The 1960s began with a bang, as the Girl Scouts celebrated its 50th birthday in 1962.
One year later, the organization dramatically reimagined age levels, badges, and more. The Intermediate age level split into Juniors and Cadettes in 1963. Intermediate level badges were divided between the two groups, with green borders for Juniors and gold borders for Cadettes.
For the first time in history, new handbooks for all levels were released at the same time. The new books featured a consistent design and were small enough to comfortably fit in a girl’s hand. (A second new-handbooks-for-everyone release came in 2011 with the current Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting, which are the size of the average Daisy.)
Also in 1963, the small councils and Lone Troops in the greater Washington region combined to form the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital. The council grew again in 2006 and 2009, adding Frederick County, Maryland, and parts of West Virginia and western Maryland.
Travel opportunities flourished, as well. In 1968, GSUSA purchased 15,000 acres of rugged land in Wyoming to create the first Girl Scout National Center west of the Mississippi River. National Center West hosted thousands of girls for primitive camping, archaeology studies, and horseback opportunities until it closed in 1989.
The World Association for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts opened a fourth world center, Sangam, in Pune, India, in 1966. Traveling troops now had an Asian destination in addition to Our Chalet (Switzerland), Olave House (London), and Our Cabana (Mexico).
The 1969 National Council Session in Seattle, Washington, established the priorities for the 1970s. These included remaining a uniformed movement, creating a membership that reflected society, updating the Promise and Laws, and eliminating prejudice. The Council also approved an increase in annual membership dues, from $1 to $2.
Girl Scouts add a new color to their uniforms in October: pink for breast cancer awareness.
Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low died of breast cancer in 1927. She encouraged an active, healthy lifestyle for her girls, but the word “breast” was not used in those days. In fact, Low’s physicians likely never used the term “breast Cancer” even during treatment. Low herself carried on the business of Girl Scouts and hid her worsening health as much as possible.
Breast cancer remained a taboo topic of public conversation for another 50 years. In 1974, First Lady Betty Ford shared her diagnosis and subsequent mastectomy with newspapers and magazines across the United States.
Girl Scouts of the USA slowly began to include age-appropriate information about breast health in its programming.
The 1995 handbook for Senior Girl Scouts (then grades 9-12) discussed conditions that affect women. Anorexia, bulimia, PMS, osteoporosis, and breast cancer were included in a chapter on “Health and Well-Being–Inside and Out.”
The chapter included diagrams of how to conduct monthly self-exams. The companion Leader’s Guide explained that …
Teenage women are at a critical point in their lives, both physically and emotionally. As changes occur in their bodies they may have questions that are hard to answer and might be somewhat embarrassing to ask. … For example, some girls may be reluctant or shy about discussing breast self-examination. The information and illustrations in the handbook, however, may help them to overcome their inhibitions and to realize that this is a health concern all women have.
The Guide for Cadette and Senior Girl Scout Leaders, 1995, p. 42.
A new Women’s Health badge for Cadettes and Seniors followed in 1997. The requirements included breast cancer awareness and encouraged girls to explore the technology behind mammograms.
Some Girl Scouts wanted a badge entirely devoted to breast health. Councils heard the request. The Indian Hills (NY), San Jacinto (TX), and Arizona-Cactus Pine councils developed their own teen-level badges under the Council’s Own program. GSUSA responded with a new teen badge in 2006. “In the Pink” was based on these local programs.
(There is no officially approved versions of “In the Pink” for Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors.)
The North Carolina Coastal Pines Council sponsors many activities throughout Breast Cancer Awareness month. In 2018, these included:
Girls will engage in educational activities like bingo or inviting a doctor or nurse to speak to them about breast health. These activities are an engaging way to promote discussion among girls, allowing them to speak their mind and ask questions in a safe and supportive space. To further connect with the topic, girls can share what they learned with the women in their life, make crafts to display in the community to promote breast health, and interview a breast cancer survivor. After developing an understanding of the topic, girls will complete a Take Action project to benefit those with breast cancer. Examples of projects include creating mastectomy pillows to donate to a local hospital or creating chemo care kits for chemotherapy patients.
