Between 1938 and 1978, a half-million people visited Rockwood, the Girl Scout national camp in the nation’s capital. When members discovered it had been sold to developers, nine local Girl Scouts sued GSUSA to save their treasured gathering place.
Packed with photos and eye-witness stories, Rescue Rockwood traces the development of the Girl Scouts of the USA and the Girl Scouts of Washington DC alongside the drive to preserve Rockwood.
Amazon has both paperback and e-book/Kindle versions available.
Girl Scouting came to Washington, DC, in June 1913 when Juliette Gordon Low decided her new girls’ empowerment movement needed a national headquarters. Although the headquarters moved to New York City in 1916, the Nation’s Capital Council in Washington, DC, is still actively involved in the programs. Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital chronicles the evolution of Girl Scouting in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia from 1913 to the present. Over 200 photographs will rekindle memories of making new friends, earning badges, spending summer nights outdoors, taking road trips, attending freezing inaugural parades, hiking along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, and participating in enormous sing-alongs around the Washington Monument.
7. Exhibits in Archives and Special Collections Libraries, Jessica Lacher-Feldman (2013)
Intended for repositories with far larger budgets than most Girl Scout archives, but the basic info on exhibit design will benefit any reader. Extensive illustrations and examples.
Expensive; look for used copies.
6. The Lone Arranger: Succeeding in a Small Repository Christina Zamon (2012)
Excellent go-to reference book. Provides clear instructions and succinct definitions for the amateur archivist. A standard work for “Intro to Archives” courses. Also expensive. Look for used copies.
Bonus Points: Clever title
5. Nearby History: Exploring the Past Around You David E. Kyvig and Myron A. Marty (2010)
The back cover says it all: “A comprehensive handbook for
those interested in investigating the history of communities, families, local institutions,
and cultural artifacts.” Great tips on
how to plug Girl Scouts into local history.
4. Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions Don Williams (2005)
This 2005 book from the Smithsonian Institution can be difficult to
locate, but it’s worth the effort. There are few things that the book does not
cover. Need to preserve macaroni art? It’s in here. Also covers
fundamentals of storage such as light and temperature.
3. Scouting Dolls Through the Years: Identification and Value Guide Sydney Ann Sutton (2003)
Take the dolls chapter out of the Collector’s Guide and quadruple it in length and the result is this
comprehensive guide. Extensive color photos make identification quick, and the
book includes licensed dolls not necessarily available from the Girl Scout
catalog. The book was published in 2003, so the estimated values are not
Bonus Points: Published in my home town, Paducah, KY
Covers 100 years of Girl Scouting in the Washington DC area. Also includes Girl Scout basics and GSUSA events and buildings in the capital city. More than just a pictorial history, the captions provide detailed information about programs, camps, and more.
Bonus Points: Yes, I wrote it.
1. Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, 3rd edition
This book is the primary reference work for Girl Scout historians, with detailed information about uniforms, badges, publications, and more. My copy is full of comments, notes, and post-it flags. Unfortunately, the most recent edition was published in 2005. There is no 3rd edition.
Did history stop in 2005? Hardly. What has happened since 2005?
The Girl Scout Leadership Experience program, journeys, an entirely new series
of badges, troop crests, and handbooks. Two CEOs, three national presidents, five
conventions, and our 100th birthday. Realignment, anyone?
A girl born when the most recent Guide was published would now be on the brink of bridging to the Ambassador level. But wait, there’s no mention of Ambassadors in the Guide because that level was only created in 2008.
The Collector’s Guide
never hit the best-seller lists, but its value to the movement should not be
dismissed. A new volume could be subsidized, grant-funded, or perhaps live online.
Girl Scouts are supposed to use resources wisely. Hopefully
these reference works will provide some guidance for the women (and men) tasked
with preserving our past.
The Nations Capital Archives & History Program Center has been open for six months now. We offer workshops to help girls earn their Girl Scout Way badges on the third Saturday and Sunday of each month. Registration is through the Council event calendar.
