A Pledge for Founder’s Day

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Juliette Gordon Low

As any Girl Scout will tell you, October 31 is more than just Halloween. It also is the birthday of our founder. Juliette Gordon Low was born on October 31, 1860, in Savannah, Georgia.

Today the movement she began in 1912 faces a new challenge, with the recent announcement that the Boy Scouts are opening membership to girls

While that news was not entirely a surprise, I have been shocked by much of the media coverage. In newspapers, on television, and across the internet, I’ve seen the same question, “Why would girls want to join the Boy Scouts?” The immediate answer is almost always “so they can earn the Eagle Scout,” followed by a long ode to its amazingness.

Over and over, reporters insist that the Girl Scouts have no equivalent award. I have grown hoarse screaming at the television, GOLD AWARD, GOLD AWARD, GOLD AWARD.

gold patchDespite celebrating the centennial of the highest awards last year, public awareness still is lacking. We know the reasons, such as the penchant for renaming the highest award every 10 years or so.

But inspired by our founder and her playful spirit, I hereby pledge to change how I speak about the Gold Award. For too long, I’ve described it as “Eagle Scout for girls.” No more.

JGL was known for standing on her head, an unexpected move that livened up any dull meeting. So I am going to do a 180-turn in how I approach these prestigious awards. The Gold Award should exist on its own, it should not need to be defined in relation to another award. It is not a feminized version of a male award. It’s not an Eagle in a dress.

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The Gold Award for Boys

From now on, I will describe Eagle Scout as the “Gold Award for boys.”

Who’s with me?

©2017 Ann Robertson

Older Girl Program is History 

One discussion at the October 2017 National Council Session acknowledged the severe lack of programs for older girls in grades 6-12.

That is old news for anyone who has led a teen troop in the past decade.

When new badges were introduced for all levels in late 2011, many teen girls (or at least those in my troop) were very disappointed. The new badges were divided by age level. Cadettes (grades 6-8) are diamond-shaped. Seniors (grades 9-10) are rectangular, while Ambassadors (11-12) are weird squares with clipped corners. Previously, the teen levels had shared the same recognitions, which was great for multi-level troops.

(Confused by all of the terms tossed around for badges? Check this old post: Badges, and Try-Its, and IPs, Oh My/)

Ambassadors were especially disappointed. While Brownies, Juniors, and Seniors, each had 26 new badges, and Cadettes (the only three-year level) had 28, Ambassadors had a paltry 11. Officially, we were told that was because Ambassadors were more focused on their Gold Award than earning badges. Unofficially, I’m yet to find any Ambassador who agrees with that statement.

Junior badges 2010

Junior badge options before 2011

 

Juniors 2011

Junior badges introduced in 2011, replacing those above

 

What were teen girls to do? The answer was visible all over the teen vests and sashes worn at the Columbus convention.

Many girls earn old badges. The rectangular badges, previously known as Interest Projects, were released in 1980. They were updated in a handbook issued in 1997, 20 years ago. Go back and re-read that sentence. Girl have resorted to earning badges issued before they were born. While some hold up well, others have hilariously outdated requirements:

Learn about the options for accessing the World Wide Web. Can you use a computer through your school, library, community center, or Girl Scout center? Is one available through a computer club business or nonprofit organization?

Exploring the Net

Many vests also are full of Council’s Own badges. These recognitions (my favorite) were developed by local councils to fill gaps in the national offerings. They were to have been discontinued in 2012.

 

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Only one of these 18 badges is part of the current program. Some were issued in 1980!

 

Industrious leaders haunt eBay, Facebook, and other sites, where there literally is a black market (green market?) in discontinued badges.

I do NOT have any Council’s Owns for sale, but I do have a website that archives the images and requirements. Please assume that these badges are discontinued and do not call council shops asking about them. (I wish that instead of sending me snippy emails about people calling to purchase them, councils would take the hint and reissue them or create a similar patch program.)

Some troops make their own badges, once known as Troop’s Own, which used to be a first step in creating a Council’s Own. I created five programs for my troop and day camp units, but the patches are large and intended for the back of the vest.

