Little House Welcomes Princess Martha

In 1940, four members of the Norwegian royal family escaped German occupation of their homeland. Crown Princess Martha and her children: Princess Astrid, Princess Ragnhild, and Prince Harald took refuge in the United States. The struggle to recapture Norway is chronicled in the current PBS miniseries Atlantic Crossing.

Only one year earlier, Martha and her husband, Crown Prince Olav, had toured the United States, by train, traveling from Boston to California and back to Washington DC. One stop in Washington was the Girl Scout Little House.

The royal couple captured many hearts across the country, as their public appearances provided a welcome diversion from the Great Depression. Atlantic Crossing began just as their tour wrapped up.

Entire towns turned out to see the Norwegian royals, especially marching bands, flags, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and flocks of little girls in Norwegian national dress.

President Roosevelt, his wife and mother greet Norwegian royals at Hyde Park.
Eleanor Roosevelt, Crown Prince Olav, Sara Roosevelt, Crown Princess Martha, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, PBS

Smitten with the lovely princess, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited the royals to his Hyde Park home as well as at the White House.

This remarkable friendship prompted FDR to have US forces spirit Princess Martha and her three children out of Scandinavia to safety in the United States. Upon arrival, the four Norwegians stayed in New York, but they soon relocated to Washington DC.

Two Girl Scout princesses

To help her daughters make new friends, Princess Martha enrolled them in Girl Scouts.

She had learned about the Girl Scouts during her 1939 tour. Like many visiting dignitaries, Martha visited the Girl Scout Little House, where she learned about the various programs offered to girls and adult volunteers.

two teenagers in Girl Scout dresses present woven towels to a royal woman in a floral dress and pearls
Princess Martha receives guest towels at Girl Scout Little House

As she prepared to depart from the Little House, she was given a pair of guest towels, hand-woven by members of Troop 22. Kari Galbe, daughter of a Norwegian diplomat, wore her Norwegian Girl Guide uniform for the occasion.

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Halston Designs for the Girl Scouts

Halston Designs for the Girl Scouts

I’ve written about the Girl Scout tie-ins to the PBS mini-series Atlantic Crossing. But wait …. that’s not the only current TV series with a Girl Scout connection.

Netflix has released a series about fashion designer Halston. Ewan McGregor plays the titular character.

The PR folks at Netflix have done a splendid job of drumming up interest in a man who died in 1990.

portrait of Roy Halston
Halston, 1978

The New York Times, Washington Post, Esquire, The New Yorker, Variety, and other news outlets took the hint and have recently published features about Halston’s career. Much is made of his glamorous friends and wild nights at Studio 54. Liza, Liza, Liza.

As far as I can tell, one major project has been overlooked in the accompanying Halston media campaign–and I highly doubt it will be mentioned in the TV series.

Believe it or not, Halston designed uniforms for adult Girl Scouts. Girl Scout executives approached him about the project, and he agreed to do so on a pro bono basis. Normally, his fee would have been between $50,000 and $100,000.

He was enthusiastic about the Girl Scout project.

The Girl Scouts are a terrific organization and anyone who could help them should.

Bernadine Morris, “No Sequins This Time,” New York Times (May 17, 1978): C9.

Young Roy Halston Frowick was an Eagle Scout himself.

Why did the Girl Scouts seek a high-end fashion brand, such as a Halston design?

This was not the first time. Earlier adult uniforms were designed by Mainbocher (left) and Stella Sloat (center). In the 1980s, Bill Blass created a wardrobe for leaders (right).

GSUSA gave its own answer in Leader Magazine:

Why? Because you wanted a uniform that was high-fashion, but not too “way out”–a uniform for today’s woman. Involved. Efficient. Alive!

Leader, May/June 1978.

The results debuted in May 1978.

The collection was made of sage green polyester gabardine fabric with mix and match pieces. An ivory blouse and scarf completed the look.

Braniff airlines flight attendant uniform by Halston
Braniff uniform by Halston

The design was quite similar to the brown Braniff flight attendant uniform that Halston designed one year before the Girl Scout ensemble.

