The History of Our Own Badges

Regular readers know that I am a HUGE fan of the quirky, obsolete Girl Scout badges known as the Council’s Own. These limited edition badges were designed to add additional topics to the traditional Girl Scouts of the USA badge programs or to highlight resources unique to a particular council.

Their limited production and often very clever designs also have made them highly collectible. But the words “Council’s Own” have become a catch-all phrase randomly applied to a range of unofficial badges, often to increase their selling price.

I’ve fed my addiction by creating a digital archive of these delightful, obscure badges. Since 2014, I have accumulated the name, design, council, and requirements for over 1,500 badges: http://gscobadge.info.

Before including a badge, I have to decide whether or not it meets the definition of a Council’s Own. It can be confusing, because this name is loosely applied to four different programs.

Our Own Troop’s Badge (1958-2010)

The Troop’s Own option was introduced in the 1958 edition of the Intermediate Handbook. The program offered an answer to the many troop scribes who had written to Headquarters with suggestions for new badge topics. There were 12 steps to creating a Troop’s Own, including receiving permission from the program department of the troop’s council. The council approved the topic, but not the actual requirements.

The name of the badge indicated how it was to be earned:

The final requirements and their wording, the badge name, the design, and the actual symbols worn, must be the girls’ own work. While doing all this your leader will help you understand the meaning of badges and what different types of activity should be included.

No other girls in your troop or any other troop can use your work. Even if they choose the same subject, the must create their own requirements and design. It will truly be, “Our Own Badge!”

The topic would be inserted into the badge’s name: Our Troop’s Own Blogging Badge. Troops were asked to submit one badge to Headquarters, but that was for reference only.

Selection of Our Own Troop’s Badges

Leaders were cautioned to step back and let the girls take charge. “If we do these things for girls, then they must, in all honesty, call the badge ‘Our Own Troop Leader’s badge’!”

The “Our Troop’s Own” program split with the 1963 program reform. Now the gold-bordered blank badge was for Cadettes, and a new green-bordered one was introduced for Juniors. The May 1966 issue of Leader features a lengthy article about a Girl Scout troop in the Sudan that decides to create their own badge to learn more about their host country. (Sadly there is no photo of this badge!)

I’ve included some Troop’s Own in my digital archive, as they are extremely difficult to identify. Sadly, their requirements were often discarded when troops disbanded.

Our Own Council’s Badge (1980-2011)

The Worlds to Explore program of the 1980s added an Our Own Council’s Badge. GSUSA described this program as:

Innovative and educationally sound projects developed by the council, to make use of special topics of interest or unusual opportunities and resources within the council or to utilize the rich opportunities provided by council camps.

These badges were developed by adults; typically council staff. They represented the council as part of the national recognition system and therefore should “be developed by people representing a broad spectrum of the council,” according to 1990 GSUSA guidelines.

Most Council’s Owns focused on a specific topic, but a few were tied to a specific event, such as the 1982 World’s Fair (left) and the eruption of the Mount Saint Helen’s volcano in 1980.

Blank Badges Used for “Our Own” Badges

The border colors indicate the year the blank badge was issued, it is not related to the colors of the five worlds. Gold borders were used for COs, green for TOs. When the Worlds program phased out, each age level had one border color for all of their badges, including Troop’s and Council’s Owns.

Make Your Own Badge (2012-2014)

Under the Girl Scout Leadership Experience model, the Our Own options were replaced by a Make Your Own option. The program was discontinued after three years. Members considered the one-off, screen-printed badges to be expensive and unattractive. Plus, they were intended to be for one girl only, but leaders were creating them for entire troops. Guidelines for the program noted:

An important part of the Make Your Own badge is what girls find out about their own learning styles as they created a personalized plan to build a skill. If a girl does a badge designed by another girl, she doesn’t have this chance to learn about herself.

Make Your Owns did not need design or requirement approval from GSUSA, Councils, or even troop leaders. I do not track these in my digital archive.