October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month. In 2012 my teen Girl Scout troop combined the two issues with an unusual service project–a bra drive.
They learned that bras are the most-requested clothing item at women’s shelters. Soma Intimates seeks to fill this need by encouraging donations of new and gently used bras. The girls decided this would be a perfect service project.
Reaching out to friends and female relatives, the troop collected 175 bras. When the troop delivered them to a local Soma store, the grateful staff explained the importance of appropriate undergarments for breast health and offered bra fittings. (Arranged in advance, interested girls wore tank tops.)
This contribution was just another way for Girl Scouts to support their community.
What issue topped the agenda of the 1969 National Council session?
Pants. The membership spoke, and they wanted uniforms with pants.
Responding to waves of requests from girls, GSUSA announced that it would remain a uniformed movement and update girl uniforms. The most requested item? Pants. Active girls—not to mention their mothers—did not want to sacrifice movement for modesty.
Designing uniforms is a multifaceted process. The overall design needs to be visually unifying and reflect contemporary fashion without falling for passing fads that will shorten their appeal. The cut must flatter a wide range of body types, the fabric needs to be suitable for multiple climates, and the color palette needs to enhance skin tones ranging from very fair to very dark. Decorations and trims are kept to a minimum, both to keep costs down as well as to not compete with official insignia.
First up was the smallest age group—Senior Girl Scouts. These high schoolers were still wearing the two-piece skirt suit introduced in 1960. Made out of a deep green sharkskin cotton fabric, the brightly colored uniform trim indicated the wearer’s area of concentration. Troops focused on International Friendship, for example, wore yellow ties and hat cords, Wing troops orange, and Homemaker troops turquoise. This iconic uniform, topped with an Overseas-style hat, was beloved by fans of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, but fell out of favor with the bell-bottom and suede fringe-wearing girls of the late 1960s. Girls had quickly nicknamed the suit the “Stewardess uniform,” but by now it was no longer a compliment. Besides, even the flight attendants had moved on to trendier styles. Seniors themselves had their own ideas about a uniform; they wanted pants—and mini-skirts, too.
After considering suggestions, designs, and even samples sent by girls, the National Equipment Service (NES) settled on two versions of a sleek step-in style A-line dress that buttoned up the front. For feedback, they took the uniform to the girls.
Manufacturers created samples in sizes 6 through 20 and shipped them to Rockwood National Camp and the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah. Visiting Seniors of all shapes and sizes tried on the samples and completed feedback cards. They had a definite preference for one version and one shade of green, but indicated that they wanted heavier fabric, a belt, and pants. Designers made more revisions and presented the result to the National Executive Committee for final approval. NES was still not convinced of the need for pants, but they conceded defeat on the matter.
Ultimately, the girls were rewarded with pants in the same green cotton poplin fabric, but the semi-flared legs hardly qualified as bell-bottoms. The ensemble included a soft beret made of the same fabric, a tab tie, and a formidable green leather belt that was 1.5” wide with adjustment holes running the entire length.
But the most notable feature was the dress’s hemline—or, rather, the lack of one. After endless debates among focus groups and survey responses, GSUSA gave up trying to settle on the appropriate length. The dress was sold unhemmed, with a hang-tag reading: “The Official GS Uniform with the Unofficial Hemline.” If girls wanted mini-skirted uniforms, Headquarters seemed to say, let parents deal with the matter. Many Senior Girl Scouts were accustomed to sewing their own clothes and turned the new dress into a short tunic to be worn over the new pants. Just how many ditched the pants once out their front door is unknown.
And to really be mod, GSUSA created a line of hippy, crunchy-granola inspired casual pieces at the same time. Can’t you just imagine Marcia Brady or Laurie Partridge in these funky frocks?
