Tradition holds that the president-elect spends the night before his inauguration at Blair House, the “President’s Guest House” at 1651 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
But what do you know about the Blairs? The family produced several prominent American statesmen—and one very spunky Girl Scout leader, Edith Blair Staton.
Edith’s grandfather, Montgomery Blair (1813-1883), studied law at my alma mater, Transylvania University in Lexington, KY, and his most famous client was the fugitive slave Dred Scott. Blair moved to Washington in 1852 and became Lincoln’s Postmaster General in 1861.
The family’s “country house,” Falkland, was the earliest residence in Silver Spring, Maryland. Today, Montgomery Blair is the namesake of one of the largest high schools in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Edith arrived at Blair House on September 6, 1896, and was the last baby born at the residence. She married a young naval officer, Adolphus Staton, on July 28, 1917.
(Edith Blair Staton, 1916 passport photo)
While her husband was at sea, the young bride took the helm of a Girl Scout troop. When the girls were preparing for their first camping trip and realized they had no bedrolls or other equipment, Edith went to her hope chest, stored in her attic of her parents’ home, and took her brand new wedding linen into the woods!
Edith threw herself into Girl Scouting and met founder Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah in 1922, where Daisy taught her how to stand on her head.
When Girl Scout leaders decided to adapt the British Brownie program for younger girls in the United States, Edith was recruited to help launch the program. She organized the first Brownie “Pow-Wow” for prospective leaders in November 1922. She had the perfect venue for a large meeting–Manor Country Club. Her uncle’s club was about to open and the meeting offered a good dress rehearsal opportunity for the staff.
Top: Brownie membership pin (1920s-1930s)
Left: Great Brown Owl (leader, 1930s)
Right: Tawny Owl (assistant leader, 1930s)
Edith Blair Staton thus became the first Great Brown Owl, the main Brownie leader for the United States.
Edith remained active in Girl Scouting for most of her adult life. She was a member of the advisory committee for the Rockwood National Campand served as president of the District of Columbia council.
Edith passed away in 2001, at the age of 104. She is buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to her husband, Admiral Staton.
The first Girl Scout troops were often an unusual combination of social classes.
The women who organized troops in a city could be described as “clubwomen.” They were upper-class matrons interested in social causes that could improve their communities.
Their backgrounds resembled that of Juliette Gordon Low, who brought Girl Scouting to the United States. To grow the movement, JGL reached out to her friends and boarding school chums and prodded them to start troops in their communities.
These women handled the administrative and financial needs, but many considered themselves too old to lead a troop. Instead, they turned to their daughters: young women who had recently `graduated from college and sought meaningful work, at least until they married. Their participation also gave the new movement a stamp of respectability that would help recruit more members.
Daughters were also nearer the age of the girls, who mostly were teenagers in the early years.
Troop captains (as leaders were originally called) had to be at least 21 years old and a 1921 survey found that most were under 25 years old.
Martha Bowers exemplified the use of Girl Scouting to bridge extreme economic and social divides in Washington, DC.
Martha, age 25, was the daughter of Lloyd Bowers, the former U.S. solicitor general. She had attended the Rosemary Hall School in Connecticut, studied at Bryn Mawr and the Sorbonne, and made her society debut in the 1909-1910 season.
The sudden death of her father in late 1910 left her extremely wealthy.
Martha’s travels, wardrobe and activities were avidly followed in leading newspapers.
In 1914, when the GS national headquarters was in Washington, DC., JGL appointed ten prominent women, including Martha, to a new Advisory Board.
Martha was also instructed to form a troop at Noel Settlement House, which provided community and recreational services to some of Washington’s poorest residents. The staff was particularly proud of their dance program.
The object of this social organization is to keep the boys and girls away from the vicious dance halls, of which there are many in the northeast, and to keep them off the streets.
Washington Herald (December 17, 1911).
Located at 1243 H Street NE, Noel House already had several Boy Scout troops. Those had been organized by Mrs. Richard Wainwright, who chaired the new Girl Scout Advisory Board.
Troop 4, “White Rose” was very active, participating in several city events that spring and summer. They held a May Festival at Rosedale park, dancing in simple white dresses and carrying garlands of pink roses.
But the most exciting thing to happen to Troop 4 was the marriage of their leader to Robert Taft, son of President William Howard Taft. She was part of a group of wealthy young women who were all marrying around the same time.
