Who’s That Girl Scout? Jane Nicolet Toal

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Jane Toal in her Mariner uniform.

Our Archives and History Committee lost one of its original members last month, Jane Toal.  I never met Jane, she had gone into assisted living around the time I joined the Committee, but I heard her name often from other members.

Now that I’ve had a chance to read her obituary and read some of the tributes to her, I especially regret never making her acquaintance. Her life story is a testament to Girl Scouts and STEM programs.

Jane Nicolet was born in 1921 and grew up in Riverdale, Maryland, outside Washington. She joined a Girl Scout troop in 1931, at age 9½. She seems to have seized every opportunity that came her way: she was in the first local Senior troop, led by Lucy Knox. The troop helped prepare Rockwood National Center to receive its first campers in 1937. Lucy and other girls spent many weekends reupholstering furniture at Rockwood and sleeping on the floor of Carolyn Cottage.

Jane also was involved in the activities of the Little House, including once serving a meal to Eleanor Roosevelt.

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Eleanor Roosevelt (second from right) enjoys a “15 cent lunch” in the Little House dining room, 1933 (Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)

 

She quickly became a regular figure at Camp May Flather, living in each of the various units and co-editing the camp newspaper, the Mountain Log.

Jane Nicolet Toal Golden Eaglet Original copy

Washington Post, June 11, 1939.

Jane was awarded the prestigious Golden Eaglet on June 10, 1939.

 

She left the Washington area for college, first to Oberlin College and then to Cornell University, where she earned a master’s degree in biochemistry. Upon graduation, she took a job at Rutgers University. After a brief marriage, she led an Intermediate troop in New Jersey.

Jane returned to Washington in 1947 to accept a research position at the National Institutes of Health.  She spent the next 30 years conducting structural studies of DNA and RNA.

She bought a boat in 1950 and taught herself to sail. When she heard about a Mariner Girl Scout troop forming in the area she signed on. She stayed with the Mariner program for 27 years, taking full advantage of the nearby Chesapeake Bay.  She proudly wore her Mariner uniform for official events and led a Bethesda-based troop from 1964 to 1977.

Over the years, Jane kept sailing, but she did add to her outside interests. She rode with the Iron Bridge Hunt and the Howard County Hunt until her 90th birthday and was an active member of the Trail Riders of Today.  She was also part of the devoted crew that maintains the historic carousel at Glen Echo park. For decades, she rallied troops that turned out to polish the brass on the carousel before it opens for the season.

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Jane organizes Girl Scouts polishing the Glen Echo Carousel, 2008 (photo courtesy of Jennifer Manguera)

 

 

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Jane Toal’s homemade Mariner doll.

It is a shame that a woman once so involved in our Council’s History programs never was able to visit our now two-year old Program Center in Frederick, Maryland.  But we do have a homemade doll that she donated years ago. With bright red hair, it even looks a bit like her.

The doll is prominently displayed at the Center, a small way to keep Jane involved in Girl Scout history.

 

Special thank you to Julie Lineberry, whose previous profile of Jane was essential for this post.

©2017 Ann Robertson

 

Celebrating Our Golden Girls

IMG_0078The 2016 Nation’s Capital Annual Meeting celebrated 100 years of Girl Scouting’s Highest Awards.

The Archives exhibit used the same theme. (We were not involved in the award histories read during the meeting.)

The exhibit area was crowded, but here’s a wide view of our corner:

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Our display had two main parts:

First, we enlarged the wonderful award posters created by Girl Scout historians Mary Winslow (Heart of Pennsylvania) and Mel Squires (Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont).

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Second, we tried construct a timeline with ALL the women from Nation’s Capital and its legacy councils who received these awards over the years.  This is definitely a work in progress, as our records are spotty, especially for the Curved Bar and First Class years. (Please email me to add names to the list: ann@robertsonwriting.com.)

Still, we had nearly 3,000 names! Here’s a sample:

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Many women took photos of their name or their daughter’s. Former troop leaders searched for all of their girls, too.

We also had small award stickers for name tags. I earned my Gold in Kentuckiana (1983), so I wasn’t on the wall, but this way I could still display my Gold. Susan Ducey, another Committee member, received her First Class in Illinois. (At the end of the meeting, staff passed out the centennial pins to past recipients.)

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I enjoyed meeting so many of our Golden Girls at the annual meeting. Decades later, they are still as proud as ever of their accomplishment, and many vividly recalled their award ceremonies.