Another option can be found on Facebook, where individuals and private groups such as “Artistry to Stitch About” have recreated some popular old Council’s Owns badges as well as writing some programs of their own. While the latter are made in the same shapes as official badges from GSUSA, technically they should be considered patches and go on the back of sashes and vests because they have not been approved by a council. However, that message doesn’t always reach the girl or parent doing the sewing.

Instead of launching into debates about official and unofficial, front or back, we should focus on the real issue: current badge offerings are insufficient.  While the annual “girls’ choice” badges are a great idea, they have not satisfied leaders’ and girls’ appetites for badges.

Take a look at this vest I saw in Columbus. (I went through the Hall of Experiences asking girls if I could photograph their vests.) There are 32 badges total:

  • 9 Interest Projects from the 1997-2011 series (retired)
  • 14 Council’s Owns (retired)
  • 5 Troop’s Owns
  • 4 Artistry to Stitch About

That summarizes the situation about the number of badges available. Without sales figures, I cannot gauge popularity. But this informal survey certainly suggests that current offerings are inadequate. I’ve seen Brownies and Juniors with older badges, too, but nowhere near as many as teens.

It’s time to stop talking about the need for programs designed for older girls and start actually creating them.

Don’t even get me started on the merits of colorful, embroidered badges versus dull, soulless silk-screened badges. Gag, barf, spit.

©2017 Ann Robertson

New Look for GS History Project

With the 54th Girl Scout National Conference session convening this week in Columbus, OH, I decided to refresh the look and content of the Girl Scout History Project.

I’ve added links to my other website projects, an archive of Council’s Own badges and a new site with Cookie Patches and Prizes from the past.  In early 2018, the site will begin hosting an archive of Leader magazines, the product of a collaborative project among Girl Scout historians. (I’m hosting it temporarily; hopefully, GSUSA will take it over in the future.)

I’m excited to announce a new logo for the website, definitely the most fun part of the transformation:

GS History Project

Meet Digital Daisy!

“Digital Daisy” was designed by an Illustration major from the Savannah College of Art and Design, which gives the image an extra dose of Girl Scout history.

I’d hoped to have patches made to use as SWAPs at the convention, but time ran out. I do have some stickers and business cards.

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Look for the Daisy tote bag!

I’m still not convinced “Digital Daisy” is the best nickname, so suggestions are welcome!

(And yes, I secured permission from GSUSA to use “GS” in the image.)

©2017 Ann Robertson

Meet Minnie Hill

Wednesday began as an ordinary work day at the Nation’s Capital Archives and History Program Center in Frederick, Maryland.

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Girl Scout Uniform, 1917-1919

While chatting over recent trips and eclipse plans, committee members worked to update the badge and patch collection and to continue processing the extensive donation of vintage Girl Scout and Girl Guide uniforms that we received in April. (With over 100 uniforms, it is a long, but fascinating task.)

We focused on one of the vintage suitcases that came with the collection.  (Even the suitcases are in pristine shape.) There were about a dozen bags to go through.

First, we found the tiniest khaki uniform I’ve ever seen. Skirt, jacket, even the bloomers were included. It appears home-made.

Then I heard someone yell, “Look at the badges!” One sleeve of the uniform was covered with an impressive, colorful record of hard work.

Minnie Hill Sleeve

Elusive White Felt badges: (from top left clockwise): Clerk, Civics, Matron Housekeeper, Attendance, Signaling, Dairy Maid, and Laundress (GSCNC Archives)

Yes, those are seven White Felt badges–the rarest of rare Girl Scout badges, available only from 1913 to 1918. The seven new White Felts bring our total number to — 10!

But when we turned the jacket over, we got an even bigger surprise:

Minnie Hill Pins

Minnie Hill’s Golden Eaglet, Buttercup Troop Crest, War Service Pin, and US Treasury War Service Award (GSCNC Archives)

According to a tattered paper in the suitcase, the uniform belonged to Minnie Hill.

Of course, this called for more research.

