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!

An Afternoon with Fran Randall

This week I had the pleasure of meeting Frances A. Randall, a true pioneer of Girl Scouting in Frederick County, Maryland.

Fran (r) tells Betsy Thurston (c) and I how to kill a snake on a hiking trail.

Fran (r) tells Betsy Thurston (c) and I how to kill a snake on a hiking trail (GSCNC photo).

Frannie, who just turned 90 years young, joined Frederick’s Troop 5 in 1938 and has been involved non-stop since then.

The future Mrs. Randall worked at Braddock Heights day camp in 1944.

The future Mrs. Randall worked at Braddock Heights day camp in 1944 (GSCNC archives).

I enjoyed telling her about Nation’s Capital’s plans for a Girl Scout history program center in Frederick and brought several old scrapbooks for her to look through.

In one of the scrapbooks, Fran found a newspaper she and her brother had published in 1942. Today, the Randall family publishes the Frederick News-Post.

In one of the scrapbooks, Fran found a newspaper she and her brother had published in 1942. Today, the Randall family publishes the Frederick News-Post (GSCNC archives).

We spent the afternoon swapping stories about troops, camping, council mergers,  National Center West, writing books about local history, and trips to Russia. We also compared notes about attending Girl Scout National Conventions in Houston, TX, in 1981 (Frannie) and 2011 (me).

We agreed to get together again in a few weeks with the right equipment to capture her wonderful memories and stories about Girl Scouting in Frederick County.

©2014 Ann Robertson

Hey, I Know that Photo….

Today’s National Council Session at the Girl Scout national convention included a discussion on outdoor programming. Imagine my surprise when this slide popped up during GSUSA CEO Anna-Maria Chávez’s presentation:

GSUSA announces new outdoors-themed badges for 2015. (Photo by Ann Robertson)

GSUSA announces new outdoors-themed badges for 2015.

Here’s a better view:

Photo via the Outdoor Journey Project Facebook site.

Photo via the Outdoor Journey Project Facebook site.

Those aren’t NEW badges. Those are old Council’s Own badges.

How do I know? Because I took the photograph months ago.  It appeared here in a post in May 2014.

CO_Pile_Crop

Photo I took and published in a May 2014 blog post.

I guess someone at GSUSA reads the blog.

The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, its professional staff, or the other volunteers on the GSCNC Archives and History Committee.

©2014 by Ann Robertson

Why Barbie Needs the Girl Scouts

Barbie’s not interested in the cookies.

Consumer groups have recently criticized the national Girl Scout organization for its partnership with Mattel.  Launched in August 2013, the “Be Anything, Do Everything” program uses the Barbie theme to explore various career options.

The controversial Barbie patch.

The controversial Barbie patch.

Aimed at Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors, the program consists of a booklet, computer game,  pink patch for the back of the vest or sash, and three Barbie dolls wearing Girl Scout “uniforms.” Barbie wears a pinkified Junior (4th and 5th grader) uniform, hardly age appropriate for an astronaut, architect, or even a teen age Girl Scout.

My first reaction was “Ewwwww.” My second was “why”?

What do Mattel and GSUSA get out of the deal?

Why did GSUSA partner with Barbie?

The official answer links to career exploration and Barbie’s impressive resume.  According to GSUSA CEO Anna-Maria Chávez:

This partnership will allow Girl Scouts to offer an engaging and interactive new leadership experience, one that leverages the appeal of Barbie in order to encourage girls to explore exciting new career possibilities. We are tying the fun girls have playing with Barbie to an opportunity to gain insight into the careers of today and tomorrow, with patches and discovery along the way. Like Girl Scouts, Barbie is an American icon; together, we are teaching girls that their futures are wide open with possibilities, and that they can accomplish anything they set their sights on in their careers.

What does GSUSA get from Mattel?

It is a three-year, $2 million deal.

This is hardly the first time GSUSA has licensed a line of dolls. There have been official dolls for decades.  The Groovy Girls became Girl Scouts in 2007 and Adora dolls are in every council shop today. American Girl dolls could buy Junior Girl Scout uniforms in the late 1990s. A new set of dolls, the Girl Scout Friendship Collection, debuted yesterday at the GS National Convention in Salt Lake City.

