 1980s
History by Decade 1980s

©2022 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 1930s

The Girl Scouts of the USA turns 110 years old on March 12, 2022.

In the 1930s, individual Girl Scout troops began to group together as councils or associations.

Adults worried over how to keep older girls engaged, and GSUSA responded with innovative programming.

High school girls now had their very own membership pin, whose design inspired the Gold Award pin. The successful Mariner program would lead to other challenging programs for Senior Girl Scouts, including wing, horseback, and hospital aide.

The entire organization also began to incorporate civil-defense activities, which would come in handy in the 1940s.

Highlights of Girl Scout history in the 1930s
History by Decade 1930s

©2022 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 1920s

The Girl Scouts of the USA turns 110 years old on March 12, 2022.

In the 1920s, Girl Scouts changed to silver-green uniforms, adapted the British Brownie program, and awarded Golden Eaglet pins to outstanding high-school girls.

Highlights of Girl Scout history from the 1920s.
History by Decade 1920s

©2022 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Mythbusters: Charmed 2 Death?

Studio 2b logo
Studio 2B logo

My recent post on the unpopular Girl Scout Studio 2B program revived an old tale about the program’s signature charms being recalled due to high led content.

I’d heard the story myself and decided to investigate.

It turns out that Girl Scouts of the USA did, in fact, recall a charm in November 2007.

According the press release announcing the recall (see below), the specific issue related to the lead content of one paint color of one charm, not the metal itself. Specifically:

Current standards indicate that metal and paint objects for children under age six must be under 600ppm, and while the charm was not an age-specific activity award, GSUSA has made the recall of this accessory.

GSUSA Press Release, November 17, 2007.

The charm in question appeared in the 2007 Girl Scout Catalog, which described it as “perfect for keyrings, backpacks or totes.”

Charm Recall 2007 09 2
2007 Girl Scout Catalog, page 9

How Rumors Get Started

It is easy to see how this myth arose. Studio 2B seemed to be blamed for everything else.

The Studio 2B program began switching from charms to patches the following year, making it easy to assume they were eliminated due to their lead content–not their program content.

For all of Studio 2B’s flaws, at least it wasn’t lethal.

©2022 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Here is the full press release:

Charm Accessory Recall 1

Put These on Your Sash

I’m a BIG fan of Spoof badges.

You’ve probably seen examples online, such as these camping-themed badges from Demerit Wear.

They range from funny to foul and some are far too mature for our dear girls’ delicate sensibilities.

(And just how many fart badges does one Cub Scout need?)

I’ve been a freelance writer in a home office for 20-some years, so I earned the full set of working-from-home recognitions long before it was trendy.

Adam Wentworth’s Working From Home series on Etsy

Apparently, spoof badges aren’t a new idea. I found a several proposed leader badges in, where else, Leader magazines from December 1958 and February 1959.

For your enjoyment and troop planning, I present (only slightly edited):

Vintage Spoof Badges

Idiot

The Idiot badge may be earned in various ways. A simple start is to forget the can opener on the night of the big party–or, after careful solitary rehearsal of the flag ceremony, to go blank when a group of wide-eyed Tenderfeet (-foots?) are looking to you for guidance.

Straight Face

The Straight Face badge is one toward which credits can be earned painlessly at every meeting. When you can ask seriously, “Don’t you think steel wool and scouring powder are a little too rough for a baby’s skin?” or comment, “It’s very messy to put your elbow into the soup to test the temperature”– you’re made!

Split Personality

Earned by all those ladies who must be pioneer campers, dignified hostesses, landscape gardeners, puppet makers, and untold other things in rapid succession.

Good Intentions

The primary requirement for earning this badge is to have gotten into improbable and thorough trouble while doing an extraneous good deed.

For example:

  • Ms Susie ventures out into the icy world on a particularly nasty day in order to light the stove at the church where the troop met, so that some hours later the room would be warm. On the way down the hill from the church, her car slips into a deep ditch, requiring a tow truck and the payment of $150.
  • Ms Linda decides to take home one of her Brownies who lives miles beyond nowhere in the Arkansas countryside, rather than let her wait an hour for her parents to pick her up. Heavy rains had converted the back roads into deep mud. On the return trip, to avoid some heavy branches overhanging the road, she got ignominiously stuck in the mud, up to the floor of her car. It took a good half hour to get out, to say nothing of mud (sprayed over everything and oozing through the floor) and frayed nerves. In cleaning up the car after my fiasco, I scrubbed the skin off my hands trying to get everything mud-free and ran the well dry.

