Who’s That Girl Scout? Eleanor Putzki

You’ve seen her photo, but how much do you know about Eleanor Putzki?

Eleanor Putzki, the "Best Girl Scout in America."
Eleanor Putzki, the “Best Girl Scout in America,” wears the Golden Eagle of Merit, pinned just below her Sunflower Patrol crest. She is standing at the White House gate, after receiving her award from First Lady Edith Wilson (Harris and Ewing Collection, Library of Congress.)

Eleanor Putzki was an original member of Washington, DC, Troop 1.  Formed in late 1913, the troop met at Wilson Normal school and was led by Mrs. Giles Scott Rafter, a leader in the PTA movement and vigorous advocate of education for girls and statehood for the District of Columbia.

Eleanor was an outstanding Girl Scout, whose accomplishments were regularly mentioned in newspaper reports about the young movement. At the October 9, 1915, all-troop hike, for example, Eleanor was praised for correctly identifying 25 varieties of wildflowers. She received her Red Cross badge from none other than Juliette Gordon Low herself in January 1916. In May 1916 she was asked to “display her assortment of proficiency badges and explain what they meant” for other troops.

She had to impress an unusually well qualified board of examiners to receive those badges.  She was quizzed by Professor Wells Cook of the US Department of Agriculture and experts at the Smithsonian Institution  and Department of the Interior. Her nursing exam was administered by the head of the Visiting Nurse Association, while Fred Reed, the first Eagle Scout in Washington, assessed her mastery of the material for her pathfinder and pioneer badges.

Eleanor was awarded the Golden Eagle of Merit from Mrs. Woodrow Wilson at a ceremony at the White House on June 21, 1917.  She was the first Washingtonian to receive the award and the fifth nationwide.  The award was the highest available from 1916 to 1919 and required earning 14 proficiency badges; Eleanor earned 25.  Fewer than 50 Golden Eagles of Merit were presented before the honor was revised and renamed the Golden Eaglet.

Eleanor was named “Best Girl Scout in America” in 1918 and explained her enthusiasm for Girl Scouting to Literary Digest:

Why, no one will ever know what the Girl Scout work has done for me. Only three months ago, when I started after my badge for pathfinder, I scarcely knew the difference between northwest and southeast Washington. To win that badge I had to know all the public buildings, schools, streets, and avenues, monuments, parks, circles, playgrounds and, in fact, be qualified as a guide. Going after Girl Scout badges just woke me up. It makes you see things, and see why and to want to do things better and to help others.

At the age of 17, Eleanor was given her own troop at Webster School.  The troop grew from seven girls to 34 in just three weeks; and after two weeks’ training 18 of of the girls were rated proficient in first aid and wigwagging (semaphore).

She had ambitious plans for her troop:

Outdoor life is the best thing in the world for girls and I want to encourage every other girl all I can to get out in the open with ears open and eyes open and with lungs open. That’s why I’m going to make my troop of girls the best in the city. I’m going to have every one of them a first-class scout before I’m through.

Born on August 5, 1899, Eleanor was the daughter of Kate Stirling Putzki and the artist Paul Putzki, best known for his china paintings. Eleanor married Freeman Pulsifer Davis and moved to Indianapolis. I’ve located little information about her life in Indiana, aside from a handful of clipping that suggest she was an avid golfer.  I hope she remained an avid Girl Scout, as well.

 

Four Reasons I Love the Council’s Own

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I love Girl Scout Council’s Own badges. I love council Try-Its and Interest Projects, too.

Why do I love them? Let me count the ways.

1. The Designs

Maybe it’s the smaller production runs, but Council’s Owns seem to be more brightly colored than ordinary GSUSA-issued badges. They’re just pretty, OK?

2. The Local Flavor

Council’s Owns celebrate local communities, highlighting regional attractions and resources. They feature local histories and traditions.

3. The Quirkiness

Council’s Owns also fill in gaps in traditional badge offerings. I am dying to locate at least a picture of the Taxidermy badge from New Jersey.

No GSUSA archery badge? Troop leaders could satisfy their own budding Katniss Everdeens with programs developed by councils across the country.

I’m sad that GSUSA has narrowed the opportunities for councils to create badges in favor of back-of-the-sash patch programs.  There are so many patch programs and participation patches these days, especially compared with the limited number of badges introduced in 2011, that we may soon have girls with layers of patches on the back and empty real estate on the front of their vests.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to patch programs at all.  In fact, I’ve created five patch programs myself.