Nope, me either. And if you look closely at the 1973 image showing the new uniforms, that spiffy green cape is marked “SALE,” although it doesn’t come through well in the picture. Guess these duds were a dud.
The other age levels received new uniforms in 1973. Instead of a single dress, Brownies, Juniors, and Cadettes each had their choice of five or six mix-and-match pieces, that included jumpers, pants, shorts, cotton blouses, and hideous polyester double-knit turtleneck bodysuits that were hot, itchy, had a stiff plastic zipper that grabbed your hair, and featured a snap crotch that perpetually pinched your privates.
Catalog descriptions of the new clothing reflected the lingo of the time, emphasizing choice, individuality, and liberation:
New space-age materials meant less wrinkling and less ironing.
The new styles included several pieces for each age level, creating another point of consistency.
Each level had a tie that snapped together. No more arguments about how to tie a neckerchief or which way the ends should point. The polyester, turtleneck bodysuit was high fashion at the time, not to mention indestructible and UNCOMFORTABLE. Can clothing cause PTSD? Because if so, these bodysuits would have.
The new Cadette uniform included the very first vest, instead of a badge sash. They were made from dark green felt, and some people mistakenly think they were homemade.
This week a new collection of uniform pieces debuted. So far, they are targeted toward the older age levels.
Hopefully GSUSA will never repeat the snap-zip-bodysuit debacle of the 1970s.
One discussion at the October 2017 National Council Session acknowledged the severe lack of programs for older girls in grades 6-12.
That is old news for anyone who has led a teen troop in the past decade.
When new badges were introduced for all levels in late 2011, many teen girls (or at least those in my troop) were very disappointed. The new badges were divided by age level. Cadettes (grades 6-8) are diamond-shaped. Seniors (grades 9-10) are rectangular, while Ambassadors (11-12) are weird squares with clipped corners. Previously, the teen levels had shared the same recognitions, which was great for multi-level troops.
Ambassadors were especially disappointed. While Brownies, Juniors, and Seniors, each had 26 new badges, and Cadettes (the only three-year level) had 28, Ambassadors had a paltry 11. Officially, we were told that was because Ambassadors were more focused on their Gold Award than earning badges. Unofficially, I’m yet to find any Ambassador who agrees with that statement.
What were teen girls to do? The answer was visible all over the teen vests and sashes worn at the Columbus convention.
Many girls earn old badges. The rectangular badges, previously known as Interest Projects, were released in 1980. They were updated in a handbook issued in 1997, 20 years ago. Go back and re-read that sentence. Girl have resorted to earning badges issued before they were born. While some hold up well, others have hilariously outdated requirements:
Learn about the options for accessing the World Wide Web. Can you use a computer through your school, library, community center, or Girl Scout center? Is one available through a computer club business or nonprofit organization?
Exploring the Net
Many vests also are full of Council’s Own badges. These recognitions (my favorite) were developed by local councils to fill gaps in the national offerings. They were to have been discontinued in 2012.
Industrious leaders haunt eBay, Facebook, and other sites, where there literally is a black market (green market?) in discontinued badges.
I do NOT have any Council’s Owns for sale, but I do have a website that archives the images and requirements. Please assume that these badges are discontinued and do not call council shops asking about them. (I wish that instead of sending me snippy emails about people calling to purchase them, councils would take the hint and reissue them or create a similar patch program.)
Some troops make their own badges, once known as Troop’s Own, which used to be a first step in creating a Council’s Own. I created five programs for my troop and day camp units, but the patches are large and intended for the back of the vest.
Another option can be found on Facebook, where individuals and private groups such as “Artistry to Stitch About” have recreated some popular old Council’s Owns badges as well as writing some programs of their own. While the latter are made in the same shapes as official badges from GSUSA, technically they should be considered patches and go on the back of sashes and vests because they have not been approved by a council. However, that message doesn’t always reach the girl or parent doing the sewing.