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George Bain claimed to have earned the Gold Award, but Joan Paull straightened him out. (It was your troop, George!)

The award posters and more are on display at the GSCNC Main Office, 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW in Washington, DC. Be sure to take a look when you pick up those end of the year purchases.

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©2016 Ann Robertson

 

How the Gold Award Got Its Design

Ever wonder why the Gold Award looks like it does? gold patch

According to the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, “The rays emanating from the trefoil represent the Girl Scout influence in the wider community and the interdependence between Girl Scouting and the community.”

Previous highest awards featured eagles (Golden Eagle of Merit, Golden Eaglet) or a red ribbon and clover motif (Curved Bar, First Class).

For the current highest award, introduced in 1980, GSUSA considered reviving the prestigious Golden Eaglet, but some members were concerned that it would be seen as a “little sister” of the Boy Scout Eagle Award.

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Instead, the program committee resurrected a membership pin once reserved for Senior Girl Scouts. In 1938 GSUSA released a tiny electroplated golden pin featuring a 12-point sunburst and a small trefoil in the center. Just 1/4 inch in size, the pin answered girls’ requests for inconspicuous insignia resembling a sorority pin. The pin was worn on the uniform breast pocket.

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The new Senior Pin appeared in 1938 catalog.

The sorority-style pin formed the center of the Five-Point pin introduced in 1955. This program was intended to provide a well-rounded introduction to Senior Girl Scouting through five activities:

  1. Go camping
  2. Carry out a service project
  3. Develop emergency preparedness skills
  4. Learn about your council or Lone Troop Committee
  5. Expand your interests (do a project in the arts, crafts, music, homemaking dancing, literature, dramatics or nature).

When the Five-Point program was completed, girls swapped the plain Senior pin for the Five-Point pin.

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Senior Five-Point Pin (photo from eBay)

Isn’t it nice when traditions are maintained?

©2016 Ann Robertson

 

 

 

DC Girl Scouts in Cold War Propaganda?

My name is Miya Carey, and I am a doctoral candidate in history at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. Last month, I had the pleasure of spending a week at the new Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital History Center in Frederick, MD, completing the last bit of my dissertation research. My project looks at the shifting constructions and experiences of black girlhood in Washington, DC from the 1930s to the 1960s through an examination of African American and interracial girls’ organizations. One of the main organizations in my study is the Girl Scouts.

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Ethel Harvey, GSCNC President, 1972-1978

I found many gems during this research trip, but one of the most fascinating was a photo album from the Ethel Harvey collection. Harvey was one of the most prominent leaders in the scouting movement in Washington, DC. She became the first African American to serve as president of any Girl Scout council. In 1961, she and Pansy Gregg, her co-leader and dear friend, traveled with their troop to Our Cabaña, a WAGGGS world center, in Cuernavaca, Mexico. [The same troop would visit Pax Lodge in London and Our Chalet in Switzerland in 1964.]

 

The most striking photographs in the album featured the scouts, who were all African American, dressed in their sharkskin “stewardess” uniforms and posed listening to record players, creating scrapbooks, and writing post cards. Following this series of photographs is a note that says, “photographs taken by USIA.” This note refers to the United States Information Agency, which President Eisenhower established in 1953 as the organ of U.S. public and cultural diplomacy. It is unclear how the USIA used these photographs, if they used them at all, but it is useful to speculate how these photographs could have been used, and why the USIA thought that photographing the scouts would further their goals.

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Senior Troop 1027 (GSCNC Archives)

The agency’s main goal was to maintain the image of the U.S. abroad as the bastion of democracy and on the right side of the Cold War. However, this was a difficult task when images of racial violence and civil rights protest dominated international headlines, and revealed the cracks in America’s promise of democracy for all. The Our Cabaña photographs were taken after Little Rock, the start of the sit-in movement, the Freedom Rides, and numerous other civil rights struggles. The common thread linking each of these events is that young people were at the center of each.

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Senior Troop 1027 (GSCNC Archives)

The scouts offered an alternative image of black childhood and young adulthood abroad. The image of black girlhood offered in these photographs is one that is both playful and patriotic. The scouts were doing typical teenage activities, such as listening to music, rather than being victims of racialized violence. They were proud members of the Girl Scouts, an organization that espoused patriotism and democracy, rather than young people marching against injustice. The USIA could use the figure of the black Girl Scout in American propaganda to demonstrate racial harmony, and counter the notion that the United States was in opposition to its black citizens, even if this was not completely true.