The October 14, 1914, ceremony took place at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House. It was undoubtedly a highlight of the 1914 social season.
Observers were especially anxious to see her dress.
The girls of Troop 4 were also invited to the wedding. Eight of them sat in the balcony, beaming in their crisp khaki uniforms.
Forty years later, one of those girls sent a letter to the local Girl Scouts, still vividly remembering the wedding and the troop’s excitement.
Martha stayed active in local Girl Scouting, but not as a troop leader. She explained the value of Girl Scouting in a 1918 issue of The Rally, an early GS magazine:
Martha and her husband divided their time between Washington and Cincinnati, as her husband was elected a US Senator and, later, governor of Ohio. They had four sons, but she never lost her love for Girl Scouts, evidently.
As a child, her namesake granddaughter was known to introduce herself as follows:
My name is Martha Bowers Taft. My great-grandfather was President of the United States, my grandfather was a United States Senator, my daddy is Ambassador to Ireland, and I am a Brownie.
Please, never, ever, say “Girl Scouts of America” in front of me. Just don’t.
Why? BECAUSE IT IS WRONG. It falls on my editor-ears like nails on a blackboard.
I am a proud, lifetime member of theGirl Scouts of the USA, not some rogue “Girl Scouts of America” group. If you want to be ultra correct, it is Girl Scouts of the United States of America. That is the name printed on our Congressional Charter.
Prior to that document, the formal name was “Girl Scouts, Inc.” That name was used when the movement incorporated in Washington, DC, in 1915. That’s how it appeared on early versions of the Girl Scout Constitution and By-Laws. That’s how it appeared on letterhead.
Actually some letterhead from the 1940s uses “GSUSA.” Perhaps that was purchased in advance of the charter announcement?
Please, be accurate. You’d get testy too if someone constantly got your name wrong.
But there’s another, even more important reason. There really was an actual “Girl Scouts of America.”
Journalist Clara Lisetor-Lane insisted that she had created the “Girl Scouts of America” in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1910; two years before Juliette Gordon Low’s first troop in Savannah.
Lisetor-Lane seemed to prefer working on publicity rather than recruitment. Newspapers of the era report her arrival in towns to organize troops, but no membership numbers were given.
Her program would encourage housekeeping and the outdoors. But some behavior was decidedly not for her Girl Scouts:
In June 1911, her Girl Scouts of America, a few self-described “Girl Guides” and the Camp Fire Girls merged to become “Girl Pioneers of America.” The thoroughness of that merger is unclear; reports of the component organizations continued into 1912.
Lisetor-Lane eventually took up other causes. She founded “Crusaders for Decency,” group that promoted “clean literature and films.”
But she never renounced her claim to starting the Girl Scouts.
Lisetor-Lane even crashed the 1924 Girl Scout national convention and challenged Low to met with her. (She didn’t.)
Lisetor-Lane went to her grave in 1960 insisting that Juliette Gordon Low had stolen her idea.
When the Girl Scouts of the USA celebrated its 50th birthday in 1962, the story of Clara Lisetor-Lane was revived in her home town. A few former members came forward and a Des Moines Register article was picked up by other newspapers.
Although Clara certainly would have been pleased by the renewed interest in her organization, I can only imagine her horror if she had seen how it appeared in the Moline, IL, Dispatch.
Usually we have to come up with ideas for our vintage exhibits at the Nation’s Capital Council headquarters. But sometimes we get lucky, and a display comes together on its own.
That’s what happened last fall when we received a donation of Girl Scout dolls. People often contact us saying that they or a friend has some items they’ve held onto to for years, would we like them.
Of course, the answer is yes!
And when we had such a query about dolls, we said yes and suggested the donor drop them at a council field office. They would make their way to the archives eventually. So we knew some dolls were coming and we assumed it was perhaps four or five.
This is what arrived:
They were all in pristine condition, most even labeled with manufacturer, date, and the relevant page from the doll handbook!
We have displayed dolls in chronological before, so this time we tried thematic grouping. We staged the dolls doing typical Girl Scout things.
Proudly Wearing Their Uniforms
Whenever Girl Scouts of the USA issued a new uniform, doll uniforms were updated as well.
Girl Scout dolls, like actual Girl Scouts, come in many shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.