The included paper had three typed paragraphs, two faded newspaper clippings, and one ripped photo. They reported that Minnie Hill attended Central High School in Washington, DC, and was a Girl Scout in Troop 9 from 1917 to 1919.

She received her First Class badge from Mrs. Woodrow Wilson at a White House ceremony 100 years ago — on June 21, 1917.

Two years later she was back at the White House, this time to receive her Golden Eaglet from Queen Elizabeth of Belgium on October 31, 1919. The Queen, her husband, and their son were touring the United States at the time, and her participation in the ceremony had a special significance for Minnie, as Troop 9 had practiced their sewing and knitting skills by making layette sets for newborns in Belgium.

A Washington Times article about the 1919 ceremony noted that Minnie had earned 19 badges; all of which are still on her uniform sleeve.

In between those awards, Minnie was recognized for selling Liberty Bonds during World War I. The Washington Post reported that she had sold eleven war bonds for a total of $900. In addition to a medal, high sellers usually were honored with a parade. Alas, the 1918 parade was canceled due to the Spanish flu outbreak.

Sadly, our photo of Minnie is torn, crumbling, and not terribly useful. Attempts to repair it have done more harm than good:

Minnie Hill 3

I searched the electronic archives of three different Washington newspapers, but did not find the photo.

Then I had another idea. That ceremony in 1917 was well documented. In fact, it was the ceremony where two Washington scouts, Eleanor Putzki and Ruth Colman received their Golden Eagles of Merit. Could Minnie be in one of those photos?

Here is the group shot from after the Court of Awards:

 

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White House Court of Awards, June 21, 1917. That’s Ruth Colman front and center, with her sleeve full of badges and her Golden Eagle of Merit pin. (Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection)

 

Take a closer look at the young lady on the back row, far left. I think that is Minnie Hill.

History hasn’t lost her after all.

©2017 Ann Robertson

A Brief History of the Cookie Pin

2017 cookie pinI don’t understand Girl Scout cookie pins.

I know cookie t-shirts, cookie toys, and I have a large collection of cookie patches. I’m even making a cookie patch quilt.

 

But somewhere between my years selling cookies and my daughter’s cookie season, the cookie pin appeared. Why?

The first cookie pin debuted in the fall 1998 Girl Scout catalog. The requirements are in separate activity guides available from GSUSA.

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1998-38 text

The pin is a different color each year, but the year is not part of the pin’s design, which guarantees confusion.

In the 2005-2006 guide, then-CEO Kathy Cloninger explains that the cookie pins focus on Girl Scout core values. I can’t complain about that purpose, but it would be nice if those core values were explicitly listed in that guide. (Fortunately they are on the cookie boxes.)

  1. Goal setting
  2. Decision making
  3. Money management
  4. People skills
  5. Business ethics

I also think that it’s nice to have a cookie prize available to all Girl Scouts. Each baker has their own annual theme, which means rival slogans and different cute cartoon animals across the country.

But isn’t that what the various cookie badges do?

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Clockwise from top: Cookie Connection, Cookie Biz, Cookies & Dough, Cookies Count

Three cookie themed badges–Cookies Count (Brownies), Cookie Connection (Juniors), and Cookies and Dough (Cadettes and Seniors)–were introduced in 1997. Why add a repetitive set of ugly pins the next year? How are they different? A second badge for Juniors, Cookie Biz, was introduced in 2004.

Introduced in 2011, the current Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE) program also has two cookie badges per level. They are the soulless silkscreened variety, using words as a lame design effort.  The requirements overlap with the cookie pin requirements, and now some councils are offering their own patch programs with similar requirements and names. The badge in the left is for Juniors, on the right is a patch for multiple levels.

Confused yet?

But what I really don’t get is why are cookie pins such expensive pieces of junk? I have gotten higher quality jewelry out of gum ball machines.  These pins aren’t worth a quarter, much less $2.

I haven’t actually counted, but it certainly seems like the number one item that parents are trying to replace in the various Facebook Girl Scout groups is a cookie pin. The pin backs snap off within days of putting one on a vest. Perhaps they jump off and flee in embarrassment.