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Senior Troop 1027 (GSCNC Archives)

I still have many questions about these photographs. How did the USIA come to photograph the scouts at Our Cabaña? Did the agency have a relationship with the Girl Scouts? Most importantly, what did the girls in the photograph think? Did they know the purpose of photographs and the USIA? I would suspect that when they embarked on their trip to Mexico, they saw it as a chance to experience a culture different from their own, rather than serving as ambassadors of the American model of democracy. Regardless, these photographs demonstrate the far-reaching and rich legacy of the Girl Scouts in American culture.

 

Sharing Girl Scout Ways

GSWay_AmbThe 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!

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Watching “The Golden Eaglet” in October 2015 (photo by Sarah Barz).

 

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Ambassador Jenn, an archives aide, watches as I model my own vest (photo by Sarah Barz).

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Sandy Alexander teaches Council history.

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Don’t forget classic songs and games! Susan Ducey teaches Strut Miss Lizzie (above).

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Trying out an old badge requirement (photo by Sarah Barz).

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Group shot! Each workshop ends with a group photo. We immediately print it out, paste it into our guest book, and each girl signs before she leaves.

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Remembering Roundups

Before there were Destinations, before Wider Opportunities, Senior Roundups were often the highlight of a Girl Scout career.

These two-week encampments brought together high school-age Girl Scouts from around the country plus a few Girl Guides as well. They lived together in small groups, engaged in special programs and activities, and generally experienced the scope of the Girl Scout movement.

Four Roundups were held: 1956 in Detroit; 1959 in Colorado Springs; 1962 in Vermont; and 1965 in Idaho.

Roundup_Line

 

The Roundups were before my time, so I asked a member of the GSCNC Archives and History Committee, Kathy Seubert Heberg, to share her memories:

Fifty years since the last Girl Scout Roundup! It’s hard to believe that much time has passed. Anyone who attended one of the Roundups knows what a wonderful experience it was.

I was thrilled when I received my selection notice in December 1961 for the July 1962 Roundup, scheduled for two weeks in Vermont!

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GSUSA President Olivia Layton calls Rounduppers to dinner in 1957 (GSCNC archives).

The excitement had been building since mid-May of 1961 when all the Washington Metropolitan Area Roundup applicants met for an orientation meeting. This included Senior Scouts from five Councils that were merging to become the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital – Alexandria, Arlington, National Capital, Northern Virginia, and my council, Southern Maryland. Each of these Councils selected their own representatives to Roundup; Southern Maryland was sending two patrols of eight girls each.

In early July, we formed initial patrols, elected patrol leaders, and started to meet on a regular basis. After a rigorous process, the Southern Maryland Council made their selections, and the two patrols were finalized. In the following months, we honed our camping skills and worked on our demonstration and swaps – we became a close-knit patrol and were ready to go. On the evening of July 17, 1962, all the area patrols gathered on the Washington Monument Grounds and received a grand send-off from family, friends, and Council officials. At that time, we each received a waterproof ID (think old-fashioned hospital wristband) that we wore at all times until we got back home.

We boarded three buses and headed north. We were excited, we talked, and we sang – there wasn’t much sleeping on the bus! We arrived late morning on the following day and located our patrol equipment and personal belongings. Tents, cooking utensils, and individual duffel bags, with all the important things – our clothing, swaps, stationery for letters home (this was long before cell phones!) – had been shipped a month beforehand.

We then headed to our designated spot to pitch camp. The entire encampment was divided by Section, Camp, and Troop, with each Troop containing four Patrols of eight girls each. All patrol items were marked with our specific number – 2F82. Each of us had an added number indicating our position in the patrol so all my clothing and personal items, for example, were marked 2F82-1. We settled in and met our Troop Leader, Jerry, and the other three patrols that made up our Troop – from upstate New York, western Illinois, and southwestern Minnesota.  We got to work building our patrol picnic table, which was a bit challenging – I think we used a whole box of nails to hold it together! One day it collapsed – it didn’t fall apart – it just sank to the ground. It was easy to fix – just needed more nails.

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Tents pitched at the first Roundup, Detroit, 1956 (GSCNC archives).