 

What is different about the Barbie deal is the curriculum and patch. Critics, led by Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, say the patch transforms girls “into walking advertisements.”  Yet various councils already offer patches created with corporate grants.

 

What Does Mattel Get?

Mattel gains a strategic partnership with an iconic brand linked to wholesome goodness and little girls.  More important, Mattel creates new ties to an age group that often has moved beyond Barbie.

Yesterday, October 16, Mattel announced that Barbie sales had plunged 21% in the 3rd quarter of the year, following drops of 14% or more in the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2014.  The Wall Street Journal reported that “Barbie is in a slump so bad that she’s getting pushed around by no-name newcomers,” such as Walmart’s Funville Sparkle Girlz.

Recent studies show that between the ages of 7 and 11 (Brownies and Juniors), many girls reject Barbies as “babyish” and move on to trendier toys, such as Monster High and tablets.

What Do the Girls Think?

While other adults debate the merits and value of Barbies, I think a girl-led approach would be to encourage younger Girl Scouts to apply their critical thinking skills to Barbie.

Girls can earn the Be A Doll patch.

Girls can earn the Be A Doll patch.

I’ve created a “Be a Doll” patch program that explores how dolls reflect culture,  asks girls  to evaluate Barbie as a role model, and looks at the range of careers related to the fashion industry beyond just model or designer. Activities span a wide age range and include:

  • Sharing favorite dolls
  • Comparing dolls now with our mothers’ and grandmothers’ toys
  • Comparing uniforms on other Girl Scout dolls
  • Putting on a fashion show of old uniforms or “What Not to Wear to Middle School”
  • Body image and eating disorders
  • Interviewing real women to see if they could perform their jobs dressed as a career Barbie.

Barbie needs the Girls Scouts.

When it’s time to renew the deal with Mattel, GSUSA should ask for more than $2 million and insist that Mattel give Barbie a tent—and a Gold Award.

 

©2014 Ann Robertson

Barbie is a registered trademark of Mattel, which is not connected to this patch program in any way.

Let’s Make Downloading Badges Legal

The 53rd Girl Scout National Convention is just a week away!! One of the highlights is always the super shop, with hundreds (thousands?) of Girl Scout goodies.

Of course, any mention of official Girl Scout products inevitably leads to complaints that the handbooks, badges, etc. cost too much. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I have no problem paying for Girl Scout books.

As a writer and editor, words are literally my income. I know that every book has an author, and I know that writing is hard work. Authors deserve to be paid. That is why it really bothers me to see leaders sharing photocopies of badge inserts or websites advertising free downloads of scanned journey books.  (While I don’t get paid to write this blog, it is an opportunity for potential clients to get to know me better.)

Junior Technology, the first online badge, was introduced in 1997.

Junior Technology, the first online badge, was introduced in 1997. Today’s Girl Scout can’t find any requirements online without breaking the law.

Let’s be honest and fair and admit that distributing bootleg scans of journey books and badge requirements constitutes theft. It is taking a person’s hard work without paying for it. Go ahead, argue “sharing” and “sisterhood” all you want, but if thieves share stolen goods among themselves, it does not make the theft acceptable. Would you walk into a Girl Scout shop, pocket a handful of badges, and walk out without paying? This is no different.

Let’s resolve to respect authority, including copyright law. The bootleggers know they are breaking the law, which explains why they try to shout down anyone who calls them out with nasty comments and name calling. Do we really have to put labels on every page, photo, design, etc. saying “Not yours. Don’t steal”?

I agree that the current program materials are a bit pricey, but I also realize that buyers are shouldering the cost of sales lost to illegal download sites.  I don’t think the Girl Scout way is to sneak around and try to subvert the system.

Instead, let’s ask GSUSA to make program publications available digitally for legal, inexpensive downloading. The Boy Scouts already make many of their badge guides available through Amazon Kindle. Would you pay $1.00 for a PDF of a badge insert? Perhaps $5 for a digital journey book? Sign me up.

