Conventions, Co-Eds, and First Ladies

Yesterday, the International Day of the Girl, the Boy Scouts announced that girls will be able to join Cub Scouts, beginning in fall 2018. BSA will introduce a pathway for girls to earn the Eagle Scout award in 2019.

The new policy, first floated in August, is a response to falling numbers of registered Boy Scouts nationwide. Girl Scouts of the USA (note: we are NOT Girl Scouts of America or GSA) President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan weighed in on the proposed co-ed membership in a letter to Boy Scout President Randall Stephenson:

Rather than seeking to fundamentally transform BSA into a co-ed program, we believe strongly that Boy Scouts should instead take steps to ensure that they are expanding the scope of their programming to all boys, including those who BSA has historically underserved and underrepresented, such as African American and Latino boys.

GSUSA President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan

On Monday, October 9, newly elected GSUSA board member Charles Garcia made his objections clear:

The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire,” Garcia wrote. “Instead of addressing systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement and deficient programming, BSA’s senior management wants to add an accelerant to the house fire by recruiting girls.

Charles Garcia, GSUSA Board Member

 

I’ve just returned from the 54th National Council Session in Columbus, OH, October 4-8, 2017. Every three years the Girl Scouts’ National Council convenes to vote on proposals that affect the entire movement, such as dues and composition of the national board of directors (Garcia was elected to the board in Columbus). While not on the official agenda, the possible Boy Scout change prompted considerable discussion between panels.

Boys have frequently participated in Girl Scout events, especially high-school-age members. Local Senior troops staying at Rockwood National Center might invite boys for an evening of (closely supervised) dancing.

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A co-ed event at Rockwood National Center in the 1950s (GSCNC Archives).

 

In the earliest years of Scouting in Washington, DC, troops frequently held joint meetings and events. Perhaps the first assembly of all of the Girl Scout troops in Washington was on  May 23, 1914, when troops from both movements held an all-day picnic at Wildwood Boy Scout Camp in Takoma Park, MD.

 

Forty-two years ago, co-ed membership was the main issue at the Girl Scouts’ 1975 National Council Session, held in Washington, DC. The proposal came at a time of dropping membership levels across all youth organizations. Camp Fire Girls had responded by admitting boys aged 14-18 and the Boy Scouts opened Explorers (Venturing) to girls aged 14 to 21 in 1974.

Backers of co-ed membership argued that the presence of boys would help girls develop social skills that would prepare them for the workplace. Critics cited the confidence girls develop in a single-sex environment and pointed out that boys mature more slowly than girls and could not be grouped with same-age girls.

Ultimately, after two hours’ of debate, a voice vote overwhelmingly defeated the motion to admit boys. The issue has not come up for a vote since.

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First Lady Betty Ford helped open the 1975 convention in Washington, DC.

The 1975 convention is also notable for having First Lady Betty Ford participate in the opening ceremony. Since Edith Wilson in 1917, every first lady has been honorary president of the Girl Scouts. While few can appear in person at a convention, they typically send video greetings for the opening session. Melania Trump was conspicuously absent from Columbus. Instead, former first daughters Barbara Pierce Bush and Chelsea Clinton chaired panel discussions.

 

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Chelsea Clinton fields questions from the National Young Women of Distinction, Columbus OH

 

 

Brenda Akers

The insightful Brenda Akers (AP Photo)

 

Researching the debate on boy membership, I was struck by how many press reports quoted Brenda Akers, a 17-year-old Senior Girl Scout from Indiana: “If we need boys to sell the Girl Scouts, we need to re-evaluate our program.”

The Boy Scouts should take Miss Akers’ suggestion to heart.

©2017 Ann Robertson

Camping at Sherando Lake, 1951

This week I have been looking through boxes of scrapbooks, binders, and photo albums donated to the Nation’s Capital archives by the family of Jean Boyer Porter.

Sherando Lake Log 1951 page 3

Camping permit for Sherando Lake, VA (GSCNC Archives)

Jean joined the District of Columbia Girl Scouts in the mid-1930s and stayed active for the next 70 years. She also apparently rarely threw anything away. I’ve found kaper charts and shopping lists going back to the mid-1930s.

 

Sherando Lake Log 1951 page 4

Grocery list for trip (GSCNC Archives)


My favorite (so far) is this trip to Sherando Lake in Virginia, August 4-12, 1951. Troop scribe Nancy Brown documented this weekend:

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Fortunately the written account explains that the Senior Girl Scouts found a group of Boy Scouts camping nearby. Guess that’s not Girl Scouts swimming topless in the Sunday August 5 picture!

 

©2016 Ann Robertson

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Look who turned out for the 2016 Washington, DC, St. Patrick’s Day parade!

It’s Lord Baden-Powell,  Juliette Gordon Low and Chevy Scout, all members of the Nation’s Capital Archives & History Committee.

St. Patricks 3-13-16 Parade-05

Photo by Craig Harmon

Lion Brothers: Behind the Badge

Quick question: Which of these GSUSA ID strips was made in the USA?



Answer: the one on the right. The left strip, with the red, white, and blue shield, was made in China.

