Much has been written about the legacy of former First Lady Barbara Bush, who passed away on Tuesday, April 17, at age 92. Commentators have noted her unusual position as a wife of one president and the mother of another; many tributes have also mentioned her extensive commitment to literacy promotion.
While in the White House, first ladies are also invited to be honorary president of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Mrs. Bush accepted eagerly and was active in many Girl Scout events. She even attended the 1990 National Council Session in Miami to draw attention to the Girl Scout Right to Read program.
As her neighbor, not just in the White House but also at the Vice Presidential Residence, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital had many opportunities to see and interact with her.
She spoke at the GSUSA 80th birthday celebration on March 12, 1992, held at the US Department of Agriculture atrium. Mrs. Bush helped launch a new national service project that day, “Girl Scouts Care for the Earth.”
An official photograph of the event appeared in the Summer 1992 Leader magazine:
But our council archives have several behind-the-scenes photos from that day. It is delightful to see Mrs. Bush and her friendly, unhurried interaction with a group of very nervous Girl Scouts.
barbara bush 2
barbara bush 1
barbara bush 3
The photograph below is my favorite. I went back to the original to see if there was any additional information, such as the girl’s name and what she is giving to Mrs. Bush. Could that be a sparkly yellow pom-pom SWAP? She seems fascinated by it!
We are fortunate that this busy first lady always made time for the Girl Scouts.
But that disappointment was short-lived. Shortly after the elusive eBay auction ended, a new donation arrived in the mail. The enclosed letter from a local estate attorney explained that her client, Betty Chapman, had left behind a scrapbook that she had compiled as a Washington, DC, Girl Scout in the late 1920s. As Chapman had no immediate family, the attorney thought we might like it.
The package contained a three-ring school notebook, with newspaper clippings and other papers pasted on lined notebook paper.
The first clipping, on the first page, I immediately recognized:
This round-faced girl, with the slightly mischevous grin, is Elizabeth Kahler, one of Washington’s first Golden Eaglets. She appears in many of our early photos, including this one of the 1927 White House Easter Egg Roll.
Elizabeth has the same photo in her scrapbook, along with an autograph from the first lady. You can still see the creases from Elizabeth putting it in her uniform pocket for safekeeping.
The book is stuffed with more clippings, invitations, letters, and badge records.
But perhaps the biggest find is nine issues of the Girl Scout Bugle — a publication that I did not even know existed!
These four-page publications from 1927 and 1928 were part of a journalism training program. The first issue explains its purpose. I don’t know how long the program continued.
Stuffed in the envelope with the Girl Scout materials are other mementos of Elizabeth’s life, such as the programs from her college graduation. She attended the George Washington University, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees before graduating from medical school, with distinction, in 1940.
Elizabeth married fellow physician Ervin Chapman and maintained a medical practice in Washington, DC. She passed away in 2007.
I guess those Red Cross courses made a significant impression on Miss Kahler.
You might assume that the Girl Scout Council of Washington, DC, began with a formal meeting of prominent women concerned with youth issues. Perhaps Juliette Gordon Low trotted across Pennsylvania Avenue from her office to meet with the first lady at the White House.
But in reality, the Washington Council was the product of an auto accident, a case of appendicitis, and a brief kidnapping.
But when JGL moved the headquarters to New York City in 1916, Washington Girl Scouts had to take charge of their own affairs. With more than 50 active troops, it was time to get their files in order and apply for a charter.
The first question was who would be the commissioner (president) of the DC Girl Scouts. The obvious choice was Lou Henry Hoover, an old friend of Daisy’s, but she was too busy for the amount of work necessary to seek a charter. After thinking about civic-minded women in Washington, she came upon the solution by accident–literally.
In 1916, Mrs. Hoover had been in a fender bender with Henrietta Bates Brooke. Mrs. Brooke was well known in Washington for her various charitable endeavors. She had met JGL years earlier in Savannah and seemed ideal. Mrs. Hoover called on Mrs. Brooke, only to find her confined to her bed with a severe attack of appendicitis.