Broken Note

To earn this badge, you must NOT to be able to sing. It is a noble ambition to have our girls learn to sing, and, whenever possible, to do so by listening to someone sing the song. Some volunteers can read music easily and have an excellent memory for words.

But others (you know who you are) can’t sing a note. Or more accurately, they can sing one note. They all come out the same. When they sing “Make New Friends” it sounds like a Gregorian chant. This badge is awarded to all who have suffered the frustrations and woeful eyes of girls who want so badly to learn and enjoy but can’t make heads or tails of the melody, at least not the way their leader sings it.

Scrounger

Any Girl Scout leader who wasn’t born a scrounger and saver must develop into one or perish.

There are three requirements for earning this badge.

  • Save one dozen items, such as two-pound coffee cans, to be used “at a later date” for “something.”
  • Save one dozen items for at least a year, such as empty baby cereal boxes with spouts (there must be some use for spouts?), which collect dust, dirt, and despair.
  • Scrounge ten different items from ten different sources, whether they be No. 10 cans from a restaurant (we all know what those are used for) or cuttings from the local greenhouse.
The Sacred Pot of Golden Yellow Nuggets

Needless to say, all of these tasks must be accomplished with minimum expenditure, if not free.

Personally, I live with the giant jar of yellow pony beads that has been passed through my Service Unit for 25+ years. The SU was merged out of existence several years ago, but the beads remain. Alas. They do make a good door stop.

Black Day

The Black Day badge consists of two parts.

First: There are certain conditions that must be present before the other requirement may be completed: it has to have rained solidly at least three days; you have to have a cold, or think you have a cold; you must at least have a headache, a toothache, or a husband on a diet.

Second: Face one of the listed experience or a similar calamity.

  • When the young ladies duly burst into troop meeting, they are like uncaged tigresses, deaf to ideas and entreaties, unable to sing or play games or otherwise vent their energies without producing chaos. The leader must be poised, gracious, in full command of the situation, smiling and bright.
  • The second requirement is to have chaos at home develop at the moment you leave for a meeting: a younger child has just come down with scarlet fever, measles, or such; the stove has blown up or the bathroom overflowed; your husband is bringing home three guests for dinner. Again, you must appear at meetings, poised, gracious, and with three of the craft supply boxes living in your basement.

Surely these coveted recognitions will be wonderful additions to your new, official leader vest!

Preview(opens in a new tab)

©2022 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Masks? Who Needs Masks?

Today you cannot turn on the news or surf the internet without seeing plea upon plea for face masks to protect health care workers during the Covid-19 crisis.

Groups across the country have sprung into action, sewing masks while quarantined at home. Girl Scouts are doing their part, collecting materials and sewing masks themselves. Troops across the United States are sending cases of cookies to hospitals and other health-care centers.

Girl Scouts have provided war-time service since the movement was founded in 1912. When the United States entered the World War I in 1917, girls distributed sandwiches to soldiers passing through town, raised homing pigeons destined for the front lines, and made bandages for the Red Cross.

Girl Scouts dig a victory garden behind the DAR Hall in Washington, DC, 1917

Local Girl Scouts also jumped in to help when another mask-related emergency occurred.

The March 1918 edition of The Rally (the first Girl Scout magazine) introduced a Girl Scout War Service Award to “stimulate thoughtful direct effort that would have a distinct value to those in the war.”

To earn the award, girls had to knit two pounds of wool, make 50 jars of jam, and sell at least 10 Liberty Bonds. 

The Rally also directed Girl Scouts to collect and dry fruit pits and nut shells:

A CAMPAIGN FOR PITS

Gather up the peach pits,

Olive pits as well.

Every prune and date seed

Every walnut shell.