Girl Scout badges and fabric insignia have been manufactured by Lion Brothers of Baltimore, Maryland, since the 1920s. Lion Brothers also makes badges and embroidered logos for the Boys Scouts, various branches of the military, university and professional sports teams, and NASA.

Lion helped GSUSA transition from sewn-on insignia to iron-on products in 2003 and produces the Make Your Own badges.

patches, badges

Lion distributed these patches at the 2014 Girl Scout Convention in Salt Lake City.

Lion was founded in 1899 but nearly shut down two years ago. In 2013 the US Customs and Border Patrol Agency, one of Lion’s largest clients, changed its procurement rules from “Made in America” to “Made in America and by trading partners.” According to the Washington Post, that altered wording allowed the government to change manufacturers. Lion lost a huge chunk of its business. While Lion has its own factory in China, it is used for professional sports jerseys and university logo-wear, not the intricate designs of uniform badges.

Lion CEO Suzy Ganz laid off workers and stopped production lines. But rather than surrendering to the changed market, Ganz adapted. She received help from the Mid-Atlantic Trade Adjustment Assistance Center to revamp her US factories, turning them into high-tech “micro-facilities.” Then the Girl Scouts stepped in.

Lion Brothers CEO Suzy Ganz

Lion Brothers CEO Suzy Ganz

The Washington Post reports that the real turning point for Lion came when “the Girl Scouts agreed to bring all production in China back to the United States.” That vote of confidence helped Ganz secure additional funding and begin hiring again.

Senior Textile Arts badge

My teen troop has been working on their Textile Arts badge and we may tour Lion to learn about commercial embroidery.

I’ve heard many leaders complain about the redesigned ID strips, calling them a scheme to suck more funds out of our pockets. I don’t think that is a fair accusation.

Just because a newer version of our insignia has been issued does not mean that you have to immediately rip the old one off a vest and rush out to buy its replacement.

But if you are buying the new strip, perhaps for a newly bridged Brownie or Junior, keep in mind that you’re buying American again, helping a small, woman-run company survive and provide jobs here at home.

Let’s Make Downloading Badges Legal

The 53rd Girl Scout National Convention is just a week away!! One of the highlights is always the super shop, with hundreds (thousands?) of Girl Scout goodies.

Of course, any mention of official Girl Scout products inevitably leads to complaints that the handbooks, badges, etc. cost too much. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I have no problem paying for Girl Scout books.

As a writer and editor, words are literally my income. I know that every book has an author, and I know that writing is hard work. Authors deserve to be paid. That is why it really bothers me to see leaders sharing photocopies of badge inserts or websites advertising free downloads of scanned journey books.  (While I don’t get paid to write this blog, it is an opportunity for potential clients to get to know me better.)

Junior Technology, the first online badge, was introduced in 1997.

Junior Technology, the first online badge, was introduced in 1997. Today’s Girl Scout can’t find any requirements online without breaking the law.

Let’s be honest and fair and admit that distributing bootleg scans of journey books and badge requirements constitutes theft. It is taking a person’s hard work without paying for it. Go ahead, argue “sharing” and “sisterhood” all you want, but if thieves share stolen goods among themselves, it does not make the theft acceptable. Would you walk into a Girl Scout shop, pocket a handful of badges, and walk out without paying? This is no different.

Let’s resolve to respect authority, including copyright law. The bootleggers know they are breaking the law, which explains why they try to shout down anyone who calls them out with nasty comments and name calling. Do we really have to put labels on every page, photo, design, etc. saying “Not yours. Don’t steal”?

I agree that the current program materials are a bit pricey, but I also realize that buyers are shouldering the cost of sales lost to illegal download sites.  I don’t think the Girl Scout way is to sneak around and try to subvert the system.

Instead, let’s ask GSUSA to make program publications available digitally for legal, inexpensive downloading. The Boy Scouts already make many of their badge guides available through Amazon Kindle. Would you pay $1.00 for a PDF of a badge insert? Perhaps $5 for a digital journey book? Sign me up.

Tell GSUSA that you’d like to legally download publications for your troop. I’ve started a Facebook page for people who like this idea: Girl Scout Publication PDFs Please.

Nation's Capital has a copy of the Trefoil Patent application.

Nation’s Capital has a copy of the Trefoil Patent application.

I think our founder would approve of this proposal.  Juliette Gordon Low understood the importance of intellectual property rights and secured a patent for the trefoil symbol.  She applied for the patent on November 23, 1913, and received it on February 10, 1914.

When Low decided to step down from the day-to-day operations of Girl Scouting in 1921, GSUSA asked that she surrender the patent to the organization.  She agreed, but on her own terms.

Stacy Cordery, Low’s recent biographer, recounts how Daisy shrewdly agreed to assign the patent to GSUSA in exchange for keeping her name on the organization’s Constitution, stationery, and membership cards in perpetuity.

Juliette Gordon Low had two patents of her own.

Juliette Gordon Low had two patents of her own. (Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)

Daisy actually had two patents. The other is for the “Pluto Bag,” a stand-up trash bin for liquids. It reminds me of an origami project that got way out of control.