When a CO Isn’t a CO

Girls and leaders today are demanding badges beyond those offered through GSUSA. Headquarters has responded with Girl’s Choice’ badges, robotics, cybersecurity and more.

But there are still patches available that claim to be a Council’s Own. My archive is intended to document official badges and to help Girl Scouts identify unusual badges. I include a list of known “Not-COs” because future Girl Scouts may be curious about a badge seen on many sashes but does not appear in an official handbook or catalog.

I approach this not as the “badge police,” but as an historian seeking accuracy.

Many pseudo-COs are described as remakes of discontinued Council’s Owns. While providers may redesign the badge, they often recycle requirements developed by other people, presumably without permission or payment. That is little different than putting a new dust jacket on an old book and claiming to be the author.

Similarly, badges developed by individuals are not official, no matter what shape they are. The name “Council’s Own” indicates that its content is council approved. It guarantees that these badges reflect the movement’s high standards and offer substantive, age-appropriate activities.

There Should Be a Patch for That

There are many quality, but unofficial, programs out there, but let’s use correct terminology. These should be patch programs, because they are not Council’s Own badges. Many councils now offer “Council’s Own Patch Programs,” a phrase that just offers more confusion.

Instead of sending me terse, desist messages about the “flood” of telephone calls from leaders seeking to purchase discontinued Council’s Own badges, perhaps councils should take the hint that there is a demand for quality recognitions on these topics. Yes, they could MAKE MONEY by turning these old badges into patch programs.

Some councils have made this change. Many more should consider it.

©2019 Ann Robertson

Little House in the Nation’s Capital

Note: This entry was originally published on March 10, 2014, but somehow it was accidentally deleted.

No, it’s not a newly discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder book.   The Little House in Washington, DC, was the first in a series of model homes used by Girl Scouts across the country.  Sadly, the Washington Little House is long gone and one current Little House in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, is about to close.

Built behind the White House in Washington, DC, for the second Better Homes Demonstration Week in June 1923, the Little House was a fully working home, with a modern kitchen, breakfast nook, three bedrooms, and a nursery. Between June 4 and June 10, 2,500–3,500 people visited the house each day. After the exhibition, the Better Homes in America and General Federation of Women’s Clubs donated it to the Girl Scouts for use as a national training and innovation center. It became the first of many “Little Houses” across the country, where Girl Scouts practiced their homemaking and hospitality skills.

Moving the Little House to New York Avenue
Lou Henry Hoover, wife of the secretary of commerce and national president of the Girl Scouts, paid $12,000 for the Little House to be moved from its exhibition site to its new location at 1750 New York Avenue, NW, across from the Octagon House. First Lady Grace Coolidge (right) laid the cornerstone.

Lou Henry Hoover, wife of the secretary of commerce and national president of the Girl Scouts, paid $12,000 to relocate the Little House. First Lady Grace Coolidge (right) laid the cornerstone, as Hoover watched.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Little House was THE place to go on Saturdays. There was always some badge activity to try or new skill to learn, and the First Lady, as honorary president of the Girl Scouts, might decide to drop by. After all, the White House was just around the corner.

These girls look a bit tired after preparing a luncheon for First Lady Grace Coolidge (in white).
These girls are preparing lunch while their guest of honor, Eleanor Roosevelt, observes.
A well-dressed group waits to welcome a distinguished guest to the Little House

A well-dressed group waits to welcome a distinguished guest to the Little House

The Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia rented a room in the northwest corner of the second floor as its headquarters until it outgrew the facility in 1928. The Little House was used continuously for trainings and demonstrations of the domestic arts from June 1923 to April 1945. The building was used as a branch of Girl Scouts of the USA, the national organization, for the next decade then given to the landowners in May 1955. The Little House was torn down in the early 1970s. There is a commemorative plaque in the lobby of the office building that currently sits at the site. Update: We now have the plaque at our Frederick Archives and Program Center.

dollhouse version of the Little House has been on display at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

For more about the original Little House, see the pamphlet, “Girl Scouts Keep House in Washington.”