How can a girl possibly earn a cookie trifecta–badge, baker patch, and pin–without double-dipping?* There are just so many ways to practice a sales pitch.

Like I said, I just don’t get the cookie pin program.

And I’m not going to put them on my patch quilt!

Quilt

My patch quilt. It was supposed to be 100 patches for 100 years but I got carried away.

*Double dipping = using one activity toward requirements for two awards.

©2017 Ann Robertson

 

Brownies in the Philippines

I promised a better look at our newly acquired, hyper-adorable uniform for Brownies in the Philippines.

Ta da!

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I don’t have many hard facts about this uniform, but there are plenty of clues.

The dress has no labels or manufacturing marks, so it likely was homemade. It is pale brown linen.

A card in the pocket says it was donated by Mildred “Connie” Conrad in March 1987, but it is obviously much older.  This was part of a large donation that included flags for every country represented; the US flag included only has 48 stars, suggesting the 1950s or earlier.

The Philippines is an exception to the “Girl Guides” naming pattern used by most countries in the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. The first troops in the Philippines were established by families of US servicemen stationed there.  They were registered in New York as Girl Scouts, much like Troops on Foreign Soil. The original charter for the Philippines was issued in May 1940, but the organization had to be significantly reorganized and revived after World War II.

The dress has several patches, badges, and insignia:

IMG_3869

These look like the Golden Hand and Golden Bar emblems used by American Brownies between 1926 and 1937. The Girl Scout Collector’s Guide explains,

The Golden Bar rank represented a bit of the Golden Ground that the Brownie stands on ready to lend a hand. The Golden Hand rank showed that the Brownie could really lend a hand.

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The other shoulder has a Brownie Six emblem, council strip, and troop number.

This looks like the “Little People” emblem, which was introduced in 1929.

The dress includes eight badges, sewn around the waistband. These resemble badges earned by Girl Guides, especially as US Brownies did not earn badges before 1986.

 

Now, for the hard part, can anyone identify the badges?

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Based on current and vintage Girl Guide badges, my best guess is:

Writer, Knitting, Swimmer

 


Swimmer, Housekeeper (or cooking?), Jester (Blue Skeletor? He’s kinda creepy.)


Jester, Toymaker, Discoverer

 

 

IMG_3874 (1)Badge #8 is on the back of the dress. Perhaps Softball? Athlete?

I’ll share some of the other vintage uniforms, but don’t promise to do all 50!

©2017 Ann Robertson

 

 

 

 

A Girl Scout in the White House?

promise-vote

Girl Scouts is a non-partisan organization that promotes patriotism and citizenship education. While we cannot appear in uniform at partisan events or endorse candidates, we absolutely encourage girls and their parents to take an active part in election campaigns.

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Mary Rafter, women’s rights crusader and leader of first Girl Scout Troop in Washington DC

When Girl Scouting was founded in 1912, women in the United States did not even have the right to vote. Many of the early Girl Scout leaders were active in the suffrage movement, including Mary Rafter, leader of the first troop established in Washington, DC, in December 1913.

The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, and Girl Scouts stationed themselves outside polling places to watch children while their mothers cast their first ballots.

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A Girl Scout babysits while the infant’s mother casts her ballot (GSUSA).

Over the years, the Girl Scout program has offered many proficiency badges that promote citizenship, as well as patch programs to learn more about the election process.

Perhaps that emphasis has contributed to the impressive number of former Girl Scouts involved in governance today. Former Attorney General Janet Reno, who passed away yesterday, was a lifetime Girl Scout.

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Whatever happens in this election, the Girl Scouts will have a friend in the White House. Every First Lady since Edith Wilson has been honorary national president of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

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First Lady Florence Harding wears her uniform on the White House portico (GSCNC Archives)

 

First Lady Florence Harding (1921-1924) was a huge fan of the movement, telling visitors, “What I wish is that I were your age and could start life over again as a Girl Scout.”

©2016 Ann Robertson