Being in no physical condition to deny any request, [Mrs. Hoover] quickly persuaded me to build a council, so when I got well, I had that to do.
—Memoirs of Henrietta Bates Brooke
Mrs. Brooke turned to her friend Edith Macy, the head of the New York council, for advice. They decided to invite a group of like-minded women to tea at Mrs. Macy’s apartment in Washington’s Dupont Circle neighborhood. As an added incentive, they promised a viewing of Mrs. Macy’s art collection.
This was a plum invitation. Mrs. Macy lived in the newly built McCormick Apartments at 1785 Massachusetts Avenue NW. The luxury Beaux Arts building had five stories and only six enormous apartments.
Edna Coleman, director of Girl Scouts in Washington, invited Mrs. Hoover to attend the tea, but, unfortunately, the future first lady was traveling at the time. That invitation is preserved at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.
coleman to hoover page 1
coleman to hoover page 2
coleman to hoover page 3
In any case, there was a huge turnout for the Thursday afternoon tea. About one dozen women admired the paintings, nibbled on cookies, and exchanged pleasantries.
After tea was served, I simply locked the doors. Learning that they would only be permitted to depart after accepting places on the Washington Girl Scout Council, they all accepted and always stayed in scouting.
—Memoirs of Henrietta Bates Brooke
On July 17, 1917, the Girl Scout Association of the District of Columbia became the eighth council chartered by the national headquarters.
From these humble and haphazard beginnings, the Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia has grown in include parts of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. One hundred years later, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital is the largest council in the United States, with over 87,000 members.
Wednesday began as an ordinary work day at the Nation’s Capital Archives and History Program Center in Frederick, Maryland.
While chatting over recent trips and eclipse plans, committee members worked to update the badge and patch collection and to continue processing the extensive donation of vintage Girl Scout and Girl Guide uniforms that we received in April. (With over 100 uniforms, it is a long, but fascinating task.)
We focused on one of the vintage suitcases that came with the collection. (Even the suitcases are in pristine shape.) There were about a dozen bags to go through.
First, we found the tiniest khaki uniform I’ve ever seen. Skirt, jacket, even the bloomers were included. It appears home-made.
Then I heard someone yell, “Look at the badges!” One sleeve of the uniform was covered with an impressive, colorful record of hard work.
Yes, those are seven White Felt badges–the rarest of rare Girl Scout badges, available only from 1913 to 1918. The seven new White Felts bring our total number to — 10!
But when we turned the jacket over, we got an even bigger surprise:
According to a tattered paper in the suitcase, the uniform belonged to Minnie Hill.
Of course, this called for more research.
The included paper had three typed paragraphs, two faded newspaper clippings, and one ripped photo. They reported that Minnie Hill attended Central High School in Washington, DC, and was a Girl Scout in Troop 9 from 1917 to 1919.
She received her First Class badge from Mrs. Woodrow Wilson at a White House ceremony 100 years ago — on June 21, 1917.
Two years later she was back at the White House, this time to receive her Golden Eaglet from Queen Elizabeth of Belgium on October 31, 1919. The Queen, her husband, and their son were touring the United States at the time, and her participation in the ceremony had a special significance for Minnie, as Troop 9 had practiced their sewing and knitting skills by making layette sets for newborns in Belgium.
A Washington Times article about the 1919 ceremony noted that Minnie had earned 19 badges; all of which are still on her uniform sleeve.
In between those awards, Minnie was recognized for selling Liberty Bonds during World War I. The Washington Post reported that she had sold eleven war bonds for a total of $900. In addition to a medal, high sellers usually were honored with a parade. Alas, the 1918 parade was canceled due to the Spanish flu outbreak.
Sadly, our photo of Minnie is torn, crumbling, and not terribly useful. Attempts to repair it have done more harm than good:
I searched the electronic archives of three different Washington newspapers, but did not find the photo.
Then I had another idea. That ceremony in 1917 was well documented. In fact, it was the ceremony where two Washington scouts, Eleanor Putzki and Ruth Colman received their Golden Eagles of Merit. Could Minnie be in one of those photos?