Girls watch “The Golden Eaglet,” learn the history of our council, and examine vintage uniforms and badges. They also do a scavenger hunt through the 1963 handbooks and try some activities from older badges.
One troop just sent me a delightful thank you note, and their leader included a few photos. Enjoy!
Did you ever visit Rockwood, the GSUSA camp located in Potomac, Maryland, from 1938 to 1978?
Perhaps you camped at Weston Hill, took a training in the Manor House, or bunked in Carolyn Cottage when your troop toured Washington, DC? Or maybe you attended a language camp, a selection weekend for Our Chalet, or a Wider Opportunity?
I fell in love with the place when my daughter camped there as a Brownie. The more I learned about the history of Rockwood, about the amazing women who built the original estate, transformed a country home into a national camp, and filed a class-action lawsuit to prevent its sale, the more I became enchanted.
I’ve bloggedabout Rockwood several times, and I am now writing a book about the Rockwood story.
I’ve spent several weeks going through the files at the GSUSA National Historical Preservation Center in New York, and I have many documents and scrapbooks from Washington-area Girl Scouts.
I know the nuts and bolts of Rockwood. I have statistics on how many troops camped there month by month. I have diagrams of the woefully insufficient septic system. I have legal papers about the acquisition and sale of the camp and the process of turning part of it over to the Montgomery County, Maryland, park system.
But that is only part of the story. I need help from former Rockwood campers. What was the experience like? What memories have stuck in your mind over the decades? Was it the friends you made from other councils? A favorite meal in the dining room? Singing and skits in Brooke Hall? The sweltering cabins in August?
Most of all, I need photos. GSUSA has some photos, mostly exterior shots of buildings. Other than a few postcards and the images in the slideshow above, I’ve seen precious little of the interior. Few images have captions, either.
I’ve setup a Facebook page, Remembering Rockwood, with some of these photos. Please take a look and see if they trigger any memories. Add your recollections to the comments. Maybe you’ll recognize faces and places.
If you have photos, color slides, scrapbooks, or other related items, please contact me. I will cover shipping costs if you let me borrow and scan them. Rockwood is a wonderful part of Girl Scout history. Please help me tell it.
I just finished reading a delightful book, Empty Mansionsby Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr., and was surprised to find it had a Girl Scout connection.
The book tells the life story of Huguette Clark, one of America’s wealthiest women, who died in 2011 at age 104. Huguette was decidedly eccentric. She was rarely seen in public, never met face-to-face with the lawyers, accountants, and household staff that she employed for decades, and spent the last 20 years of her life living in a hospital room, despite being quite healthy. She married briefly — it lasted barely a year — and never had children of her own. Her father, copper and railroad baron W.A. Clark, was nearly 70 years old when she was born and had five children from his first marriage. However, she insisted she had a contented life, filled with painting, music, developing exquisite dollhouses for her huge antique doll collection, and sharing her wealth with a variety of charities and friends.
She left an estate of $300 million that triggered a huge rush for treasure among her far-flung relatives, lawyers, accountants, and private nurses. Clark also left three luxury apartments (42 rooms) on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan; Bellosguardo, a 22,000 square foot estate in Santa Barbara that was kept staffed and ready for a visit at 48 hours’ notice, although she hadn’t been there since the 1950s; and Le Beau Chateau, a 42-room mansion in New Canaan, CT, that she never bothered to furnish, much less visit.
The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington also became ensnared in the complicated estate. Huguette and her father both were patrons of the gallery and serious art collectors. Clark left his enormous collection to the Corcoran upon his death. She left a portion of her estate to the Corcoran as well as the proceeds ($24 million) of the auction of Claude Monet’s Nympheas water lilies painting, which had hung in her home since 1926.
What is the Girl Scout connection?
I bought the book while I was in New York doing research at GSUSA. This was during the great blizzard of January 2015 and with all the dire warnings of lost power, I realized I had no actual book with me. If my computer lost power, I would be bored silly in my hotel room. I left GSUSA and walked up Fifth Avenue to a Barnes and Noble, where I purchased Empty Mansions. Little did I know that I had passed Huguette’s apartment building at 907 Fifth Avenue and came near the site of her childhood home at 77th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Pretty weak Girl Scout ties so far, right?
But perhaps you are familiar with Huguette’s older sister, Andrée Clark? As in Camp Andrée Clark, the first national Girl Scout camp?
It is the very same girl. As the story goes, Andrée was a quiet and withdrawn girl who joined the Girl Scouts. She’d had a hard time adapting to New York after living in Paris for many years. When she died a tragic death just shy of age 17, her parents read her diary and discovered how much Andrée loved her troop and the friends and activities it offered. In her memory, Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Huguette donated 135 acres of land in Briarcliff Manor, NY, for a camp.
As for Huguette, she never joined the Girl Scouts, and the biography does not explain why. Perhaps her life would have taken a different turn had she been a Girl Scout.
For more about Huguette and photos of her homes and artwork, see the ongoing series of articles by NBCor the book’s website.
Alongside traditional handbooks, Girl Scout fiction books relate exciting stories of Girl Scout troop adventures.
The Council’s Archives and History Committee has books ranging from The Girl Scouts at Bellaire, published in 1920, to the Giggling Ghost Girl Scout Mystery from 2012.
In the 1920s and 1930s, when the Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, and other juvenile mystery series became popular, the Girl Scouts followed with their own versions.
Meet Marjorie Wilkinson
Edith Lavellpublished a 10-volume series in the 1920s that followed Girl Scout Marjorie Wilkinson through her college years. In the 1930s, Virginia Fairfax penned the six-volume mystery series about a group of Mississippi Girl Scouts.
Don’t Forget the Brownies!!
Brownies soon insisted on their own stories, which led to the Brownie Scouts series by Mildred A. Wirt in the early 1950s. Millie Wirt added three more Girl Scout titles in the 1950s as well.
Nancy Drew–Girl Scout?
But Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson was most famous for the books she wrote under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.
She wrote 23 of the original Nancy Drew books, including the first seven, and is largely thought to be responsible for developing the Nancy character. Her editor criticized the first draft of The Secret of the Old Clock, saying that the heroine was “too flip,” but sent the manuscript to the publisher anyway, launching an industry that remains popular decades later. (For more on the many lives of Carolyn Keene, see the new book The History of Nancy Drew, by Christine Keleny.) By the time of her death in 2002, at age 96, Benson had written more than 130 books.
Still More Titles
Other book series have been issued over the years, including the three-volume Nancy series by Jean Henry Large, younger sister of Lou Henry Hoover, collections of articles from American Girl magazine, and the more recent Here Come the Brownies series.
Girl Scouts has long promoted reading and the love of books.
Earn a Badge or Two
Badges related to reading have been around since the 1920s and national patch programs, many in cooperation with the QSP magazine program, have also encouraged reading skills. Over the years, Girl Scouts have also had opportunities to learn about how books are made, including the Intermediate-level Bibliophile badge available from 1938 to 1963. More recently, Cadettes can try the new Book Artist badge.
Girl Scout History Books
Next time you are at a Council shop or bookstore, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the council history book. That one is not fiction!
The book shares 100 years of Girl Scout memories in the greater Washington, DC, region and commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital. GSCNC was created in 1963 upon the merger of the Arlington, Alexandria, National Capital, Northern Virginia, and Southern Maryland councils.
Girl Scouting came to Washington, DC, in June 1913 when Juliette Gordon Low decided her new girls empowerment movement needed a national headquarters. Although the headquarters moved to New York City in 1916, the council in Washington, DC, is still actively involved in the programs. Girl Scouts of the Nations Capital includes some 200 photographs that will rekindle memories of making new friends, earning badges, spending summer nights at Camp May Flather, taking road trips to Rockwood, attending freezing inaugural parades, hiking along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, and participating in enormous sing-alongs around the Washington Monument.