And the final reason I love the Council’s Own…

4. I Made a Website!

I’ve created an entire website to share my Council’s Own collection. Go to gscobadge.info for images and requirements arranged by age level. There are also pages for special badge programs and mystery badges. Let me know if you can identify any or help fill in a blank spot.

CO-Screen

I’m always looking for vintage Council’s Own badges. Please contact me if you find any.

Enjoy!

©2014, 2020 Ann Robertson

The Girl Scout Red Scare, part two

Several of the problematic 1953 badges
Several of the problematic 1953 badges

Over the 1954 Independence Day holiday, the attacks on the Girl Scouts spread to the US Congress, courtesy of B.J. Grigsby. Again, the Girl Scouts were accused of promoting communism and internationalism in the 1953 Intermediate handbook.

Grigsby, a Chicago businessman, had read the LeFevre article and reprinted it in his own vanity newspaper, the Spoon River Journal.  He also wrote to GSUSA expressing his concern over the new handbook and noting that he had contributed to the Girl Scouts in the past.  The response from Leonard Lathrop, head of public relations at GSUSA, did not satisfy him, so Grigsby contacted his Congressmen.

On July 2, Illinois Congressman Timothy P. Sheehan read LeFevre’s article into the Congressional Record. Sheehan added his own concern that one badge in the new Intermediate handbook “requires a knowledge of the United Nations, but nowhere among the merit badges did [LeFevre] find one that required the Girl Scouts to memorize part of the Declaration of Independence or a statement from the Constitution.” [Those were required for the My Government badge.]

Ten days later, Illinois Congressman Edgar Jonas introduced Grigsby’s response to LeFevre into the Congressional Record. While Grigsby dismissed some of LeFevre’s charges, he agreed with others.  Jonas also included Lathrop’s response to a letter of concern sent to GSUSA by Grigsby.

After the accusations from the Illinois delegation, GSUSA mobilized supporters in Congress. At the request of GSUSA, Representative Robert Kean of New Jersey inserted an article into the July 21, 1954, Congressional Record written by Dr. Lillian Gilbreth, then at Rutgers University in New Jersey.  Gilbreth, a member of the national program committee, was best known for her studies of time management in the household and as the inspiration for the book and movies, Cheaper by the Dozen. Gilbreth argued:

We cannot take comfort in the thought that everyone accepts us as spiritually minded, as patriotic, as trying to be constructive in every thought and deed. We must therefore reaffirm our beliefs, reiterate our pledges. As we think of our motto, “Be prepared,” we must be able to answer for ourselves for others the question, “Prepared for what?”

Today the world needs individuals and organizations prepared to meet the challenge of communism. As Girl Scouts we are prepared to do so because we are imbued with the responsibilities and the privilege of following our Promise and Laws day by day, as best we can. […]

What can communism really offer as it challenges all this? Nothing. What should Girl Scouts do to meet the challenge? Keep busy at our work of  service with serenity of spirit. Try to attain the educated mind, the educated hands, the educated heart which will help us to keep our Girl Scout promise and prove ourselves assets to God, our country, and our fellow men. Girl Scouts try.

 

The tide began to swing in favor of the Girl Scouts, with Indiana Congressman Charles Brownson introducing a rebuttal from Indianapolis civic leader John Burkhart on July 26. The next day, Sheehan seemed to backtrack a bit and read into the Congressional Record a statement from GSUSA President Olivia Layton outlining revisions already underway.

Discussion over submitting Burkhart letter to Congress.
Discussion over submitting Burkhart letter to Congress.

Another pro-Girl Scouts statement was made by Congressman Victor Wickersham of Oklahoma.  In preparing this post today,  I realized that I did not have a copy of his remarks. I searched the Washington Post online and, to my surprise, discovered that two years earlier, Wickersham  had sold 20 acres of land to GSUSA for $30,000 — land that was used to enlarge the entrance to the Rockwood camp outside of Washington, DC.

But, as it turned out, the skirmish on Capitol Hill was merely a lull before an even bigger storm.

In part three, the American Legion escalates the controversy…

©2013 Ann Robertson

Preserving Our Story in Our Own Ways

The Second Annual “Girl Scout Antiques Road Show” took place on Saturday, April 5, alongside the Nation’s Capital Annual Meeting.