Instead of launching into debates about official and unofficial, front or back, we should focus on the real issue: current badge offerings are insufficient. While the annual “girls’ choice” badges are a great idea, they have not satisfied leaders’ and girls’ appetites for badges.
Take a look at this vest I saw in Columbus. (I went through the Hall of Experiences asking girls if I could photograph their vests.) There are 32 badges total:
9 Interest Projects from the 1997-2011 series (retired)
14 Council’s Owns (retired)
5 Troop’s Owns
4 Artistry to Stitch About
That summarizes the situation about the number of badges available. Without sales figures, I cannot gauge popularity. But this informal survey certainly suggests that current offerings are inadequate. I’ve seen Brownies and Juniors with older badges, too, but nowhere near as many as teens.
It’s time to stop talking about the need for programs designed for older girls and start actually creating them.
Don’t even get me started on the merits of colorful, embroidered badges versus dull, soulless silk-screened badges. Gag, barf, spit.
It’s laundry day at the Robertson household. No, I’m not going to tackle that teeming basket of ironing, I’m going to look at Girl Scout laundry badges!
The first handbook, How Girls Can Help Their Country included the Laundress badge. Girls had to:
Know how to wash and iron a garment, clear starch, and how to do up a blouse.
Press a skirt and coat.
Know how to use soap and starch, how to soften hard water, and how to use a wringer.
After 1938, laundry-related skills were incorporated into other badges, such as Housekeeper. Intermediate Girl Scouts of the 1940s had to learn how to remove a variety of stains (milk, coffee, ink, rust, etc.) and :
Assist in a weekly laundering by gathering and assorting the clothes and linens, by washing and ironing some articles with your mother’s permission, and by assorting and putting away the clean laundry.
Since the 1980s, badges involving clothing have focused more on design and cost than care and cleaning.
One thing I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find in my Rockwood research is how nice campers managed to look, especially while touring Washington, DC. Whether in a tent or lodge, girls managed to keep their white uniform blouses clean and crisp.
Personally, I really like this laundry spoof badge I found on Etsy. Who knows what all those laundry symbols mean?
If anyone would like to do my ironing, I’ll gladly buy one for you!
The Nations Capital Archives & History Program Center has been open for six months now. We offer workshops to help girls earn their Girl Scout Way badges on the third Saturday and Sunday of each month. Registration is through the Council event calendar.
Girls watch “The Golden Eaglet,” learn the history of our council, and examine vintage uniforms and badges. They also do a scavenger hunt through the 1963 handbooks and try some activities from older badges.
One troop just sent me a delightful thank you note, and their leader included a few photos. Enjoy!
When is a badge not a badge? When it’s a Try-It, an IP, IPA, or IPP.
For decades, a Girl Scout badge was just a badge, but starting in 1980, GSUSA got creative…and confusing.
While Girl Scouts have always earned badges, from 1980 to 2011 the term “badge” was reserved for just the Junior program.
With the roll-out of the Worlds to Explore program in 1980, Cadettes and Seniors now earned rectangular Interest Project Patches (IPPs). The 1979 Let’s Make It Happen handbook had already given a preview of the IP program with 22 available. The 1983 Supplement to Let’s Make it Happen added 10 more IPs, followed by another 29 in the 1987 book, Cadette and Senior Interest Projects.
Worlds to Explore divided activities into five “worlds.” Badges and Interest Projects had colored borders indicating to which world they belonged: Purple: Arts, Yellow: Out of Doors, Blue: People, Orange: Today and Tomorrow; Red: Well-Being
Seventy-six Junior badges in the Worlds format were introduced in the 1980 book, Girl Scout Badges and Signs. Aside from the much more colorful images and edges, many of the designs were familiar, little changed from the Junior badges introduced in 1963. Some Junior badges had tan backgrounds; these were more “advanced” and could be earned by younger Cadettes. Nine group-oriented badges were included in the 1986 Junior Girl Scout Handbook; known as “handbook badges,” these had dark blue borders and white backgrounds.