The "Peach Pit Champions of Washington, DC, collected thousands of peach pits for the war effort.  From left: Lillian Dorr, Troop 60; Helen Collier, Troop 33; Eva Tarslush, Troop 60.  (The Rally, March 1919.)
The “Peach Pit Champions of Washington, DC,” collected thousands of peach pits for the war effort. From left: Lillian Dorr, Troop 60; Helen Collier, Troop 33; Eva Tarslush, Troop 60. (The Rally, March 1919.)

The magazine article explained that “200 peach pits or seven pounds of nut shells produced enough carbon for one filter for a solider’s gas mask” (GS Collector’s Guide, p. 87).  With the German military deploying highly toxic chlorine gas against the Allied troops, the Red Cross and other organizations launched peach pit collection drives across the country, according to The Atlantic magazine.

The Girl Scouts rose to the occasion, and three Washington, DC, Girl Scouts — all under age 13 — were declared “Peace Pit Champions.”

Hopefully we won’t have to resort to fruit as protective gear but if so, the Girl Scouts are ready.

Many troops had to cancel cookie booths due to social distancing. You can purchase cookies online and have them delivered to first responders, food banks, or yourself!

©2022 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Whooo Earned These Pins?

Does anyone remember the golden pins offered for adult service? There were two programs available between 1987 and 2005.

The Leadership Development Pin was introduced in 1987. A similar Volunteer Development Pin was released in 2003. Both were designed to emphasize long-time service and to be worn for many years.

Leadership Development Pin

The Leadership Development Pin featured a brown owl on a gold metal circle. Five holes had been punched at the bottom of the pin in anticipation of future attachments. Green, silver, and gold leaves could be attached as leaders accumulated credentials.

Basic Requirements

There were four steps to earning the basic, golden circle pin.

  • Complete one year as a troop leader or co-leader.
  • Complete basic leadership training.
  • Attend at least two meetings or events beyond the troop, such as service unit meetings, council annual meetings, or Thinking Day celebrations.
  • Secure camp certified and first aid trained adults for the troop.

Once the basic pin was completed, leaves could be awarded for additional training. One green leaf signified ten hours. Five green leaves could be exchanged for one silver leaf; five silvers (250 hours) merited one gold leaf.

The big problem with the “Owl Pin” was the leaves. They were tiny; no larger than a grain of rice. The main pin itself was less than an inch in diameter. Thus, by the time members accumulated silver and gold leaves, they needed reading glasses.

At least one of my leaves was possessed by demons. That’s the only explanation for the chaos that ensued the last time I tried to attach a new leaf:

Step 1: Gather pins, leaves, and jewelry tools.

Step 2: Recoil in horror as one leaf flies out of your fingers.

Step 3: Shake keyboard vigorously to remove leaf now lodged between keys. Retrieve and repeat.

Step 4: Attach leaf. Scowl as pinback snaps off, leaving a useless disc.

Fly Away, Fly Away

Like too many Girl Scout programs, the Leadership Development pin was never officially discontinued. It was last seen in the 2005 Girl Scout catalog.

Volunteer Service Award

The 2003 catalog introduced a new recognition, the Volunteer Service Award. Dubbed the “key pin,” it was even more complicated (and expensive) than the owl pin series.

From the 2003 Girl Scout catalog

Basic Requirements

The Volunteer pin continued the pin + dangles concept but focused on non-troop service. The main pin could be earned by completing one year:

  • On a board committee
  • On an appointed task group
  • On a service unit management team
  • On an association team or
  • As a GSUSA National Operational Volunteer.

After earning the main pin, volunteers could earn keys for additional service:

  • White: GS Mentoring Award
  • Black: GS Executive Award
  • Gold: GS Diversity Award
  • Silver: GS Community Cultivation
  • Copper: GS Fund Development

I could provide more detailed explanations of these categories, but typing them out would require more time than the pin was in existence. It also disappeared after 2005.

Alas, I am leafless and keyless

After the Great Leaf Debacle, I didn’t bother with the key pin. I don’t think many other volunteers did either.

Some programs never die, they just get stuck in the nooks and crannies of keyboards, junk drawers, backpacks, and couch cushions.