Here is the group shot from after the Court of Awards:
Take a closer look at the young lady on the back row, far left. I think that is Minnie Hill.
Girl Scout summer camps are in full swing by mid-July, and even in the digital age girls are encouraged to write letters home. A few lucky girls may even be asked to write about their experiences for local newspapers.
I thought I would share a few from our archives. This report appeared in the Washington Post, September 14, 1930, and I’ve added some photos from various scrapbooks.
My Summer at Camp
by Helen Sheets (age 13)
1831 Lamont Street NW
This summer I went to Camp May Flather for a month. It is a Girl Scout camp near Stokesville Va on the North River. We lived in log cabins that faced the river, and ate in one big mess hall. Our camp uniform was a green suit of middy and shorts.
There were two different classes going on in the morning and two in the afternoon, and we could pick one in the morning and one in the afternoon to go to, like: campcraft, handcraft, weaving, or some others.
In swimming we were divided into three groups beginners, intermediates, and· advanced and we all went swimming in one pool but at different times.
We had horses up there three days a week that we could ride if we wanted to. I went with a group of girls up to Pioneer Camp for three days where only the girls that have passed all their camp craft tests can go We got red ties as a kind of badge to show that we had been up there.
I went with a group of girls up to Pioneer Camp for three days where only the girls that have passed all their campcraft tests can go. We got red ties as a kind of badge to show that we had been up there.
The big event of the season was the dedication ceremonies. Mrs. Hoover, Mrs. Flather and some other important people came up and we had a program in their honor. Mrs. Hoover also dedicated a bridge that she had given to the camp.
We also had a water carnival, a wedding between the old and new campers and lots of other things.
Camp was not all play though, we had to do kitchen duty about once a week and dishes about twice a week. We also had our cabins inspected every morning and they had to be just right.
We got in lots of mischief too, like powder fights, mud fights, midnight feasts, and sliding down a mountain on a clean pair of pants, and lots of other things.
In all I had a wonderful time in spite of all the scrapes I got into.
In 1928, their duties were spelled out in a letter from Captain (leader) Adah Bagby. Three years earlier, Grace Coolidge had replaced White House police officers with Girl Scouts and assigned them to locate “lost parents.”
Also in 1928, Mrs. Coolidge noticed the rose troop crest on the girls’ uniform and gave each girl a rose from the Rose Garden.
The Girl Scouts performed a May Pole dance during the 1929 Easter Egg Roll, much to the delight of First Lady Lou Henry Hoover.
The dancing Girl Scouts must have been a hit. They performed a square dance during the rainy 1931 event.
In recent decades, Girl Scouts have returned to their child-wrangling role.
Has your troop ever worked at the Easter Egg Roll? We need some newer photos!
I have had the good fortune to make two trips to the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah in the past month. In between, I decided to learn more about the history of the building. How did it become a Girl Scout National Center?
Girl Scouts of the USA, the national organization, purchased the home from the Gordon family in 1953. The Birthplace became the third national Girl Scout center, joining Camp Edith Macy in New York and Rockwood outside of Washington, DC. The Savannah home would become
a unique center for Girl Scouting in this country — a place where ideas for new troop activities can be tried out, where there will be records of the past and plans for the future of Girl Scouting where girls from all over the world may come together to find friendship and inspiration.
–Lilly Macintosh, chair of Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace Committee in 1954
The GSUSA Board of Directors advanced the purchase price ($500,000), intending to launch a national fundraising campaign to pay for the building and its renovation.
Girls were asked to contribute pennies equal to the cost of an ice cream cone.
However, the campaign did not go as smoothly as hoped. Only $88,450 had been raised by late 1954; $100,000 was needed before restoration could begin.
To date, contributions to the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace fund have been very slow. As a report will be made at the regional conference of Girl Scouts in October, it is asked that any adult or troop wishing to make a contribution to this fund do so as soon as possible.