Juniors, Cadettes, and Seniors had the option to earn a “Dabbler” badge in each world that sampled activities from several awards in that category. These Dabbler badges/IPs featured the logo of each world. A Brownie preparing to bridge to Juniors could also work toward a Dabbler badge.
Try-Its, the first national program for Brownies, were introduced in 1986. Each Try-It had six activities; girls had to “try” at least four of them to earn the recognition. The program was an immediate hit and quickly grew beyond the original 15. The first Try-Its were part of the Worlds to Explore era and had colored borders, but they did not have Dabblers.
As the Worlds to Explore program phased out in the late 1990s, IPs became formally Interest Project Awards (IPAs) but the old abbreviation stuck. IPs switched to royal blue borders in the 1997 Interest Projects for Girls 11-17. Some old IPs were given new names or revised designs at the time, while 38 new IPs were added and the Dabblers dropped.
Juniors badges were also updated as the Worlds came to an end (that sounds rather dire, doesn’t it?). As inventory dwindled, badges were produced with dark green borders. Sometimes you can find Junior Dabbler badges with green borders:
Try-Its switched to brown borders in 1999.
In a moment of apparent insanity, GSUSA introduced a whole new program for Cadettes and Seniors in 2002. With Studio 2B, badges were out and girls earned charms for bracelets. That whole story will have to wait for another post.
With the new Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE) format introduced in 2011, the “Interest Project” name was retired in favor of “badges.” New badge shapes were introduced for Cadettes (diamonds), Seniors (rectangles), and Ambassadors (clipped squares.) The “Try-It” name was also retired. Brownies still earned triangle-shaped recognitions, but now they are known as “badges.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In September 1963, Girl Scouts changed from a three-level program to a four-level structure. The Intermediate program was divided into Juniors (grades 4–6) and Cadettes (grades 7–9). The restructuring was accompanied by the release of new handbooks for each level, as well as new badges, uniforms, and awards.
The Nation’s Capital Archives and History Committee has created a new exhibit to mark the 50th anniversary of that exciting program. Items are on display in the lobby of the Council headquarters at 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW. How many items do you recognize?
The handbooks, badges, and awards combined to create a framework of progression. One program, built on one foundation, would be adapted to four ages levels.
That foundation contained six basic elements, which are still followed 50 years later:
Dedication to the Promise and Laws,
Commitment to service,
Belief in girl-leader planning through the patrol system,
That recent “lot of assorted Cadette badges” that I bought on eBay contained both a Metal Arts and a Graphic Arts, the two least popular badges from 1963 to 1980.
These gold-edged badges debuted in 1963, when the Intermediate level was split in Juniors and Cadettes. They originally sold for 30 cents each; I paid about 77 cents each for this lot, not bad at all.
According to the Degenhardt and Kirsch Girl Scout Collector’s Guide (2nd ed.), only 56,270 Metal Arts and 70,205 Graphic Arts were sold. Those figures are pretty paltry, considering that Social Dancer sold over 1 million, followed closely by 876,644 First Aid.
With a snow storm predicted and cabin fever setting in early, I took a closer look at the numbers for the Cadette series.
The five most popular were:
and the five least popular were:
Then I took the plunge and entered all of this series into Excel and came up with a spiffy chart ranking all of the Cadette badges:
I only earned six of these myself (Conservation, Clerk, Sports, Stamp Collector, Photography, and First Aid to Animals), as the World to Explore program began when I was a Cadette.
Some of them, like Stamp Collector, seem rather quaint now, but others taught skills that are still valuable today. First Aid to Animals has some connection to the new Animal Helpers. Night Owl shows the Intermediate version of the Star badge, while Book Artist references Clerk.
I like how many of the new badge packets have “More to Explore” or “Page from the Past” sidebars that show links to older badges, but I wish more of the old designs had been retained. Girls always get excited when they find one of “their” badges on their mother’s — or grandmother’s — old sash.