Following the theme of “Preserving Our Story,” members of the GSCNC Archives and History Committee brought scrapbooks, quilts, and other unofficial items created to preserve their unique Girl Scout experiences.  Delegates and guests were encouraged to bring their own Girl Scout memorabilia to share.

Committee member Julie Lineberry (second from right) identifies an old Girl Scout publication.
Committee member Julie Lineberry (second from right) identifies an old Girl Scout publication.

 

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The authentic Girl Scout bugle was a big hit.
Denise Tomlin explains her bugle technique.
Denise Tomlin explains her bugle technique.

We also enlarged selected photos from the many scrapbooks in our collection that are too fragile too display.

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If you didn’t make it to the Archives exhibit at the Annual Meeting, you can still see many of these items on display at the Council office at 4301 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC.

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We hope to see you in 2015!

Rolling Down the Street

Yesterday the oldest synagogue in Washington, DC, was seen rolling through the streets of the Nation’s Capital.

This wasn’t cheap entertainment provided during the federal government furlough–well, actually it WAS free and entertaining. The journey was a major step in the development of a new Capital Jewish Museum. A decent-sized crowd gathered to watch the wheeled building migrate down 3rd Street NW.

In fact, this was the third relocation for the peripatetic synagogue.

This latest motorized procession reminds me of a similar excursion made by the Girl Scout Little House in 1924. But that move was accomplished with actual horsepower, not heavy equipment.

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 offered it to the Girl Scouts for use as a national training and innovation center.

The Girl Scouts were reluctant to accept. While it would wonderfully fit in with the Girl Scout program, accepting the gift would require a considerable investment. There were no funds for utilities, staff, insurance, and other operating costs. Most important, there were no funds available to relocate the building.

The clock began ticking on the fate of the model home. The exhibit permit expired on June 15.

Lou Henry Hoover immediately saw the value in accepting the house and began working to persuade the Girl Scouts to accept. As national president of the organization, she began a barrage of letters and telegrams to national board members that lasted all summer. On September 20, the national board voted to decline the proposed gift.

But Hoover refused to let the issue drop. She even offered to personally pay any deficit that might accrue in the first two years of operation.

Hoover offered several new arguments to try and sway the reluctant board members.

First, the house had historical significance as it was the last building dedicated by President Warren G. Harding before his sudden death on August 2.

Second, operating programs from the Little House would silence other groups who accused the Girl Scouts of being more interested in hiking than homemaking:

Considering the opposition we have had to meet in many quarters, particularly with the Camp Fire Girls and the Boy Scouts on this very matter of our home making propensities,—or the lack of them,—I feel that we must accept this, our justification, if possible.

–Lou Henry Hoover

Third, some costs could be mitigated by renting out a room or two to the local council for its offices.

Meanwhile, the Parks Service was continually pleading for someone to get the house off of government property.

Ultimately, Mrs. Hoover grew tired of the back-and-forth and took matters into her own hands. She contacted Duncan and Marjorie Phillips, of the Phillips Art Collection, who agreed to loan a plot of land that they owned at 1750 New York Ave. NW. The new home for the Little House would be two blocks southwest of the White House and across the street from the famous Octagon House.

Hoover wanted her financial contribution to be anonymous, so she arranged for Henrietta Bates Brooke to sign the moving contract, as member of the National Executive Board. Edward G. McGill of Cumberland, Maryland, oversaw a crew of men who hoisted the house onto rails and pulled it to the new site. McGill charged $3,000 for transporting the house. Hoover also paid for a basement, utility connections, and landscaping, for a total cost of $12,000.

Much to the relief of Colonel Sherrill, the Little House arrived at its new home in March 1924—nine months after the original exhibition. First Lady Grace Coolidge helped re-dedicate the building in a ceremony on March 25, as a beaming Mrs. Hoover watched. Dressed in a broad-brimmed hat, long dress, fox-trimmed cloak, and dark leather gloves, Mrs. Coolidge gamely picked up a mason’s trowel and slathered on a layer of cement to seal the cornerstone placed under the breakfast nook. Inside the stone was a handbook, several other Girl Scout publications, and that day’s newspaper.

Lou would have pulled it herself

 

 

Moving the Little House from its exhibition site to 1750 New York Avenue, NW, across from the Octagon House.
Moving the Little House from its exhibition site to 1750 New York Avenue, NW, across from the Octagon House.
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.