Some of the headwear, however, seems out of place. The woman on the right in the Girl Scout photo is wearing a pillbox hat. That makes sense as Halston’s big break came in designing the pillbox hat Jacqueline Kennedy wore at the 1961 Presidential Inauguration.

But what IS that headgear on the left? It appears to be a visor, and indeed it is a visor. There is no good explanation for the visor. Visors are worn on tennis courts and golf greens, not in board rooms or committee meetings. The whole visor idea must have been conceived during one of Halston’s cocaine-booze-rent boy binges. Or, perhaps it came during a hangover, as it certainly is nausea-inducing.

Adult Girl Scouts model the Halston pillbox hat and visor
Look at those hats!

It must not have been popular, either. When the Nassau County (NY) Museum of Art held a Halston retrospective in 2017, finding a visor for the Girl Scout exhibit took all of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men to locate.

Given the, um, colorful life of Halston depicted in the Netflix series, perhaps it is just as well that there isn’t a scene with the Girl Scouts.

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Princess Martha of Norway, part 3

Before Atlantic Crossing aired on PBS, I had stumbled upon the story of Crown Princess Martha of Norway while I researched the Girl Scout Little House in Washington DC.

I had searched “Little House” through the US Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division and a photo of her 1939 visit popped up.

When a related photo appeared on eBay, I purchased it. I usually do not waste money purchasing an overpriced reprint of an image that may be downloaded for free from the Library of Congress.

But if the photo offered for sale is an original, that’s another matter entirely. Vintage press service photos typically have a long caption that includes the date and names of the individuals. As the image is copied and widely distributed across the Internet, those details are usually lost. This is literally a rare chance to attach names to faces.

I purchased this photo, which appeared in part 1 of this series without the caption.

Atlantic Crossing omitted the Girl Scout birthday party at the Norwegian Embassy.

The caption noted that it was from a Girl Scout birthday party held at the Norwegian Embassy in Washington DC in 1945. The celebration was not part of the Atlantic Crossing retelling. End of story, right?

Hardly.

The Archives and History Committee of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital (like all councils) frequently receives donations. Old uniforms, badge sashes, and handbooks are typical, but photos, scrapbooks, and other one-of-a-kind items also appear. Sometimes the donor contacts the council office first, but others just arrive. A council staff member acknowledges receipt, then transfers it to the archives.

A few months back, I opened a large mailing envelope forwarded by staff and found several folded sheets of typewritten paper. A Post-It note was attached:

One of our leaders didn’t know what to do with these–found in her mother’s attic!

The obvious answer, of course, was to send it to the Girl Scouts.

The papers were folded around a smaller envelope, which I discovered contained photos. Specifically, 16 extremely well preserved photographs of the Norwegian Embassy event!!! The typed pages contained captions for each photo.

Nothing I’d found to date reflected the size of the event–over 400 girls attended!!

Here is a selection to enjoy:

Norwegian Ambassador Wilhelm Morgenstierne addresses the 400 girls present:

Many of the activities related to a service project helping a Norwegian Girl Guide troop that was meeting at a castle in Scotland. The Girl Scouts sent a scroll and gifts to the troop.

Sharing birthday cake with friends:

Talking to Princess Ragnhild and Prince Harald (on right, third photo)

Leaving the Embassy … with memories to tell their own children and grandchildren.

Atlantic Crossing omitted the Girl Scout birthday party at the Norwegian Embassy.

The donated photographs appear to have been professionally taken. A note on the page of captions says:

These are file pictures which could be used to help build up the feature. The Norwegian Embassy has cabled to see if they can get pictures of the troop there but don’t know when they can get the pictures or even if they have uniforms in war-weary Scotland.

The moral of this story? Don’t toss photos found in grandma’s attic!

