For almost as long as there have been Girl Scouts, there have been Girl Scout stories. Stop by the GSCNC office this summer to see an exhibit of Girl Scout fiction books.
The Council’s Archives and History Committee has books ranging from The Girl Scouts at Bellaire, published in 1920, to the Giggling Ghost Girl Scout Mystery from 2012.
In the 1920s and 1930s, when the Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, and other juvenile mystery series became popular, the Girl Scouts followed with their own versions.
Edith Lavell published a 10-volume series in the 1920s that followed Girl Scout Marjorie Wilkinson through her college years. In the 1930s, Virginia Fairfax penned the six-volume mystery series about a group of Mississippi Girl Scouts.
Brownies soon insisted on their own stories, which led to the Brownie Scouts series by Mildred A. Wirt in the early 1950s. Millie Wirt added three more Girl Scout titles in the 1950s as well.
But Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson was most famous for the books she wrote under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.
Mildred Wirt Benson, the original Carolyn Keene.
She wrote 23 of the original Nancy Drew books, including the first seven, and is largely thought to be responsible for developing the Nancy character. Her editor criticized the first draft of The Secret of the Old Clock, saying that the heroine was “too flip,” but sent the manuscript to the publisher anyway, launching an industry that remains popular decades later. (For more on the many lives of Carolyn Keene, see the new book The History of Nancy Drew, by Christine Keleny.) By the time of her death in 2002, at age 96, Benson had written more than 130 books.
Other book series have been issued over the years, including the three-volume Nancy series by Jean Henry Large, younger sister of Lou Henry Hoover, collections of articles from American Girl magazine, and the more recent Here Come the Brownies series.
Girl Scouts has long promoted reading and the love of books.
Badges related to reading have been around since the 1920s and national patch programs, many in cooperation with the QSP magazine program, have also encouraged reading skills. Over the years, Girl Scouts have also had opportunities to learn about how books are made, including the Intermediate-level Bibliophile badge available from 1938 to 1963. More recently, Cadettes can try the new Book Artist badge.
Girls have always been able to earn badges and patches for reading.
Next time you are at the Council main office of Girl Scout Shop, take time to stop by the history display cases and don’t forget to pick up a copy of the council history book. That one is not fiction!