The first African-American Girl Scout doll was available in the mid-1940s, although she did not appear in the official equipment catalogs.
Advertising and packaging of Girl Scout doll clothes began featuring dolls with mobility challenges, although there has not been a Girl Scout doll that comes with her own wheelchair—yet!
Making New Friends!
Girl Scout friendships have always been reflected in the range of Girl Scout dolls. Dolls celebrate troop friends as well as Girl Guide friends abroad.
Girl Scout dolls love being outdoors as much as real girls do! Many dolls come with their own camping gear.
From Barbie to Beanie Babies and Build-a-Bear, popular characters and toy lines have signed up with the Girl Scouts.
Learning Their History
Many dolls have been issued to honor Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts. Whether an expensive collector’s piece or a soft, snuggly cloth friend, girls can be close to Daisy day or night.
Learning Skills; Giving Service
Sewing and gifting dolls has long been a popular service project.
The full exhibit can be seen at the Girl Scout office at 4301 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite M-2, Washington DC.
The Saturday, November 16, 2019 event was truly one for the record books.
9,000 girls explored the Dulles Expo Center in three-hour blocks. There was singing, archery, tent-pitching relays, robotics, book signings, and, of course, history.
The Archives and History Committee ran a booth with history-themed games. Linda Paulson taught girls how to play “Name that Cookie,” answer council history questions, and match new badges with their vintage counterparts. Girls received a “vintage” patch prize from our surplus. Most were excited to realize that the patch was older than the girl!
The booth also had a collection of Girl Scout dolls and
displays about founder Juliette Gordon Low. Our own Susan “Daisy” Ducey posed
for photos with girls all day.
But the Council History team didn’t settle for just one
little old booth. No, not us! We also provided international uniforms on
mannequins for another booth.
We proudly watched Archives Program Aide Vivian moderate a presentation.
We welcomed our own special guest, Margaret Seiler, who told
stories about her Great Aunt Daisy. Her presentation helped younger Girl Scouts
understand that Juliette Gordon Low was a real person, not just a character in
Last, but hardly least, we organized three vintage uniform fashion shows, one show per session. Ginger Holinka fitted girl (and a few adult) models on the spot, while Julie Lineberry emceed the show. Members of the audience gave special applause for “their” childhood uniforms and came away understanding how uniforms changed in response to fashion trends, war-time shortages, new fabrics, and the need for girls to move, move, move.
The Committee owes a deep debt to Lisa Jackson and Dena McGuiggan Baez, leaders who found replacement uniform models when others dropped out at the last minute. They saved the show!!
The last Council Expo was held in 2006. Many people have asked why it took so long to organize another. After Saturday’s experience, I know I will need at least 13 years to recover. But maybe I’ll pencil another one in on my calendar, just to save the date.
Both the Little House and Rockwood were generous, but
unanticipated, gifts reluctantly accepted by the national Girl Scout
headquarters (GSUSA). National’s reticence related to the costs associated with
these surprise bequests.
Imagine that I give all readers a new car. (Emphasis on imagine.) The prize sounds like a windfall at first, but your excitement dims when you realize that you must suddenly come up with cash to pay taxes on the gift, registration fees, insurance, and even gasoline.
After accepting Rockwood, GSUSA vowed to never again accept
such a gift without an accompanying endowment.
Indeed, when the Girl Scouts had the opportunity to purchase the Andrew Low Housein 1943, Daisy’s marital home in Savannah, they declined for this very reason—the total cost would be much higher than just the purchase price.
Nine years later, the Savannah Council called again. An
historic property was about to come on the market. The council could not afford
it, so representatives contacted the national headquarters. This time the
property in question was a Regency mansion on the corner of Bull and Oglethorpe
Streets; the Gordon family home and Daisy’s birthplace.
Both the house and the neighborhood had deteriorated over
time, and some Gordon descendants wanted to raze the house and sell the land.
Savannah’s commercial district was expanding, and the Gordon corner lot would
be attractive to business developers.
Daisy’s niece Eleanor Wayne Macpherson was appalled at the
idea of tearing down the house. It held wonderful memories from her childhood.
Losing it, she lamented, “would be a tragedy, because, over and above its
historic value, it is associated with everything I hold dear.”