POSTSCRIPT: All of the photos used here are from the Harris and Ewing collection and may be downloaded FREE OF CHARGE from the Library of Congress.  You don’t need to buy the overpriced copies offered on eBay!!

©2014 Ann Robertson

Out with the Old and in with the New, part 2

What’s cooking, Girl Scouts? The latest exhibit at the Nation’s Capital main office answers that question.

The easy way to create the exhibit would be to pull all relevant items from our collection. But I like to have some organization and a common theme running throughout. I decided to use this passage from the 1926 handbook:

The Girl Scout who has earned the Cooking Badge may be a great help at home if she has learned to work quickly and neatly and may get much amusement both at home and on camping parties. If the first trial of a process is not a success, the Scout should have patience to try again and again until her result is satisfactory. If she has learned to prepare a few simple dishes well she should have courage to try unfamiliar recipes which are found in any good cook book. If she is to be ready to take responsibility when it is necessary, she should be able to plan the meals in such a way that nothing is wasted and that the family is satisfied and well-nourished.

When working in the kitchen, the Scout should wear a clean, washable dress, or a washable apron which covers her dress. She should be sure that her hair is tidy, and she should remember to wash her hands before beginning work. She should try to use as few dishes as possible and not to spill or spatter. She should remember that her cooking is not finished until she has cleaned up after herself, has washed and put away the dishes, washed the dish towels and left the kitchen in order.

I divided up the quote into chunks of one or two sentences, then illustrated with pictures taken from old handbooks and vintage postcards.

Then we added a few more instructions from various handbooks and photos.

We used this opportunity to mention the Little House, a model home in Washington, DC, from 1924 to 1945, and the two tea houses once operated by the local Girl Scouts.

Finally, we included requirements for several vintage cooking badges and captions on recipe cards.

These only show the bottom half of the exhibit. To see it in person, visit the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital office, 4301 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC.

Bon Appetit!

©2019 Ann Robertson

Out with the Old and in with the New, part 1

Exhibits, that is. That probably isn’t the best headline for a history blog!

The Archives and History Committee recently changed the exhibit at the Nation’s Capital Council headquarters.

After two months on exhibit, we dismantled “Badges and Biscuits.” This theme covered Girl Guide badges and product sales. It also coincided with our cookie sale and World Thinking Day (February 22).

Girl Guide Badges

The badges date to the late 1950s and early 1960s. They had originally been presented to the former Rockwood national Girl Scout camp by visiting Girl Guides. When that facility closed in 1978, GSUSA left them behind, and they made their way into our council’s collection.

I discovered them wrapped in paper and shoved in a box a few years ago, and I have been looking for an opportunity to share them.

Unfortunately, the foreign badges had been affixed to lengths of burlap with some sort of space-age polymer. I used heat, alcohol, acetone, a jackhammer, and sticks of dynamite to remove them. (OK, not the last two, but I was seriously contemplating it.)

After nearly a week, I had them all removed. I remounted them on 12″x12″ scrapbook paper so that they could fit into frames for display now and stored into scrapbook-sized envelopes after.

I was delighted with the results:

Girl Guide Biscuits

We filled one display case with the Girl Guide badges, the other was devoted to Girl Guide cookie sales. We also had some Girl Guide cookie patches to tie the theme together.

I learned a lot from Girl Guide websites and historians. I stuck largely to English-language sources, so the examples are drawn from a small number of countries.

UK and Ireland

Nope, not in the UK

British Girl Guides do not sell cookies. The Girl Guiding historians I contacted seemed quite proud of this fact.

In contrast, Irish Girl Guides only began selling packets of chocolate chip biscuits in fall 2017. Officials introduced the new program to help “change the imbalance of the number of women in decision-making position across the various sectors of society such as businesses, companies, and boardrooms around Ireland.”