There was always something to do! In addition to preparing food, eating, and cleaning up, there were patrol meetings to let everyone know what was happening that day. Sometimes, we had assignments, such as being part of the flag ceremony on the Avenue of Flags. There were demonstrations by each patrol about something related to our home area. Because jousting is the Maryland State Sport, our patrol demonstrated a jousting tournament – with cardboard horses. The demonstrations were always interesting and fun to watch and, if you were lucky, perhaps you could get a taste of rattlesnake meat – really! In the evenings, we joined other patrols at Troop or Camp programs – perhaps folk dancing by Girl Guides, singing (of course), and Arena events.

The official camp uniform was “greenies” – dark green shorts and knee socks, and white camp shirt. It was very sharp looking but we could only take so many sets along – that meant hand laundry and line drying. Roundup was open to the public and we had a lot of visitors – the first day that Roundup was open to the public, over 4,000 people visited and that number increased. The patrol areas also had to be ready for visitors during certain hours of the day. Any wet laundry had to be out of sight during those times and, combined with almost daily thunderstorms, clothes took a while to dry! There were career counseling sessions, visits with Burlington College language students, and exhibits. Vermont is a big dairy state, and the cows and milking machines were a big hit! There were even milk dispensers scattered throughout the area. We drank a LOT of milk!

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Regulation camp uniform (GSCNC archives).

Whenever, wherever, we exchanged swaps! Every State was represented and Girl Guides from 15 member countries attended. Meeting them was simply terrific! The best place to put all those swaps was on your Roundup hat – until you ran out of space and then you safely packed the rest away. Our patrol’s swap was a small, thin, pointed wooden dowel – like a jousting lance – slipped through a round piece of material (Pellon®) with Southern Maryland Council written on it and, of course, our own name and address.

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SWAPS!!!  (GSCNC archives)

For our meals, we received recipes and bags of food. We had enough for nine people because we always had a guest – usually a Troop Leader or Staff Member. We cooked on charcoal and had made many, many fire starters soaked in paraffin which were safe, lightweight, and easy to pack. We celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Girl Scouting with a special meal of grilled chicken. We received 4 ½ chickens – 4 were whole. Only one of us had the foggiest clue of what to do with a whole chicken. We ended up with a total of 90 pieces of chicken – some were a little small but it all tasted great!

The 1962 Roundup focused on the 50th Anniversary of Girl Scouting – “Honor the Past, Serve the Future.” The 50th Anniversary stamp was issued from Roundup, and we all kept the on-site Post Office busy by mailing First Day covers. One of the Arena Events was a special celebration of the 50th birthday, with special guest of honor Maria von Trapp visiting from nearby Stowe. The arena, a natural hillside, was a perfect setting and could handle 10,000 people. You can image 10,000 Girl Scouts on the move!

There’s so much to tell you about – all the fun, all the friendships! At first, I didn’t know where to start, and now I don’t know where to end. But it was an incredible time and it’s amazing to meet another Roundupper. It’s like meeting an old friend and sharing many great memories. The conversation usually goes – – “You went to Roundup? Which one? Me, too!”

–Kathy Seubert Heberg

Stop by the Nation’s Capital main office at 4301 Connecticut Ave., NW in Washington, DC, to see an exhibit of items from the various Roundups.

Why were the Roundups canceled? Read about it here!

 

 

 

Badges, and Try-Its, and IPs, Oh My

When is a badge not a badge? When it’s a Try-It, an IP, IPA, or IPP.

Just_BadgesFor 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

Dabbler Interest Projects: (l-r) Arts, Out-of-Doors, People, Today and Tomorrow, Well-Being

Dabbler Interest Projects: (l-r) Arts, Out-of-Doors, People, Today and Tomorrow, Well-Being

Food Raiser (1980-1991), Communication Arts (1980-1991), Photography (1990-2001), and Food, Fibers, and Farming (1990-2001).

Food Raiser (1980-1991), Communication Arts (1980-1991), Photography (1990-2001), and Food, Fibers, and Farming (1990-2001).

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.

Nine "handbook badges" introduced in 1986.

Nine “handbook badges” introduced in 1986.

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.

Space Explorer (1989-1999 orange; 1999-2011 brown) and Girl Scout Ways (1986-1998 blue; 1999-2011 brown).

Space Explorer (1989-1999 orange; 1999-2011 brown) and Girl Scout Ways (1986-1998 blue; 1999-2011 brown).

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:

"Transition" Junior Dabbler badges.

“Transition” Junior Dabbler badges.

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.

Gold 4Bs Charm

Gold 4Bs Charm

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.”

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The more things change, the more they stay the same.