Meet Minnie Hill

Wednesday began as an ordinary work day at the Nation’s Capital Archives and History Program Center in Frederick, Maryland.

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Girl Scout Uniform, 1917-1919

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.

Minnie Hill Sleeve

Elusive White Felt badges: (from top left clockwise): Clerk, Civics, Matron Housekeeper, Attendance, Signaling, Dairy Maid, and Laundress (GSCNC Archives)

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:

Minnie Hill Pins

Minnie Hill’s Golden Eaglet, Buttercup Troop Crest, War Service Pin, and US Treasury War Service Award (GSCNC Archives)

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:

Minnie Hill 3

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:

 

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White House Court of Awards, June 21, 1917. That’s Ruth Colman front and center, with her sleeve full of badges and her Golden Eagle of Merit pin. (Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection)

 

Take a closer look at the young lady on the back row, far left. I think that is Minnie Hill.

History hasn’t lost her after all.

©2017 Ann Robertson

Françoise May, the Belgian Apple Blossom Queen

Today, May 2, the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival will crown its 2014 queen in Winchester, VA.  In 1933 that honor went to a 23-year old Girl Scout leader, Françoise May.

Françoise May, the 10th Apple Blossom Queen, sits upon her throne.

Françoise May, the 10th Apple Blossom Queen, sits upon her throne.

Françoise was the eldest daughter of Paul May, the Belgian ambassador to the United States. She had been an active Girl Guide in Belgium, and when her father was posted to the United States in 1931, she immediately signed up with the Washington, DC, area Girl Scouts. She became captain (leader) of Troop 53, and the troop grew so large that it divided into 53 and 53A. Françoise became a popular speaker about the Girl Guides and a staff member for Camp May Flather. She was awarded the Thanks Badge for her efforts.

 

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Her younger sisters, Ghislane and Elisabeth, also joined Troop 53.

Françoise presents the First Class rank to her sister Ghislane and other members of Troop 53.

Françoise presents the First Class rank to her sister Ghislane and other members of Troop 53.

The entire troop traveled to Winchester for the coronation ceremony.

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Troop member Virginia Hammerley, who later joined the staff of the Girl Scouts of Washington, DC, kept detailed scrapbooks of Troop 53’s activities, including many clippings and items from the coronation of Queen Françoise. Her scrapbooks are in the archives of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital.

Ambassador May died suddenly in July 1934. When Françoise, her sisters, and their mother returned to Belgium, “Ginger” Hammerley succeeded her as troop captain.

Excerpt from farewell letter to Troop 53.

Excerpt from farewell letter to Troop 53.

Her touching farewell letter to the troop may be downloaded in its entirety by clicking here.

 

Françoise pauses for a photo while working at Camp May Flather.

Françoise pauses for a photo while working at Camp May Flather.