Canada

Canadian Girl Guides have two categories of cookies (sandwich and mint). One is sold in the fall; the other in the spring.

They also have an impressive cookie badge curriculum that includes lessons on the history of their cookie sales and samples of vintage posters, cookie boxes, and other memorabilia.

Canadian Girl Guides

Australia and New Zealand

Australian Girl Guides have sold cookies for decades, but they are limited to one weekend across the entire country. Think of one mega booth sale.

Australian Girl Guide Cookies

Girl Guides in New Zealand kicked off their first biscuit sale in 1957, which grew to selling 28 million boxes per year. But March 2019 marked the last national Girl Guide biscuit sale in New Zealand. The organization plans to seek new fundraising programs for the future as biscuit sales provided one-third of its budget.

Vintage New Zealand Girl Guide poster

Keep following the Girl Scout History Project to see our latest installation!

©2019 Ann Robertson

A Brief Guide to Thinking Day Patches

IMG_1007Traditionally, Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world mark February 22 by celebrating their international ties. Across the United States, troops select a country to learn about and often hold an event so that several troops may share their discoveries. February 22 was chosen because it was the birthdate of both Lord and Laden Baden Powell, who began the scouting and guiding movements.

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) coordinates relations among national programs. The organization typically chooses five countries (one from each of its administrative districts) to highlight. In recent years, it has also selected a theme so that everyone is “thinking” about the same thing.

The number of Thinking Day patches offered has greatly increased over the past decade, so I thought I would try to untangle them.

GSUSA Fun or Participation Patches

GSUSA_WTD_2019Girls earn fun or participation patches by participating in a World Thinking Day (WTD) event. GSUSA has offered WTD participation patches since at least the 1990s. Now they come with online, age-appropriate activity booklets. Girls must complete one activity to receive the WTD patch.

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Fun, but unofficial, World Thinking Day patches

Councils and service units (a cluster of troops that feed into to one or more high schools) may also create their own patch, especially if they held a specific event. There are also many unofficial (but usually beautiful) “international friendship” patches around.

WAGGGS Patches

The World Association also offers an annual patch and activity packet. This year’s theme is leadership:

This year’s World Thinking Day celebrates the theme of “leadership,” and is dedicated to the group of girls who demanded change in the Scouting movement in 1909 and asked Lord Baden -Powell to create “something for the girls.”

Anna Maria Mideros

World Board Chair

UN Millennium Development Goals

In 2008, WAGGGS introduced an ambitious program that aligned with the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals were proclaimed by UN in 2000 and were intended to eradicate extreme poverty across the world by 2015.

mdgs2

UN Millennium Development Goals

WAGGGS created a “Global Action Theme” curriculum with the slogan,

Girls worldwide say “together we can change our world.”

The Association explained that this initiative “encourages girls, young women and members of all ages to make a personal commitment to change the world around them.” In many parts of the world, the average age of Girl Guides is older than that of Girl Scouts, and WAGGGS noted that by 2015, “many young WAGGGS members will then be at the point of becoming full citizens so their future will be directly affected by the MDGs.”

Each year WAGGGS issued a patch whose design reflected a specific goal’s official symbol, as well as accompanying activity booklets.

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WAGGGS Millennium Development Goal patches

GSUSA used similar images on its WTD participation patches at first, but changed in 2013. Perhaps a teddy bear was considered less controversial than a pregnant silhouette.

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GSUSA and WAGGGS themed patches

GSUSA Global Action

I suspect that GSUSA already had concerns about the Millennium Development Goals curriculum.

Maternal health, child mortality, HIV/AIDS, and malaria were hardly warm, fuzzy topics to discuss around the campfire. Some leaders and parents refused to go along, although I doubt they had bothered to look at the WAGGGS booklets, which offered age-appropriate activities, such a hand washing to eradicate germs of any kind.

