The Madeleine Albright Girl Scout Badge

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
WAGGGS.org

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.

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

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 2000s

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.

Realignment

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

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

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 1980s

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: 1970s

Action 70 Patch
Action 70 Patch

Girl Scouts adapted to the rapid changes that transformed US society in the 1970s.

At the 1969 National Council Session, Girl Scouts of the USA committed to creating a membership body rich with religious, racial, ethnic and economic diversity. The first step toward achieving that goal was reaching out to groups that were underrepresented in Girl Scouts.

New Outreach

Staff created specialized recruitment brochures, tailored to Black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian communities. One initiative created a tracking and referral system to keep migrant workers in troops as they follow seasonal work throughout the year.

The Girl Scouts also focused on specific issues, such as pollution, civil rights, and hunger. Teens focused on the US government system when the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1971.

History by Decade 1970s
History by Decade 1970s

New Program

From Dreams to Reality Patch
From Dreams to Reality Patch

World to Explore replaced the 1963 program model, with five broad categories. The Dreams to Reality program expanded career exploration activities for all age levels.

But in my opinion, two words summarize Girl Scouts in the 1970s: Rockwood and Pants.

(I’m forgoing an opportunity to riff on Rockwood because I want to talk about PANTS.)

New Uniform

The hottest topic at that 1969 meeting in Seattle was uniforms. Responding to waves of requests from girls, GSUSA announced that it would remain a uniformed movement and update girl uniforms.

The most requested item? Pants. Active girls—not to mention their mothers—did not want to sacrifice movement for modesty. The 1973 Girl Scout catalog announced the arrival of PANTS, one option in a new, mix-and-match wardrobe.

Pants are now a permanent staple of the Girl Scout wardrobe. Now, I like pants as much as anybody, but I remain confused about the “uniform separates” idea. Personal choice and expression are fabulous, but “uniform” means identical, right?

definition of uniform
Uniform Definition
JumboShrimp
JumboShrimp

Isn’t the phrase “uniform separates” an oxymoron?

Sigh. On to the 1980s.

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

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 1960s

The 1960s began with a bang, as the Girl Scouts celebrated its 50th birthday in 1962.

New handbooks and uniform hats on the cover of the October 1963 Leader magazine.
Leader Magazine, October 1963

One year later, the organization dramatically reimagined age levels, badges, and more. The Intermediate age level split into Juniors and Cadettes in 1963. Intermediate level badges were divided between the two groups, with green borders for Juniors and gold borders for Cadettes.

For the first time in history, new handbooks for all levels were released at the same time. The new books featured a consistent design and were small enough to comfortably fit in a girl’s hand. (A second new-handbooks-for-everyone release came in 2011 with the current Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting, which are the size of the average Daisy.)

Also in 1963, the small councils and Lone Troops in the greater Washington region combined to form the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital. The council grew again in 2006 and 2009, adding Frederick County, Maryland, and parts of West Virginia and western Maryland.

Councils before 1963
Councils before 1963
Piper Debbie Reynolds leads a parade of uniformed Girl Scouts
Piper Debbie Reynolds

Actress Debbie Reynolds, an accomplished Girl Scout herself, led the multi-year Piper Project to recruit new members.

Travel opportunities flourished, as well. In 1968, GSUSA purchased 15,000 acres of rugged land in Wyoming to create the first Girl Scout National Center west of the Mississippi River. National Center West hosted thousands of girls for primitive camping, archaeology studies, and horseback opportunities until it closed in 1989.

Collection of yellow oval embroidered patches for the Girl Scout National Center West
National Center West patches from the Vintage GS Online Museum

The World Association for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts opened a fourth world center, Sangam, in Pune, India, in 1966. Traveling troops now had an Asian destination in addition to Our Chalet (Switzerland), Olave House (London), and Our Cabana (Mexico).

The 1969 National Council Session in Seattle, Washington, established the priorities for the 1970s. These included remaining a uniformed movement, creating a membership that reflected society, updating the Promise and Laws, and eliminating prejudice. The Council also approved an increase in annual membership dues, from $1 to $2.

History by Decade 1960s
History by Decade 1960s

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

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 1950s

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 1950s

Pages from GSL 1950 10 October
National Volunteer Mary H.S. Hayes with Congressional Charter (Leader October 1950)

The Girl Scouts received a Congressional charter in 1950 and a new name. “Girl Scouts of the United States of America” replaced the “Girl Scouts, Inc.” that had been used since 1915.

Girl Scouting thrived in the 1950s as the post-war Baby Boom meant millions of girls wanting to join. Membership grew from 630,000 in 1940 to 1 million in 1950.

Increasing demand for opportunities led to new programs. GSUSA launched the Green Umbrella campaign to consolidate councils, bring lone troops into the council structure, and streamline program delivery. Officials emphasized the new opportunities that would result, such as additional camp properties and better collaboration among Senior Girl Scout troops.

Three girls in Girl Scout uniforms huddle under a green umbrella
Green Umbrella program patch

GSUSA developed new, narrowly focused programs that would make teen girls want to stay in Girl Scouts, especially the Senior Roundups. (Problems with retaining older girls? Some things never change.)

GSUSA responded to the enormous social changes that accompanied the emerging Cold War and defense buildup. One initiative focused on my hometown, Paducah, Kentucky, and the massive influx of families (and daughters) to work at a new plutonium processing facility.

There were some councils, mainly in the south, that still practiced segregation. But by the 1950s, many began to reconsider their policies and could no longer reconcile segregation with “For All Girls.”

History by Decade 1950s
History by Decade 1950s

in 1955, the Girl Scouts of Washington DC and Montgomery County, Maryland*, desegregated their flagship outdoor property, Camp May Flather, located in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia.

Camp May Flather’s desegregation came one year after the US Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision. It would take another four years before Virginia began to desegregate its public school system.

*The current Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital did not exist before 1963. Instead, the Washington area was dotted with smaller councils, with (almost) each county having its own.

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

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 1930s

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

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

Flashback: Studio 2B or Not 2B

This morning, as I was merrily searching online for the perfect shoe storage solution, an unexpected ad image popped up on my screen.

BBB Studio 3B

Instinctively I let out a primal scream that could be heard over the construction noise in my neighborhood. Like many older Girl Scouts, I suffer from Post-Traumatic Studio 2B Disorder (PTS2BD).

But then I looked more closely and saw there was no reason to head for the doomsday bunker. The apocalypse was not at hand.

via GIPHY

This was merely a new marketing concept for Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Whew.

STUDIO 2B has not returned.

What was Studio 2B?

A failed program concept for Cadette and Senior Girl Scouts.

Um, no. Nobody loved Studio 2B.
Um, no. Nobody loved Studio 2B. That’s probably why I got this patch for a quarter.

STUDIO 2B debuted at the 2002 national convention, where the program was hailed as the solution to declining teen membership. The program addressed the problems with teen Girl Scouting that emerged from the landmark research study, “Ten Emerging Truths: New Directions for Girls 11–17.”

Researchers found that Girl Scouts wasn’t considered cool by girls 11 and older.  Girls didn’t like the terms “Cadette” and “Senior” and they certainly did not want their friends in middle school to know they were Girl Scouts. (The Ambassador age level was introduced in 2008.)

Studio 2B’s Goals

STUDIO 2B would change all of this.  It presented a “cool” and “hip” version of Girl Scouts that was to seem sophisticated and slightly mysterious.  Meeting in small groups, online, or even working on their own, members of STUDIO 2B had four “B” program goals:

Studio 2B 4B list
Studio 2B 4B list

Shouldn’t it be 4B?

Excellent question. The components of Studio 2B do not add up. That should have been a red flag. Bed, Bath, and Beyond apparently can count.

Too Many Choices

Instead of leaders, girls had advisors, preferably young women between the ages of 18 and 29 who would be “more relatable” than mom.  Instead of troops, groups could call themselves anything they wanted or chose to meet online, work on their own, or other new “pathways.”

Instead of handbooks, girls could choose from a collection of single-issue booklets, such as self-esteem, writing skills, running, and saving parks. The books all had hip, slangy names like “Makin’ Waves” or “Cashin’ In” and used lots of apostrophes and exclamation points.

Instead of specific requirements, girls would set their own goals and decide when they had completed a focus book.

Two Studio 2B Focus Books.
Two Studio 2B Focus Books.
img 1915
Charm bracelet

But by far the biggest flaw was … wait for it … instead of earning badges to go on sashes, girls would earn charms to go on a charm bracelet. No uniforms needed.

We Don’t Understand!

Girls and their advisors were confused. Did STUDIO 2B replace badges or was it something completely new?  Could you just flip through a focus book and declare yourself finished?

Was it required to earn the Silver and Gold Awards? An article, “Studio 2B Is Off and Running,” in the Summer 2003 Leader magazine was frustratingly vague:

Excerpt from Summer 2003 Leader magazine.
Excerpt from Summer 2003 Leader magazine.

Many volunteers assumed STUDIO 2B would be optional; one year later the Gold and Silver Award requirements were revised to make STUDIO 2B mandatory. Many leaders/advisors/hip-people-other-than-mom were not happy with the change.

Girls did not rush to sign up for STUDIO 2B. GSUSA responded with multi-page advertising spreads in Leader magazine and supplemental books, sold in the catalog, instructing councils how to implement the program. The Winter 2004 issue of Leader, for example, had 32 pages including a two-page advertising spread and an eight-page pull out guide, “Studio 2B: It’s Easy. Here’s How.” That’s over 1/4 of the issue devoted to the program. Ten of the 2004 catalog’s 48 pages were devoted to S2B.

A major complaint was cost.  Each focus booklet was initially $5.95, each charm $4.95, compared with $1.05 badges. The 2003 Leader article acknowledged the cost, suggesting girls “can request them as holiday or birthday gifts.” GSUSA took note, creating a “charm holder” in 2005 that could be pinned to a sash, slashing prices in 2006, and in 2007 creating “focus awards” — Interest Project-shaped patches with designs that resembled the charms and could be sewn onto a vest instead.

However, some charms, notably the ones required for the Silver and Gold Awards, were never offered in the cheaper patch format. One charm, On the Road, only appeared in the catalog for two years before it drove off into the sunset.

By 2009, only five charms and 12 focus patches were advertised in the catalog. None appeared in the 2010 catalog.

These charms, required for the Silver and Gold Awards, never came in more affordable patch versions.
These charms, required for the Silver and Gold Awards, never came in more affordable patch versions.

What Went Wrong?

How did we get such a misguided program? I think the answer lies in research design.  Of the 3,000 girls surveyed for “Ten Emerging Truths,” only 25 percent were actual Girl Scouts. The other 75 percent weren’t going to join just to get jewelry. And if the 25 percent who were already Girl Scouts wanted jewelry, they could make their own with the Jeweler Interest Project.

After years of neglect and decline, STUDIO 2B quietly passed away on April 13, 2012, when Girl Scouts of the USA cancelled the STUDIO_2B Trademark.

Still, I fully believe that reinstating Studio 2B or a similar program still could trigger an apocalypse.

Be prepared.

via GIPHY

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