Other indications of trouble were sprinkled throughout local news columns on Girl Scout activities, such as “the local quota of $105 for the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace restoration” and “each troop be contacted and made acquainted with the plan of contributing one dollar or more for restoration.”
If the Girl Scouts were to meet their target grand opening in 1956, they needed a new strategy. So they turned to a time-tested fundraiser: baked goods.
One year earlier, Helen Duprey Bullock, of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, had begun adapting “classic” cake recipes for Dromedary Heritage Series cake mixes. Not only were the recipes based on family traditions from historic American homes, but a portion of the profits went to restore the related home. Dromedary was a division of the National Biscuit Company
The company’s first mix, First Lady Martha Washington’s “Great Cake,” was a flop (perhaps because it required 40 eggs), but her gingerbread recipe was a hit.
Soon Bullock created mixes for James Monroe’s white cake,Thomas Jefferson’s pound cake, Mary Todd Lincoln’s yellow cake, and Theodore Roosevelt’s devil’s food cake, among others.
For Juliette Gordon Low, she created an angel food cake mix. Thankfully, the required 13 egg whites came with the mix.
The result, according to advertisements, was
Angel Food light as a moonbeam, fluffy as a summer cloud, white and moist as a fresh snowfall. And with a delicate crust and flavor all its own.
Dromedary kicked off the deal with a $500 token payment. Going forward, the company would pay royalties of three-fourths of one cent per case of angel food cake mix. They anticipated selling six million cases per year and pledged an advertising campaign worth $1 million.
I haven’t found the total amount raised, but the cake mix strategy was evidently a recipe for success. The beautifully restored Birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low re-opened in 1956.
Hooray to our confident young women who braved the insults and haters and stood tall and proud yesterday during the 2017 Inaugural Parade.
The issue of whether or not the Girl Scouts should have participated in the events surrounding the swearing-in of a new president generated considerable discussion.
Some commentators dismissed the uproar as the work of “childish feminists.” (Their argument might have been more convincing if they used our real name, Girl Scouts of the USA, not Girl Scouts of America.)
Today GSUSA, the national headquarters, released their own follow-up statement, which reads in part:
Being a leader means having a seat at the leadership table no matter what. It means being willing to work with whomever happens to hold political power. It means not running from the face of adversity but, rather, standing tall and proud and announcing to the world and the powers that be that SHE is a force to be reckoned with—and that girls’ viewpoints and needs must be taken seriously. This is what we model at Girl Scouts, as to do otherwise would be to tell girls to sit down and be quiet—and that they don’t count.
Now there is a movement afoot to not ask Melania Trump to serve as honorary president of the Girl Scouts, another 100-year old tradition dating back to Edith Wilson. (Edith was Woodrow Wilson’s second wife and second First Lady; his first wife, Ellen had declined the invitation and then promptly died.)
Again, I disagree. We are non-partisan, we can’t pick and choose who we’ll take and who we want. That’s the first lesson in troop management. Would we reject the Trump granddaughters if they wanted to join?
In fact, I hope Mrs. Trump becomes deeply involved in Girl Scouting. It would be an excellent way for her to be a voice for women in the United States, a voice that quite literally has the president’s ear.
So, Mrs. Trump, after you drop your son at school Monday, why don’t you take a stroll down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. GSUSA headquarters is only a few blocks south of Trump Tower. You can pick up your membership pin and a beautiful official scarf in the GS Shop—and we’ll help you to begin learning what it means to be strong, confident, and independent.
Girl Scouts is a non-partisan organization that promotes patriotism and citizenship education. While we cannot appear in uniform at partisan events or endorse candidates, we absolutely encourage girls and their parents to take an active part in election campaigns.
When Girl Scouting was founded in 1912, women in the United States did not even have the right to vote. Many of the early Girl Scout leaders were active in the suffrage movement, including Mary Rafter, leader of the first troop established in Washington, DC, in December 1913.
The 19th Amendmentgave women the right to vote, and Girl Scouts stationed themselves outside polling places to watch children while their mothers cast their first ballots.
Over the years, the Girl Scout program has offered many proficiency badges that promote citizenship, as well as patch programs to learn more about the election process.
s l225 1
behind the ballot
ms president patch
Perhaps that emphasis has contributed to the impressive number of former Girl Scouts involved in governance today. Former Attorney General Janet Reno,who passed away yesterday, was a lifetime Girl Scout.
Whatever happens in this election, the Girl Scouts will have a friend in the White House. Every First Lady since Edith Wilson has been honorary national president of the Girl Scouts of the USA.
First Lady Florence Harding (1921-1924) was a huge fan of the movement, telling visitors, “What I wish is that I were your age and could start life over again as a Girl Scout.”
Before Girl Scout cookie sales began nation-wide, local Girl Scouts raised money by selling waffles.
The Girl Scouts of Washington DC eagerly joined the tea room fad that swept the United States in the 1920s. The girls operated not one, but two popular eateries in the nation’s capital.
Willow Point/Hains Point
In 1919 the Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia were allowed to open a “tea and refreshment” stand in East Potomac Park. A paved road, known as the “Speedway,” circled the perimeter of Hains Point, making the park a popular spot for leisurely summer drives. The Willow Point tea house began in an old street car under a large willow tree, with tables on the lawn. Many Washingtonians enjoyed the cool breeze from the waterfront while sipping a glass of cold ginger ale.
The Willow Point tea house was a such huge success that in 1922 the Office of Public Buildings and Public Grounds asked Congress for permission to build a larger shelter complete with a “comfort station.” The request was approved, and in September 1924 the Girl Scouts moved into their new facility, known as the Hains Point Tea House. The classical white pavilion housed a restaurant, snack bar, and restrooms.
President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding and, later, President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge were regular customers at the Willow Point tea house. President Harding (1921-23) was quite the waffle aficionado, and he usually ordered the breakfast dish at every opportunity. With his endorsement, the Girl Scouts became famous for their tea house waffles. (Although they served them with butter and syrup, not the president’s preferred topping: chipped beef gravy. Ewwwwww)
In fact, as the White House Waffle Maker, Florence Harding’s waffle recipe was widely published in 1920. It featured many ingredients that had been rationed during World War I and was part of a national campaign of “Back to Normalcy.”
Florence Harding’s Waffle Recipe
2 tbls. sugar.
2 tbls. butter.
1 teaspoon salt.
1 pt. milk.
Flour to make thin batter. (I used about 2 cups flour)
2 large teaspoons baking powder
Separate the eggs
Beat yolks and add sugar and salt
Melt butter then add milk and flour and stir to combine.
Beat egg whites until stiff (but not dry) peaks form
Stir one spoonful of whites into the mixture to lighten and then fold remainder of egg whites and baking powder
Bake in a hot waffle iron.
(Atlanta Woman’s Club Cookbook, 1921)
Congress restructured park management in 1925, and took over the tea house on January 1, 1926. The Parks Service operated the restaurant until 1962, when it became a visitor’s center, and it was later used as office space. The building suffered from frequent flooding and was razed in 1987.
The second Girl Scout tea house proved more enduring, and the proprietors knew exactly what menu item to feature:
On November 16, 1921, the Girl Scouts of Washington DC opened a tea house at Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park.
The mill had housed a restaurant before, but the Girl Scouts redecorated it with pale yellow walls, blue tables and chairs, yellow curtains trimmed with blue fringe, and yellow and blue candles on each table. Menu favorites included coffee, muffins with marmalade, waffles with maple syrup, and gingerbread. Though not a financial success, the Council used Peirce Mill for meetings and training sessions for years to come.
Peirce Mill still stands (2401 Tilden St. NW) and even without a restaurant, it remains a popular stop for hikers, bicyclers, and my own Girl Scout troop. It is about a mile from the Nation’s Capital headquarters at 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW.
Girl Scout Cookie Waffles
For a “traditional” Girl Scout breakfast, try making waffles with Girl Scout cookies!
And for those amazing Samoa waffles in the first photo, visit the Domestic Fits blogto get the recipe.