This was also a time period when groups erroneously accused the Girl Scouts, Girl Guides, and WAGGGS of promoting a liberal agenda and attacking family values. I would not be surprised if GSUSA sought to put a bit of distance between itself and the global sisterhood at the delicate moment.

GSUSA introduced its own global advocacy program in 2010. The Girl Scouts Global Action patch also examines the causes of extreme poverty around the world, but, according to GSUSA, it does so in a manner that aligns with the then-new Girl Scout Leadership Experience; that is, the Journeys.

Patches and age-appropriate requirements were distributed online:

Global Action 2010 Cadette

Portion of the 2010 Global Action patch for Cadettes

Sharing tea with mom certainly seems tamer than talking about burying her.

Sustainable Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals expired in 2015, and the United Nations introduced a package of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to continue the fight against poverty.

The GSUSA Global Action program continues today as a way for Girl Scouts to learn about problems girls face in other parts of the world. The program draws on the SDGs.

WAGGGS has offered different themes since 2015, not necessarily related to the SDGs.

  • 2016: Connect 10 Million
  • 2017: Grow
  • 2018: Impact
  • 2019: Leadership

The three patch categories (GSUSA WTD, GSUSA Global Action, and WAGGGS WTD) currently have unrelated designs.

2018 WTD Set

2018 World Thinking Day patches

Got that?

But wait, there’s more!

There are other World Thinking Day patches that you might see on old uniforms. Let’s take a quick look:

Juliette Gordon Low World Friendship Fund

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A Juliette Low Memorial Fund was established after Low’s death in 1927. It was “dedicated forever to good will and cooperation among nations of the world.” The fund was renamed the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund in 1943. Many Thinking Day celebrations collect small donations from participants that help finance the fund’s activities such as travel grants. Several councils have their own related patch programs.

Thinking Day Symbol

IMG_1008

WAGGGS introduced this symbol in 1975. It depicts the World Trefoil at the center of a wheel of “action and direction” arrows.

Games Go Global

The Games Go Global program coincided with the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Greece issued the first Olympia badge in 2004, ahead of the Athens games. Hong Kong and WAGGGS jointly released a second Olympia badge in 2008. They emphasize the international friendship and striving to be your best that are fundamental to both the Olympics and international Scouting.

Note that the patches come in gold, silver, and bronze versions!

©2019 Ann Robertson

Winter with the Girl Scouts

With record low temperatures across the country, I’m sure you are all wondering what Girl Scouts do in the winter. Admit it. 

That simple question is the theme of the current Archives and History Committee display at the main office of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital at 4301 Connecticut Ave NW in Washington, DC.

The answer? Lots!

Play Outside

Keep Toasty Warm

Girl Scouts have long had many options for frosty fashions. And if they have nothing in their closet, they will knit something themselves!

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Girl Scout winter wear

Go Camping!

Personally, I’ll stick with lodge camping in the winter, but some hardy souls will still pitch their tents in the snow.

winter camping

Winter camping (2002 GSCNC Calendar)

And let’s not forget the brave troop that was rescued by helicopter from Camp Potomac Woods after a surprise snowstorm in 1958. Here they are after arriving at Ft. Belvoir.

dec06ar19

 

Earn a Badge

There have always been badges appropriate for winter time.

 

March in a Parade

Holiday parades, Martin Luther King Day parades, Presidents’ Day parades, Girl Scouts take part whenever asked. And every four years, there is a presidential inauguration to take part in.

Enjoy Tasty Treats

Bake cookies, decorate gingerbread, sip cocoa, or try a cookie-flavored coffee pod and creamer.

Sell Cookies!

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow will distract us from a cookie booth.

Erins_Last_Booth

My daughter’s last cookie booth, March 2015. We froze our cookies off.

But the absolute best part of the exhibit? New lights.

Finally, everyone can see the treasures on display!