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.
These girls look a bit tired after preparing a luncheon for First Lady Grace Coolidge (in white).
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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

 

It became the first of many “Little Houses” across the country, where Girl Scouts practiced their homemaking and hospitality skills.

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.

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

 

©2019 Ann Robertson

New Exhibit: 50 Years, 4 Levels, 1 Program

In September 1963, Girl Scouts changed from a three-level program to a four-level structure. The Intermediate program was divided into Juniors (grades 4–6) and Cadettes (grades 7–9). The restructuring was accompanied by the release of new handbooks for each level, as well as new badges, uniforms, and awards.

The Nation’s Capital Archives and History Committee has created a new exhibit to mark the 50th anniversary of that exciting program. Items are on display in the lobby of the Council headquarters at 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW.  How many items do you recognize?

The October 1963 issue of Leader magazine kicked off the new program.
The October 1963 issue of Leader magazine kicked off the new program.
The new handbooks went on sale on September 9, 1963, and books purchased that first week came with a special commemorative bookplate.
The new handbooks went on sale on September 9, 1963, and books purchased that first week came with a special commemorative bookplate.
New badges were introduced for the Juniors and Cadettes.
New badges were introduced for the Juniors and Cadettes.
Virginia Walton (left) and Bonnie Johnson checked to make sure the badge sash was correct.
Committee members Virginia Walton (left) and Bonnie Johnson check to make sure the badge sash is correct.
The first Cadette uniform was a variation on the alternate Intermediate uniform.
The first Cadette uniform was a variation on the alternate Intermediate uniform.
The new yellow-bordered Cadette badges were sewn on sashes  beneath the Junior/Intermediate badges.
The new yellow-bordered Cadette badges were sewn on sashes beneath the Junior/Intermediate badges.
New insignia included the Sign of the Arrow and Sign of the Star for Juniors and new interest patches for Seniors.
New insignia included the Sign of the Arrow and Sign of the Star for Juniors and new interest patches for Seniors.
Cadettes had their very own logo!
Cadettes had their very own logo!

The handbooks, badges, and awards combined to create a framework of progression. One program, built on one foundation, would be adapted to four ages levels.

That foundation contained six basic elements, which are still followed 50 years later:

  • Dedication to the Promise and Laws,
  • Commitment to service,
  • Belief in girl-leader planning through the patrol system,
  • Participation as citizens in a democracy,
  • Hopes for international friendship, and
  • Concern for health and safety.

Text and Photos © 2013 Ann Robertson

Metal Arts and Graphic Arts: Two Elusive Cadette Badges

IMG_0233Jackpot!

That recent “lot of assorted Cadette badges” that I bought on eBay contained both a Metal Arts and a Graphic Arts, the two least popular badges from 1963 to 1980.

These gold-edged badges debuted in 1963, when the Intermediate level was split in Juniors and Cadettes. They originally sold for 30 cents each; I paid about 77 cents each for this lot, not bad at all.

According to the Degenhardt and Kirsch Girl Scout Collector’s Guide (2nd ed.), only 56,270 Metal Arts and 70,205 Graphic Arts were sold.  Those figures are pretty paltry,  considering that Social Dancer sold over 1 million, followed closely by 876,644 First Aid.

With a snow storm predicted and cabin fever setting in early, I took a closer look at the numbers for the Cadette series.

The five most popular were:IMG_0238

  1. Social Dancer
  2. First Aid
  3. Good Grooming
  4. Child Care
  5. Hostess

and the five least popular were:IMG_0234

  1. Star
  2. Science
  3. Reporter
  4. Graphic Arts
  5. Metal Arts

Then I took the plunge and entered all of this series into Excel and came up with a spiffy chart ranking all of the Cadette badges:

Cadette 1963 chart 3

I only earned six of these myself (Conservation, Clerk, Sports, Stamp Collector, Photography, and First Aid to Animals), as the World to Explore program began when I was a Cadette.

Some of them, like Stamp Collector, seem rather quaint now, but others taught skills that are still valuable today.  First Aid to Animals has some connection to the new Animal Helpers. Night Owl shows the Intermediate version of the Star badge, while Book Artist references Clerk.

I like how many of the new badge packets have “More to Explore” or “Page from the Past” sidebars that show links to older badges, but I wish more of the old designs had been retained.  Girls always get excited when they find one of “their” badges on their mother’s — or grandmother’s — old sash.

What badges would you like to see revived?