Tell GSUSA that you’d like to legally download publications for your troop. I’ve started a Facebook page for people who like this idea: Girl Scout Publication PDFs Please.

Nation's Capital has a copy of the Trefoil Patent application.

Nation’s Capital has a copy of the Trefoil Patent application.

I think our founder would approve of this proposal.  Juliette Gordon Low understood the importance of intellectual property rights and secured a patent for the trefoil symbol.  She applied for the patent on November 23, 1913, and received it on February 10, 1914.

When Low decided to step down from the day-to-day operations of Girl Scouting in 1921, GSUSA asked that she surrender the patent to the organization.  She agreed, but on her own terms.

Stacy Cordery, Low’s recent biographer, recounts how Daisy shrewdly agreed to assign the patent to GSUSA in exchange for keeping her name on the organization’s Constitution, stationery, and membership cards in perpetuity.

Juliette Gordon Low had two patents of her own.

Juliette Gordon Low had two patents of her own. (Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)

Daisy actually had two patents. The other is for the “Pluto Bag,” a stand-up trash bin for liquids. It reminds me of an origami project that got way out of control.

Want to learn more about intellectual property? The Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital has a their own intellectual property patch program for all age levels.

See you in Salt Lake City!

© 2014 by Ann Robertson

 

 

From Washington in 1915 to Salt Lake City in 2014: Girl Scout Conventions

I’m counting down the days until the 53rd Girl Scout Convention convenes in Salt Lake City, UT, on October 16, 2014. I’ll be heading west earlier for the Girl Scout History Conference, which begins on October 14.

To mark the occasion, the GSCNC Archives and History Committee has installed a new exhibit about Girl Scout conventions.

First, here’s a quick FAQ on conventions:

What is a Girl Scout convention?

Held every three years, conventions include formal National Council Sessions, plus trainings, a history conference, guest speakers, exhibits, a girl Leadership Institute, songs, and friendships to make and renew.

Convention name badge for Virginia Hammerley, a staff member of the Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia.

Convention name badge for Virginia Hammerley, a staff member of the Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia.

What is the National Council?

Comprised of delegates from each council, the National Council is charged with giving broad direction to the future of the Girl Scout Movement. It is the major link between Girl Scout councils and the national organization. Each council is allotted delegates based on its membership level. Nation’s Capital, the largest council in the country, is sending 36 delegates. Any registered member age 14 and over can be a delegate. With delegates, alternates, staff, and “official visitors” (like me), the Nation’s Capital delegation has 94 Girl Scouts Utah-bound.

 

What will the National Council do?

There are three resolutions on the agenda:

  • Allowing GSUSA to offer new membership formats (now we have just two: 12-month and lifetime; exactly what new formats is not specified in the resolution).
  • Having the GSUSA chief financial officer report to the chief executive officer, not the national board of directors.
  • Changing the ex officio, non-voting status of past GSUSA presidents to voting members of the national board of directors.

There also will be a much-anticipated discussion about the role of the outdoors in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.

Delegates receive policy proposals ahead of time, along with their council’s perspective on specific issues, such as lowering the minimum age to include 5-year-olds.

Delegates receive policy proposals ahead of time, along with their council’s perspective on specific issues, such as lowering the minimum age to include 5-year-olds.

 

Has the National Council Session ever met in Washington, DC?

Yes, three times: 1915 (the first session), 1923, and 1975.

 

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When is the next convention?

2017 in Columbus, OH.

 

 

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Make New Friends, But Keep the Old….

Salt Lake City will be my second Girl Scout convention.  It will be hard to top my first, Houston in 2011.  I knew I would see my high school troop-mate Elizabeth Brooke-Willbanks in Houston, as she worked for the Girl Scout Council of Central and Western Massachusetts. But what we didn’t expect was to run into our Cadette and Senior leaders, who just happened in be in Houston for a different event. I hadn’t seen any of them in at least 20 years, but it felt more like 20 minutes.  What a wonderful surprise that was.