©2019 Ann Robertson

Badge Mysteries Solved

Marvelous_Mystery_Jr

Marvelous Mystery, Black Diamond Council

Regular readers of the Girl Scout History Project know that I am obsessed with the former Council’s Own badge program. From the 1950s until the Girl Scout Leadership Experience was introduced in 2011, troops and councils could create badges on topics not already covered by the national Girl Scout program. (More history will come in another post.)

I used my Council’s Own collection as the basis for a website (gscobadge.info) that archives the images and requirements for over 1,000 badges. My intention is to help identify mystery badges and to provide inspiration for new patch programs.

Incredible_Insects_Jr

Look, a Council’s Own bug!

Other Girl Scout adults have been bitten by the CO bug, and many people have helped expand the website contents. I see “my” photos across the internet.  Of course, the biggest surprise was seeing one of my website photos (unattributed, of course) appropriated for a presentation former CEO Anna-Maria Chavez made at the 2014 National Council Session. (Now I watermark most photos, just in case.)

 

COs_in_SLC

Why are they showing a photo of my desk?

It is an especially thrilling moment (at least for me) when I finally identify a mystery badge. I’ve cracked the code on several this summer and decided to share them here.

If a mystery badge is on a sash, that provides some major clues: specifically, a council and a rough date. The council indicated on an ID strip may not have created the badge, but it is a start. In addition to knowing the years a particular sash or vest was in use, don’t forget to look at cookie and event patches that have a specific year or two.

I also regularly troll eBay and sometimes I’ll see the mystery badge there. If it’s on a sash, then there are a few more clues.

Next, I do some keyword searches on Newspapers.com. I use the state and year clues to limit the results, and, lately, I’ve had some really good luck.

Tennessee History TrioSearching for “Girl Scout,” badge, and “Tennessee history” gave me 32 results. But when I limited it to the 1970s, based on the badge fabric and design, I found that a troop of girls in Reelfoot Council had created their own Tennessee History badge in 1977.

The design description is a little different, but it is reasonable to think that when the badge was manufactured on a larger scale, the design became more elaborate.

Tennessee History

I also have this patch, which is likely another incarnation of this program.

Tennessee Reelfoot

OprylandStaying with the Tennessee theme, I was delighted to acquire this badge around the same time. Opryland USA was a theme park in Nashville from 1972 to 1997. I grew up in Kentucky, about 2.5 hours away, and Opryland was a frequent destination for school, church, and other field trips.

Another search on Newspapers.com turned up several clippings about Girl Scout troops going to Opryland. According to one, there was an annual Girl Scout weekend that included a badge. It sounds like girls had to complete a scavenger hunt across the park’s attractions to earn it.

Worlds_Fair_Jr

1982 World’s Fair

I never attended the Opryland Girl Scout weekend when I was a girl, but my troop did go to the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville. I didn’t know at the time there was a World’s Fair badge, but better late than never!

This castle badge has long been one of my favorite mystery badges, and I assumed it was something about fairy tales. Then I saw TWO of them on a single sash from Central Maryland. Someone had added a date to one of them with a pen.  Hmmmm…

Back at Newspapers.com, I tried a search using “Girl Scout,” cookie and castle. That came up with over 12,000 hits. When I restricted the findings to 1982 and Maryland, the database returned a much more manageable four articles.

It turns out that Central Maryland sponsored an annual Cookie Castle Contest, with specific themes like fairy tales and famous landmarks. Every Girl Scout who entered received this cute castle badge.

A little more searching turned up photos of some of the creations, especially as more and more councils held their own competitions.

Finally, let me repeat that THESE BADGE PROGRAMS ARE DISCONTINUED. Do not contact Council shops asking to purchase them, because that triggers snippy emails asking me to take down the reference site or portions of it.

Perhaps instead of getting annoyed, council shopkeepers should take the hint and reinstate or update their programs.

©2018 Ann Robertson