Macpherson launched a three-pronged strategy to save the
Persuading the Family
The house was owned and managed by an informal trust set up among
Daisy and her siblings. The six children had received equal ownership shares
upon the death of their parents. These shares were subsequently further divided
and sold or swapped among descendants.
Macpherson knew that the trustee, her nephew, favored
demolition, so she began quietly acquiring house shares from distant relatives
so that she would gain a majority and be able to block moves toward demolition.
GSUSA: “No Thanks”
Macpherson approached national Executive Director Dorothy
Stratton about purchasing the home. The reply was a swift “No.”
Macpherson was not completely surprised by this refusal. In
fact, she had already contacted Anne Hyde Choate about the situation. Choate,
Daisy’s goddaughter who had succeeded Low as national president in 1920, agreed
on the need to preserve the house.
Choate advised Macpherson to not condemn national leaders
for their veto, as “One cannot blame those overburdened people for wanting to
avoid more responsibility.”
Rally the Troops
Choate encouraged Macpherson to persevere. Specifically, it
was time to rally the membership behind this cause.
Somehow we must get into our Nat. Hdqrs’ mind the idea that one of their chief functions is to encourage local or other Girl Scout groups to take responsibility and carry out their own good ideas, — in fact, to treat their experienced members as grownup people!
–Anne Hyde Choate
She encouraged Macpherson to contact Louise Dawe, an influential Girl Scout in Richmond, Virginia, and the women began assembling an informal panel of volunteers to save the Birthplace.
The Board Bends
When the national Board of Directors met in October 1952,
Choate formally proposed creating a committee to study the implications of
purchasing the Gordon home. Board members agreed they should not to dismiss the
issue outright. The motion passed, and an “Ad Hoc Committee to Consider
Purchase of the Birthplace” was created from Choate’s list of proposed
committee members. She reported to Dawe that the motion had passed “definitely
against” the advice and wishes of top GSUSA officials.
The Ad Hoc Committee visited Savannah in February to inspect
the Birthplace and offered their preliminary impressions to the Board in March.
At that point, the Board expanded the committee, creating subcommittees to
focus on finance as well as restoration, operations, maintenance, and program.
The latter subcommittee was to include representatives from Savannah.
The national Board also instructed headquarters to pay $500 for an option to purchase the house for $65,000. This would prevent the building from being razed or sold to another buyer until after the October Board meeting, when the Dawe report would be presented.
The Committee worked at a frantic pace throughout the summer
of 1953 to assess the financial implications of purchasing and restoring the
Gordon home. They looked at a range of expenses and consider what programming
could be offered at the house.
Not Just Another Expense
Volunteers spent the summer trying to convert key leaders to
National President Olivia Layton sent Dawe a list of other
properties that had recently been offered to and refused by GSUSA, trying to
establish that a precedent existed for such matters. Dawe, for her part,
insisted that none of these cases were relevant because “none of them belonged
to the Girl Scout history nor offered a reason for the girls’ participation in
the project.” Furthermore, she cited bankers and real estate experts who
believed the property would be “not alone a sentimental or emotional [purchase]
… [but] a very good investment.”
Dawe went on to compare the Girl Scouts to the United
Nations as both sought “to build the defenses of peace in the minds and hearts
of children.” Just as the UN complex has a small chapel dedicated to the
founder, she thought the Gordon house could provide a similar focal point for
Girl Scouts. “It might offer that sense of the beginning of an idea and the
continuity of its great purpose.” Office locations might change, but the house
would remain a fixed anchor.
Layton took note of Dawe’s lofty ideals, but plainly stated that finding a new national headquarters building and developing Camp Macy should take precedence over buying an old home in Savannah. Dawe acknowledged these priorities, but
“With the house, it is now or never. … Is that also true of headquarters, and of Macy?”
The Committee’s findings were assembled into an extensive
report, which Dawe presented at the October meeting of the national Board of
Directors. In a nail-biting vote, the board approved the purchase, 32–24.
The Ad Hoc Committee to Consider the Purchase was dissolved
and a new “Special Committee on the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace” created. This
new group included members of the initial committee, as well as individuals
representing Savannah, and Girl Scout Region VI, among others.
Macpherson was also a part of this original committee.
Although I have seen no provision requiring a Gordon family member to be on
such an advisory group, typically someone has. That is true for the latest
incarnation, as well.