Want to learn more about intellectual property? The Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital has a their own intellectual property patch program for all age levels.

See you in Salt Lake City!

© 2014 by Ann Robertson

 

 

Princess Pat Out of Her Tree

We’ve all heard of the Princess Pat, and most of us know that she didn’t really live in a tree.  But who was she?

Princess Patricia of Connaught (London Illustrated News)

Princess Patricia of Connaught (London Illustrated News)

Born in 1886, Princess Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth of Connaught was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her parents were Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia. After a lengthy career in the army, the duke served as Governor General of Canada from 1911 to 1916. Because her mother was in poor health (she passed away in 1917), Patricia served as her father’s official hostess in Canada. Patricia was very popular and highly respected for her work for the Red Cross.  She was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the newly formed Canadian Light Infantry in 1918 and personally embroidered the regiment’s first official colors — their flag. Colonel-in-Chief is a ceremonial role, similar to a sponsor or patron.

Princess Patricia and the Duke of Connaught at the Winnipeg Expo in 1912 (http://dukeofconnaught.yolasite.com/).

Princess Patricia and the Duke of Connaught at the Winnipeg Expo in 1912 (http://dukeofconnaught.yolasite.com/).

The Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry was formed in August 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, and will celebrate its centennial next month.  Members are affectionately known as the “Princess Pats” or the “Patricias,” and their annual magazine is The Patrician. It is a highly decorated unit that served with distinction in both World Wars, Korea, Cyprus, the Balkans, and Afghanistan.

The popular “Princess Pat” camp song is said to be a variation on the regiment’s own marching song, with lyrics that have become increasingly garbled over time. Like a game of telephone, the phrase “light infantry” has transformed into “lived in a tree.” The word “rigabamboo” (or rickabamboo) refers to the red, gold, and purple regimental flag and is “Ric-A-Dam-D00” in the original.

Princess Patricia presents a wreath to the troops.

Princess Patricia presents a wreath to the troops (www.birthofaregiment.com).

I’ve come up with at least three versions: the Scout Tree song, the Scout Light Infantry version, and the Regimental lyrics.  Although I could not find a definitive statement, the regiment supposedly has asked that the song not be sung with the irregular lyrics as they regard it as disrespectful.

In addition to her needlework talent, Princess Pat was an accomplished painter whose work was widely exhibited. She married Alexander Ramsay, a Naval officer who worked for her father in Canada, in 1919. Now known as Lady Ramsay, Patricia traveled the world with her husband as he rose to the rank of admiral. They had one son. Lady Ramsay passed away in 1974, but Princess Pat lives on in hundreds of Girl Scout, Boy Scout, and Girl Guide camps around the world.

Want to learn more about real princesses? Check out my new patch program, Real Princess.

My Real Princess patch program.

My Real Princess patch program.

We Are Girl Scouts of the USA!

Juliette Gordon Low in 1923.

Juliette Gordon Low in 1923.


Today Girl Scouts celebrate their 102nd birthday. As a gift to our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, let’s resolve to call our movement by its correct name: Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

Because the Boy Scouts, a slightly older organization, are the “Boy Scouts of America” people assume that the Girl Scouts dutifully followed down the same footpath. If the boys are the BSA, then the girls must be GSA. Right? Wrong!

What’s in a Name?

Juliette Gordon Low fought hard for the right to use the name “Girl Scouts.” Lord Baden Powell, who founded the Boy Scouts, insisted the “scout” label was for boys only. He decreed that their sisters would be known as Girl Guides. Low called her first troops in the United States Girl Guides as well, but the girls declared that they wanted to be Scouts. She followed their lead and defended their choice.

Other groups staked claim to the scout name. Clara A. Lisetor-Lane organized a group called Girl Scouts of America in 1910, but it failed to gain a national following. That didn’t stop Lisetor-Lane from accusing Low of stealing her idea.

Rival claim from the Girl Scouts of America

Rival claim from the Girl Scouts of America

The biggest objection came from the Boy Scouts. BSA Chief James E. West was openly hostile to the notion of girls calling themselves Scouts, saying they “trivialized” and “sissified” the term. He helped launch the Camp Fire Girls as an alternative organization and threatened to sue Low for using the name “Scouts.”

Girl Scout leaders argued that they had an equal right to the name, especially after women won the right to vote in 1920. As national board member Caroline Slade explained,

Now that full citizenship has been extended to the women of this state, it seems to me essential that as girls they should learn that their responsibility for their country is equally as great as, if somewhat different from, that of the boys, and I believe there is no better way for them to learn to become good citizens than to learn to become the best kind of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Remember US

The difference between GSUSA and BSA is easy to remember: US.

The Boy Scouts have a long history of fighting to keep specific groups of people out of Scouting. At one time, that included girls and women—us.

Juliette Gordon Low and the other women who established Girl Scouting fought to give us an equal role as citizens of the United States, an equal responsibility to shape our futures, an equal opportunity to be self-sufficient, and an equal dose of “wholesome pleasures” such as camping, singing, and public service.

On this Girl Scout birthday, don’t forget to put the US in GSUSA to thank our past leaders for give US a place in Scouting.