(for the full story, see part 1 and part 2)

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Princess Martha visits the Little House

continued from part 1

In 1940, four members of the Norwegian royal family escaped German occupation of their homeland and took refuge in the United States: Crown Princess Martha and her children: Princess Astrid, Princess Ragnhild, and Prince Harald. The struggle to recapture Norway is chronicled in the current PBS miniseries Atlantic Crossing.

Only one year earlier, Martha and her husband, Crown Prince Olav, had toured the United States, crossing the country by train, from Boston to California and back to Washington DC. The royal couple captured many hearts across the country, as their public appearances provided a welcome diversion from the Great Depression.

Entire towns turned out to see the Norwegian royals, and the local hospitality included bands, flags, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and flocks of little girls in Norwegian national dress.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Crown Prince Olav, Sara Roosevelt, Crown Princess Martha, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, PBS

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt was particularly charmed by Martha. He hosted the royals at his Hyde Park home as well as the White House.

This remarkable friendship prompted FDR to have US forces spirit Princess Martha and her three children out of Scandinavia to safety in the United States. The four Norwegians initially stayed in New York but soon relocated to Washington DC.

To help her daughters make new friends, Princess Martha enrolled them in Girl Scouts.

She had learned about the Girl Scouts during her 1939 tour. Like many visiting dignitaries, Martha visited the Girl Scout Little House on June 30 and learned about the various programs offered to girls and adult volunteers.

two teenagers in Girl Scout dresses present woven towels to a royal woman in a floral dress and pearls
Princess Martha receives guest towels at Girl Scout Little House

As she prepared to depart from the Little House, she was given a pair of guest towels, hand-woven by members of Troop 22. Kari Galbe, daughter of a Norwegian diplomat, wore her Norwegian Girl Guide uniform for the occasion.

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Who’s That Princess? Martha of Norway, part 1

Have you seen Atlantic Crossing, the latest drama on PBS?

It tells the story of Crown Princess Martha of Norway and her family. When Germany invaded neutral Norway in April 1940, Martha and her three children were spirited out of Norway, first to Sweden, then to the United States. Her husband, Crown Prince Olav, took refuge in London.

a woman holds her son as he waves good bye to Norway and they begin their Atlantic Crossing
Prince Harald and Crown Princess Martha, Atlantic Crossing publicity

The royal couple had toured the United States in 1939, where President Franklin Roosevelt was immediately charmed by Martha. He welcomed the Princess and her children to Washington DC in August 1940, where they remained for the duration of the war. The four returned to Norway after VE Day, arriving June 7, 1945.

While in Washington, the Princess was active in charitable work, particularly the Red Cross relief effort.

But what would she do with with her children? As far as her two daughters, the answer was enroll them in the Girl Scouts!! (Alas, no Atlantic Crossing episode mentions this fact.)

Crown Princess Martha and the Norwegian diplomatic corps developed a deep connection with the Girl Scouts during the war years. Future posts will feature details of this relationship.

Martha and her children celebrated the 33rd birthday of Girl Scouts with a reception at the Norwegian embassy in March 1945. Even Crown Prince Olav attended, during one of his overseas visits.

A group of well dressed children and adults prepare to cut a birthday cake.
Girl Scout Birthday Reception at Norwegian Embassy

The photo shows the real-life counterparts of the cast of “Atlantic Crossing”:

In front: Princess Ragnhild (age 14), Prince Harald (8), Miss Chloe Anderson (11) of Chevy Chase, Maryland, and Miss Ellen MacEwen of Bethesda, Maryland.

In back: Madame Morgenstierne, Ambassador Wilhelm Morgenstierne of Norway, Crown Princess Martha, and Crown Prince Olav. Princess Astrid is not shown.

As part of the birthday celebrations, the Girl Scouts of Montgomery County, Maryland, on the border of Washington DC, and represented by Chloe and Ellen, declared that they would act as “special sisters” to the first Girl Scout troop to be reestablished in Norway after liberation.

Stay tuned…

(No, I haven’t found proof that Martha ever visited Rockwood, the national Girl Scout camp near Washington–but I’m working on it.)

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian