Who’s That Girl Scout? Abbie Higgins

What is a girl to do upon graduation? What future awaits? Leave it to the Girl Scouts to provide an answer. Consider a future with the Girl Scouts. Follow the same career path as Abbie Higgins–Young Group Work Executive.

Abbie Higgins Cover cropped
Abbie Higgins Cover

Miss Higgins is the heroine of Abbie Higgins: Young Group Work Executive, a novel published by the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1950. I found a reprint online and enjoyed reading it, although the ending was rather predictable.

Abbie is an ordinary American co-ed trying to figure out her future. Her prospects look slim, possibly because she attended the lesser known State U. (Sounds suspicious to me, perhaps a new type of front for organized crime.)

During her sophomore year, Abbie takes a part-time job at Swift House, a settlement house near campus. The job comes with housing, and Abbie is soon drawn into the range of community activities that happen around her. One of her first tasks is starting a Girl Scout troop.

As graduation approaches, she takes a job in a successful clothing boutique, but finds she misses solving day-to-day community problem. She has an epiphany while working at a resident Girl Scout camp one summer. Abbie is going to become a professional Girl Scout.

Not Just Handbooks

The Abbie Higgins novel was part of a series of Girl Scout-themed fiction that first appeared in 1918. These books were very popular in the 1920s-1930s and followed the adventure series format of Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys. Like those two collections, one author might write five or six novels under their own name–then several more under one or more pen names. Mildred Wirt, for example, wrote many volumes of Girl Scout fiction and, under the pen name Carolyn Keene, 23 of the first Nancy Drew books.

Portrait of woman in Girl Scout hat and Mainbocher uniform
Constance Rittenhouse (Leader December 1950)

Abbie Higgins is different, aimed at an older audience. It was part of a national campaign to encourage young women to consider becoming professional Girl Scouts. The primary author, Constance Rittenhouse, was GSUSA Executive Director from 1935 to 1950. Coauthor Iris Vinton was already well-known for writing a series of juvenile historical fiction as well as several Nancy Drew volumes.

Girl Scout Careers

GSUSA also published several pamphlets about “Jobs with a Future” that described the ideal candidate and benefits of paid Girl Scout work.

The 1940s edition asks:

The pamphlets emphasized that Girl Scout careers were not just for unmarried women.

At the same time, GSUSA turned attention to another untapped labor market–experienced leaders whose troops had graduated. These new hires were already deeply familiar with the Girl Scout program and would onboard quickly. (Not that anyone used the term “onboard” in the 1950s.)

Jobs Aprl 1958
Leader Magazine April 1958

At the time, GSUSA encouraged the hiring of such “interrupted-career women,” and offered special training programs for them. Experience “wearing the green” was considered an asset.

But hiring good people is not the problem–retention is.

© 2023 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, Girl Scout historian

New Year Greetings!

Girl Scout National President, poet, and suffragist Birdsall Otis Edey penned the following message to Girl Scouts for 1925:

Leader Magazine (January 1925): 1

Mrs. Edey (and was there EVER a better name than “Birdsall Otis Edey”) is referring to the Girl Scout headquarters at 670 Lexington Avenue in New York City. Funds for the building came in part from the “buy-a-brick” campaign associated with “Dorothy,” the yellow brick girl.

Birdsall Otis Edey at a Girl Scout Rally in Central Park, 1920 (GSUSA NHPC)

A future post will profile the marvelous Mrs. Edey.

Happy New Year from the Girl Scout History Project!!

Two girls hang a wooden sign outside a building
Girls hang a sign at Weston Lodge