©2022 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Who’s That Girl Scout? Eleanor Ault

In the final days of World War II, the Girl Scouts of the USA dispatched six professional workers to war-torn Europe. Their official status was “on loan” to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA).

Girl Scout worker Eleanor Ault

Two of the six women worked for the national organization. By far the best-known of the group, Catherine T. Hammett was a renowned expert in camping. She was joined by Katherine McCullough a GSUSA field adviser.

The other four women had been council executive directors: Eleanor Ault, (Albany, New York); Dorothy Donnell (Orange, New Jersey); Grace Hast (Lincoln, Nebraska); and Marion Sloan (Kansas City, Missouri).

Hammett became director of social services at a Greek refugee camp in Palestine. She wrote a lengthy article in the December 1944 issue of Leader, with vivid descriptions of the terrain, flora, and fauna. The author of Campcraft ABCs, Hammett also wrote about the tents, makeshift stoves, and more in the refugee camps.

Six Girl Scout professionals working with the UNRRA program. (Leader Magazine)

Ault, Donnell, and Hast took charge of welfare needs at smaller refugee camps, reporting to Hammett. McCullough and Sloan were posted to Yugoslav refugee camps in Egypt.

While international relief organizations set up schools, hospitals, sewing rooms, the Girl Scouts organized recreation and vocational training for refugee children. In time, they laid the groundwork for establishing Girl Scout and Boy Scout programs in the region.

On September 29, 1945, Eleanor Ault and 2nd Lt. Arlene Waldhaus of the US Public Health Service were aboard a 3,330-ton British ship, the Empire Patrol, accompanying 562 Greek refugees, including 200 children, across the Mediterranean Sea.

Around noon, as Eleanor locked the recreation room, she heard a commotion on a lower deck. She rushed to the scene to see flames sprouting from the starboard side of the ship.

The Empire Patrol begins to burn (http://www.empirepatrol.com)

Instead of paraphrasing the ensuing events, I will reprint the cable that UNRAA sent to GSUSA following the incident:

Immediately [Eleanor] began directing refugees in use of fire extinguishers. Flames starred coming from starboard side. Ault was one of those who prevented panic among refugees by calming, answering questions, distributing lifebelts, helping load lifeboats. Fire spread rapidly.

Captain asked Ault to accompany refugees in lifeboat and therein take charge. Line jammed on her boat as it was lowered, pulley had to be knocked off and boat dropped into sea. At this time whole ship was blazing.

At short distance from ship she picked up old man, young man and boy. Little farther off found several more and overtook another lifeboat overloaded with survivors. She transferred some, instructed others how to bail, get out oars. …

Altogether she rescued 35 — many been clinging defective rafts. Sea was very rough, consequently there was danger capsizing. At 4:oo P.M. Aircraft Carrier Trouncer arrived near burning ship; but as darkness fell lifeboats and rafts drifted apart, Ault being steadied by refugee men at oars.

As red distress lantern in boat failed, Ault improvised flare from kapok ripped out of life preserver which she soaked in kerosene and hung on boat hook which led plane circling overhead locating position of lifeboat. At 8:oo P.M. searchlights of Afghanistan picked out lifeboat and after Ault and man and boys climbed aboard, baskets were lowered for women and children. Afghanistan was one of first to reach Port Said [Egypt]

Leader (November 1945): 11.

Of the 913 passengers, only 57 perished.

Empire Patrol passengers scramble to safety (http://www.empirepatrol.com)

Wow. Let’s pause and take that in for a moment ….

Makes surviving cookie season pretty tame, doesn’t it?

The Girl Scouts were extremely proud of Eleanor, awarding her a citation reading “For distinguished service rendered in the saving of lives on the ill-fated “Empire Patrol.”

Born in Chicago in 1909, Eleanor graduated from De Pauw University. She became a Girl Scout professional in 1932. Following her stint with UNRRA, she moved to England, where she became one of the first participants in a US-UK trainer exchange program. During that time, she also attended the International Training Conference at Our Chalet, Switzerland.

Eleanor returned to the United States in 1947, taking a volunteer development post in Oklahoma. She eventually returned to Albany, New York, where she died in 1994.

©2022 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian