Conventions, Co-Eds, and First Ladies

Yesterday, the International Day of the Girl, the Boy Scouts announced that girls will be able to join Cub Scouts, beginning in fall 2018. BSA will introduce a pathway for girls to earn the Eagle Scout award in 2019.

The new policy, first floated in August, is a response to falling numbers of registered Boy Scouts nationwide. Girl Scouts of the USA (note: we are NOT Girl Scouts of America or GSA) President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan weighed in on the proposed co-ed membership in a letter to Boy Scout President Randall Stephenson:

Rather than seeking to fundamentally transform BSA into a co-ed program, we believe strongly that Boy Scouts should instead take steps to ensure that they are expanding the scope of their programming to all boys, including those who BSA has historically underserved and underrepresented, such as African American and Latino boys.

GSUSA President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan

On Monday, October 9, newly elected GSUSA board member Charles Garcia made his objections clear:

The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire,” Garcia wrote. “Instead of addressing systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement and deficient programming, BSA’s senior management wants to add an accelerant to the house fire by recruiting girls.

Charles Garcia, GSUSA Board Member

 

I’ve just returned from the 54th National Council Session in Columbus, OH, October 4-8, 2017. Every three years the Girl Scouts’ National Council convenes to vote on proposals that affect the entire movement, such as dues and composition of the national board of directors (Garcia was elected to the board in Columbus). While not on the official agenda, the possible Boy Scout change prompted considerable discussion between panels.

Boys have frequently participated in Girl Scout events, especially high-school-age members. Local Senior troops staying at Rockwood National Center might invite boys for an evening of (closely supervised) dancing.

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A co-ed event at Rockwood National Center in the 1950s (GSCNC Archives).

 

In the earliest years of Scouting in Washington, DC, troops frequently held joint meetings and events. Perhaps the first assembly of all of the Girl Scout troops in Washington was on  May 23, 1914, when troops from both movements held an all-day picnic at Wildwood Boy Scout Camp in Takoma Park, MD.

 

Forty-two years ago, co-ed membership was the main issue at the Girl Scouts’ 1975 National Council Session, held in Washington, DC. The proposal came at a time of dropping membership levels across all youth organizations. Camp Fire Girls had responded by admitting boys aged 14-18 and the Boy Scouts opened Explorers (Venturing) to girls aged 14 to 21 in 1974.

Backers of co-ed membership argued that the presence of boys would help girls develop social skills that would prepare them for the workplace. Critics cited the confidence girls develop in a single-sex environment and pointed out that boys mature more slowly than girls and could not be grouped with same-age girls.

Ultimately, after two hours’ of debate, a voice vote overwhelmingly defeated the motion to admit boys. The issue has not come up for a vote since.

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First Lady Betty Ford helped open the 1975 convention in Washington, DC.

The 1975 convention is also notable for having First Lady Betty Ford participate in the opening ceremony. Since Edith Wilson in 1917, every first lady has been honorary president of the Girl Scouts. While few can appear in person at a convention, they typically send video greetings for the opening session. Melania Trump was conspicuously absent from Columbus. Instead, former first daughters Barbara Pierce Bush and Chelsea Clinton chaired panel discussions.

 

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Chelsea Clinton fields questions from the National Young Women of Distinction, Columbus OH

 

 

Brenda Akers

The insightful Brenda Akers (AP Photo)

 

Researching the debate on boy membership, I was struck by how many press reports quoted Brenda Akers, a 17-year-old Senior Girl Scout from Indiana: “If we need boys to sell the Girl Scouts, we need to re-evaluate our program.”

The Boy Scouts should take Miss Akers’ suggestion to heart.

©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

Archives at Annual Meeting

Saturday, April 8, was the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital. The Archives & History Committee always creates a display for the event.

This year we featured vintage adult uniforms and uniform kits. As usual, I visited with so many people that I forgot to take many pictures, but here are a few:

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Vintage adult Girl Scout uniforms.

IMG_3787The uniform display was so popular that we had people lining up to take photos with them!

Troops can check out vintage uniform kits for meetings or events. Each kit is a suitcase containing about seven uniforms and handbooks. We have all-age samplers, as well as Brownie, Junior, and Teen kits. We will be adding an adult kit soon.

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Uniform Program Kits

We were delighted to receive an enormous new donation just a few days before the Annual Meeting.  Not only did the donation include many adult uniforms in near-pristine condition, there also were nearly 50 international uniforms from the 1950s.

They came from the family of Janet McIntyre of Chevy Chase, Maryland. Janet had been an active Girl Scout leader beginning in the 1950s. Like many leaders, she accumulated many, many, GS materials over the years, and troops could borrow items, such as these vintage uniforms, for meetings and ceremonies. Janet passed away in June 2015 (age 94). Her children discovered the uniforms as they prepared to sell the house and contacted the council to inquire about donating.

We brought a few of the international uniforms to display at the Annual Meeting as well. This Brownie dress from the Philippines may be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. The hand-embroidered badges are sewn on the waistband. (See next post.)

Committee members also wore vintage uniforms. I picked the Stella Sloat dress from 1968. I think we should bring back gloves.

Council members can check out vintage uniforms to wear for the National Conference Session this October. Contact me if you are interested.

©2017 Ann Robertson

 

Farewell to Our Piper and Our Princess

The sudden loss of both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds this week reminded me of a moment when my teen troop visited the GSUSA museum in 2015. Staff showed them a display on the Piper Project.

“That’s Debbie Reynolds,” said the archivist, pointing to a photo. “Star of Singing in the Rain.”

Blank stares.

Portrait of Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds in her Girl Scout uniform (notice she earned the Curved Bar!)

“Aggie, from Halloweentown,” I translated.

That they understood. The Disney Channel movies are beloved by young women of a certain age. Cheers ensued.

Girl Scouts of a slightly older vintage remember Debbie Reynolds as the face of the Piper Project. Launched at the national convention on October 25, 1966, this three-year program sought to improve retention levels among current Girl Scouts, in part by recruiting more adult volunteers. Reynolds was to shoot a color television spot and film a short movie as part of the adult recruitment effort.

Reynolds explained the role Girl Scouting played in her life in the January 1967 issue of Leader magazine:

All my life I’ve been a Girl Scout, from that day long ago when I first said, “On my honor. … Like so many of us here, I have my mother to thank for one of the finest things that ever happened to me. She was my Girl Scout leader. Today I couldn’t begin to count the many ways Girl Scouting has influenced my life. … But we all know that the true values, the real values of Scouting, have to grow on you. You have to be a Scout long enough for them to take hold and endure. First it’s the fun — the songs and games, the being together with other girls, the belonging! And most of all, the chance to try out for yourself all the adventures in self-discovery Girl Scouting has to offer.

But you and I know that the fun, the games, the adventures are only a means in Girl Scouting — a means to a most important end. These are the tools we use to help girls grow into happy and resourceful citizens …

This doesn’t happen in a day, or in a year, or maybe not even in two of three. For that reason Girl Scouting should be a special ingredient in the lives of girls — seven through seventeen. And it can … That’s why I’m a Girl Scout leader.

Reynolds carried on her family tradition by leading a troop for her daughter, Carrie Fisher. While numerous Girl Guide organizations around the world can claim a princess or two as members, only GSUSA can claim Princess Leia as one of their own.

I don’t think I can add much to Reynolds’ comment. Girl Scouting is cumulative. The longer you’re a member, the more you get out of it. Perhaps the most fitting tribute would be for today’s leaders to take a deep breath, remember the year’s best moments, and commit to another year working with girls.

You never know which of today’s Brownies will grow up to save the galaxy from evil.

©2016 Ann Robertson

Who Is Sylvia Acevedo?

Today, Sylvia Acevedo was named interim CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, following the resignation of Anna Maria Chávez. She is the CEO of  CommuniCard LLC, which “provides solutions in education and healthcare for America’s rising generation.” She also is the secretary of the GSUSA Board of Directors and a real, live rocket scientist.

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Sylvia Acevedo, acting CEO of GSUSA

I had the pleasure of hearing Acevedo speak at the 2014 Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City. She gave a moving presentation where she talked about how her childhood Girl Scout leader had gone above and beyond the call of duty by tutoring Sylvia’s mother in English so that she could pass her US citizenship exam.

Her biography included with the Annual Meeting packet describes her as:

a lifelong Girl Scout. Earning her science badge as a Girl Scout Junior inspired her to become a rocket scientist. Learning to sell cookies sparked her dream of being an entrepreneur. Elected to the Girl Scouts of the USA’s National Board in 2008, Sylvia was the Girl Scout Gold Award keynote speaker in 2012 for the Girl Scout councils of Texas.

Girl Scouts of Central Texas named her a Woman of Distinction in 2013 and profiled her. The profile also mentions her partner, Dr. Janet Osimo, and their two rescue dogs.

 

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Look, this patch has a rocket on it!

I can’t wait to see what exciting changes will come with new leadership at GSUSA!

©2016 Ann Robertson

The views reflected here are personal and do not represent the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital. 

What Happened to Girl Scout Roundups?

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The Girl Scouts of the USA held four fabulously successful Roundups, in 1956, 1959, 1962, and 1965. Thousands of Senior girls pitched tents for two weeks of group living, friendship, songs, and adventure.1968 Roundup 2

Plans were in the works for a fifth Roundup in 1968. Leader magazine ran an article in which “Roundup ’65 Advises Roundup ’68.”

But the event never happened.  Why?

I’d hoped to research this question while I was at the GSUSA archives in January, but that trip was cut short by the Blizzard of 2016. Using other sources, I found three explanations.

1. The US Enters Vietnam

According to the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, “A fifth Roundup was projected for 1968, but the conflict in Vietnam interfered with securing adequate supplies and government assistance” (p. 247). Indeed, US combat units began formal deployment in Vietnam in 1965.

As with Boy Scout Jamborees, the US military provided logistical support and equipment to the Girl Scout Roundups. The large-scale operation was used as a practical exercise in troop movements (military troops, not Girl Scout troops!).

 

Senate Aid 1961

New York Times, August 8, 1961

 

Senate Aid 1964

New York Times, June 30, 1964

2. No Reason

Official statements from GSUSA did not mention the military.

The GSUSA National Board voted to the cancel the 1968 Roundup in spring 1966.

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3. Use Resources Wisely

Members evidently wanted an explanation. National President Margaret Price sent a letter to all council presidents.

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New York Times, August 8, 1961

She cited the desire to create more opportunities for older Girl Scouts, instead of one super-sized event every three years. Indeed, Roundups were not cheap. Nation’s Capital spent $12,131.70 to send eight patrols to the 1965 Roundup.

That statement went to council presidents, not the membership at large. Leader magazine was not published in the summer, eliminating that opportunity to share the news. The only official notice was a small blurb in the fall:

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According to Leader’s coverage of the 1966 National Convention, held October 23-28 in Detroit, the final session included discussion of the cancellation, but no specifics were included. I imagine it was a heated conversation.

Councils followed Mrs. Price’s directive and the Wider Opportunities (now Destinations) program was born. Many councils tried to hold an event in 1968, often using the familiar “Roundup” brand in their event name.

The Roundups are still fondly and vividly remembered by participants. Many still hold reunions to see their friends from across the country. I was surprised how many women still remembered their ID numbers after my first Roundup post.

 

 

 

 

The flags that lined the Avenue of Flags at the Roundups were donated to Rockwood National Center, where they greeted visitors for another decade.

©2016 Ann Robertson

Girl Scouts and the American Bicentennial

Girl Scouts and the American Bicentennial

Happy Independence Day from the Girl Scout History Project!

Back in 1976, the United States was giddy celebrating the 200th birthday of the Declaration of Independence.

The Girl Scouts joined in, of course, issuing two national patches that could be worn on the uniform.

Proposed designs for a third patch highlighting “Horizons 76” appeared on the cover of the March 1975 Leader magazine. Each troop could vote for one. “Horizons 76” was a national program encouraging local service projects. A book containing descriptions of these projects was presented to First Lady Betty Ford at the national convention in Washington, DC, in 1975.

Individual councils also marked the American Bicentennial, with patriotic themed patches for local events and cookie sales.

Bicentennial-themed patches from various councils.

Bicentennial-themed patches from various councils.

One of the largest programs came from the Connecticut Trails Girl Scout Council: “If I Were a Girl Scout in 1776.” The program handbook was divided into two sections. The first two parts, “Home and Family” and “The Nation in 1776,” each had six badges that encouraged girls to delve into the history of their families, communities, and country.

Some of the badges available.

Selection of program badges. Top row, l-r: My Flag, George Washington, The State House Bell, My Heritage; Bottom row: My House and Yard, My Country, Toys and Games, My Colony (hand drawn on blank).

The third section contained instructions for making “the 1776 Girl Scout uniform,” which included a gown or dress, an apron, a fichu (scarf), mob cap, and shoes.

My bicentennial dress from 4th grade.

My bicentennial dress from 4th grade.

I was a Junior during the Bicentennial and really wish I’d known about this program. I would have earned all of the badges!

Happy Fourth of July!