As the Birthplace continues to evolve, let us remember that volunteers can have a lasting impact on key decisions determining the direction of our movement.
Traditionally, Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world mark February 22 by celebrating their international ties. Across the United States, troops select a country to learn about and often hold an event so that several troops may share their discoveries. February 22 was chosen because it was the birthdate of both Lord and Laden Baden Powell, who began the scouting and guiding movements.
The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) coordinates relations among national programs. The organization typically chooses five countries (one from each of its administrative districts) to highlight. In recent years, it has also selected a theme so that everyone is “thinking” about the same thing.
The number of Thinking Day patches offered has greatly increased over the past decade, so I thought I would try to untangle them.
GSUSA Fun or Participation Patches
Girls earn fun or participation patches by participating in a World Thinking Day (WTD) event. GSUSA has offered WTD participation patches since at least the 1990s. Now they come with online, age-appropriate activity booklets. Girls must complete one activity to receive the WTD patch.
Fun, but unofficial, World Thinking Day patches
Councils and service units (a cluster of troops that feed into to one or more high schools) may also create their own patch, especially if they held a specific event. There are also many unofficial (but usually beautiful) “international friendship” patches around.
The World Association also offers an annual patch and activity packet. This year’s theme is leadership:
This year’s World Thinking Day celebrates the theme of “leadership,” and is dedicated to the group of girls who demanded change in the Scouting movement in 1909 and asked Lord Baden -Powell to create “something for the girls.”
Anna Maria Mideros
World Board Chair
UN Millennium Development Goals
In 2008, WAGGGS introduced an ambitious program that aligned with the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals were proclaimed by UN in 2000 and were intended to eradicate extreme poverty across the world by 2015.
UN Millennium Development Goals
WAGGGS created a “Global Action Theme” curriculum with the slogan,
Girls worldwide say “together we can change our world.”
The Association explained that this initiative “encourages girls, young women and members of all ages to make a personal commitment to change the world around them.” In many parts of the world, the average age of Girl Guides is older than that of Girl Scouts, and WAGGGS noted that by 2015, “many young WAGGGS members will then be at the point of becoming full citizens so their future will be directly affected by the MDGs.”
Each year WAGGGS issued a patch whose design reflected a specific goal’s official symbol, as well as accompanying activity booklets.
WAGGGS Millennium Development Goal patches
GSUSA used similar images on its WTD participation patches at first, but changed in 2013. Perhaps a teddy bear was considered less controversial than a pregnant silhouette.
GSUSA and WAGGGS themed patches
GSUSA Global Action
I suspect that GSUSA already had concerns about the Millennium Development Goals curriculum.
Maternal health, child mortality, HIV/AIDS, and malaria were hardly warm, fuzzy topics to discuss around the campfire. Some leaders and parents refused to go along, although I doubt they had bothered to look at the WAGGGS booklets, which offered age-appropriate activities, such a hand washing to eradicate germs of any kind.
This was also a time period when groups erroneously accused the Girl Scouts, Girl Guides, and WAGGGS of promoting a liberal agenda and attacking family values. I would not be surprised if GSUSA sought to put a bit of distance between itself and the global sisterhood at the delicate moment.
GSUSA introduced its own global advocacy program in 2010. The Girl Scouts Global Action patch also examines the causes of extreme poverty around the world, but, according to GSUSA, it does so in a manner that aligns with the then-new Girl Scout Leadership Experience; that is, the Journeys.
Patches and age-appropriate requirements were distributed online:
Portion of the 2010 Global Action patch for Cadettes
Sharing tea with mom certainly seems tamer than talking about burying her.
Sustainable Development Goals
The Millennium Development Goals expired in 2015, and the United Nations introduced a package of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to continue the fight against poverty.
The GSUSA Global Action program continues today as a way for Girl Scouts to learn about problems girls face in other parts of the world. The program draws on the SDGs.
WAGGGS has offered different themes since 2015, not necessarily related to the SDGs.
2016: Connect 10 Million
The three patch categories (GSUSA WTD, GSUSA Global Action, and WAGGGS WTD) currently have unrelated designs.
2018 World Thinking Day patches
But wait, there’s more!
There are other World Thinking Day patches that you might see on old uniforms. Let’s take a quick look:
Juliette Gordon Low World Friendship Fund
A Juliette Low Memorial Fund was established after Low’s death in 1927. It was “dedicated forever to good will and cooperation among nations of the world.” The fund was renamed the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund in 1943. Many Thinking Day celebrations collect small donations from participants that help finance the fund’s activities such as travel grants. Several councils have their own related patch programs.
Thinking Day Symbol
WAGGGS introduced this symbol in 1975. It depicts the World Trefoil at the center of a wheel of “action and direction” arrows.
Games Go Global
The Games Go Global program coincided with the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Greece issued the first Olympia badge in 2004, ahead of the Athens games. Hong Kong and WAGGGS jointly released a second Olympia badge in 2008. They emphasize the international friendship and striving to be your best that are fundamental to both the Olympics and international Scouting.
Note that the patches come in gold, silver, and bronze versions!
Specifically, GSUSA objects to the other organization’s new name, Scouts BSA. Members would be known as “Scouts.” The Boy Scouts embraced this new name following its 2017 decision to admit girls to its ranks.
GSUSA argues that the gender-neutral “Scouts BSA” is confusing. The public might mistakenly believe that the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have merged into a new organization or that the Girl Scouts no longer exist.
According to the complaint (Case 1:18-cv-10287):
BSA does not have the right under either federal or New York law to use terms like SCOUTS or SCOUTING by themselves in connection with services offered to girls, or to rebrand itself as “the Scouts” and thereby falsely communicate to the American public that it is now the organization exclusively associated with leadership development services offered under that mark to girls. Such misconduct will not only cause confusion among the public, damage the goodwill of GSUSA’s GIRL SCOUTS trademarks, and erode its core brand identity, but it will also marginalize the GIRL SCOUTS Movement by causing the public to believe that GSUSA’s extraordinarily successful services are not true or official “Scouting” programs, but niche services with limited utility and appeal.
A trademark is a sign or symbol we can use to distinguish our business’ goods or services from those of other enterprises. It is a symbol, word or words legally registered or established by long-term use as representing a company or its product. Market Business News
Here We Go Again
Girl Scouts of the USA is 106 years old. It has had name disputes with the Boy Scouts for at least 105 years.
I recently discovered another identity crisis in the minutes of the January 1978 GSUSA Board of Directors meeting:
“Reports have been received from councils about the use of this term which is confusing to local committees. No meeting has been arranged as yet with the Boy Scout President. The United Way has been inadvertently promoting Scouting/USA and has been made aware of the problem and our position. The Board will be kept informed of any further developments.”
GSUSA Board of Directors meeting minutes, January 1978
In 1977, the Boy Scouts rebranded themselves as “Scouting/USA.” Officials explained that the word “boy” offended minority troops and girls in Explorer posts. They also regarded Scouting/USA as an umbrella term that would encompass Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Explorers. That very same argument has been offered to justify the current Scouts BSA label.
The result was confusion, as indicated by the Board Minutes. The Girl Scouts objected, and the new name faded into obscurity.
Hopefully, this latest round will be settled quickly and amicably as well.
More on Intellectual Property
Trademarks, like copyright and patent, are all forms of intellectual property. Juliette Gordon Low was awarded two patents herself, one for the membership pin and one for a freestanding trash can.
To help teach girls about these concepts, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital and the US Patent and Trademark Office teamed up in 2012 to create a patch program.
Troops in Nation’s Capital can borrow a program kit to earn the patch. The USPTO
also has information about the program available online.
One of the joys of a high-school level Girl Scout troop is watching the girls pass a major milestone: earning their drivers’ licenses. You see it at the end of troop meetings. The same parents arrive, but scoot to the passenger seat so their daughter drives them home. Next, the girls drive themselves, and, finally, girls take on carpool duties themselves.
That might be because founder Juliette Gordon Low was not the most accomplished driver herself. Perhaps it was because she divided her time between two countries and two sets of road rules. According to Daisy’s niece:
She’d drive on the left-hand side of the road in Savannah “because I am English” and the right-hand, side in England “because I am an American.”
–Peggy Gordon Seiler, niece of Juliette Gordon Low
The Automobiling badge was introduced in 1916, a time when only one out of every five US households owned a car.
In 1920, the badge was renamed Motorist and manufactured in the new khaki fabric used for uniforms.
GSUSA highlighted the Motorist requirements in a short video from 2015.
I’ve heard many times that earning a driver’s license was a requirement for the prestigious Golden Eaglet award, but Motorist does not appear on any list of required badges that I’ve seen. (If you have, please let me know!)
From 1938 to 1947, Intermediate-age Girl Scouts could earn the Transportation badge. It took a broader look at the many forms of transportation, and girls were encouraged to take rides on trains, trolleys, buses, and whatever else their communities had to offer.
In the 1950s, when the auto industry responded to the rising number of female drivers by introducing pink vehicles such as the Dodge “La Femme,” the Girl Scouts had been teaching young women to get behind the wheel and under the hood for decades.
Apparently, troops missed having driving instruction in their handbooks, so the national headquarters issued a separate booklet geared to driver education.
Auto Maintenance, 1980-1996
The Worlds to Explore program introduced in 1980 featured badges that both Cadettes and Seniors could earn. (Seniors had not had their own badges for years.) Many of these badges broke gender stereotypes by encouraging girls to explore technology and science. One of the most popular was Auto Maintenance.
I remember my Senior troop decided to earn the new Auto Maintenance interest project award. Kim, a girl in our troop, was taking auto shop, so she led us as we tinkered with our leaders’ cars during meetings.
(I also remember having to push start our leader’s pickup truck around that time. Presumably those two facts are unrelated.)
The new program wasn’t just Girl Scouts of driving age, either. Junior Girl Scouts (grades 4-6) got their own Car Care badge in 1990. (It changed to a green border in 2000).
The focus stayed on maintenance instead of actual driving when Cadette and Senior badges were updated in the mid-1990s (Car Sense, blue border). The ill-fated Studio 2B program briefly had a car care On the Road Focus Award (a charm), which was available for barely two years and was never produced in badge form. A Car Care badge for Seniors was introduced in 2011.
Girl Scouts may also participate in workshops offered by local car dealerships and insurance companies. These programs are organized by individual councils and vary from year to year.
Women in Trucking patch
Two years ago, the Girl Scouts partnered with the Women in Trucking association to expose girls to career opportunities in the transportation industry.
Thus, for 102 years, Girl Scouts have encouraged young women to embrace technology, cultivate personal independence, and challenge social norms.
My daughter recently mentioned that visitors on her tours at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace are often surprised when Erin says, “She was about my size.”
That comparison surprised me, too. Erin and I are only 5 feet tall, and even then we really have to stretch on our tippy toes. “Hold on,” I replied. “I think I’ve seen her height.”
Less than a minute later, I texted her a copy of Low’s 1919 passport application, which states her height at 5 feet, 4.5 inches.
“OK,” Erin conceded. “But that’s still pretty small.”
“You’re not going to comment on my just happening to have JGL’s passport application sitting around?”
“No, mom.” She replied. “I’ve learned to expect that.”
I had found the passport records earlier on Ancestry.com. It is fun to see Daisy’s handwritten comments, description of her own appearance, and to read the reasons given for her travel abroad. The passport photos are great, as well.
The documents have been bound into hardback volumes, and some text is not fully visible.
Her 1915 application gave her destinations as England, Italy, and Egypt, and she requested that the document be delivered to her parents’ home on Oglethorpe Street.
Daisy describes herself as 5 ft, 4.5 inches tall.
Passport Photo, 1915, 1916
She renewed her passport in 1916, and her brother’s statement served in place of a birth certificate. The file also includes a letter noting that her landlord in London, Lady Coghlan, was upset to discover that Daisy had used parafin oil lamps and left at least one sink stopped up.
By 1918 Daisy had misplaced her passport and urgently needed a new one. She included a letter from Boy Scout founder Lord Baden-Powell explaining the reason for her travel.
In 1919 she explained that she needed to renew her passport for six months to attend an international scouting conference. She handwrote that her travels would include Switzerland, and another letter from Lord Baden-Powell confirmed the international meeting.
The last passport on file was for 1923. This trip included Egypt. She also indicates that her previous passport had been canceled.
Unfortunately, the photo for the 1923 document is almost illegible. Likely the product of poor quality microfiche.
I always enjoy looking at original documents, especially ones with personal details such as eye color, face shape, and height.
Now I have yet another reason to look up to Daisy Low.