An Affordable Mannequin Solution: Update

Update: March 17, 2017

Stand covers are now available in white, too!

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IKEA’s Napen Clothes Stand

Girl Scout historians know how challenging it can be to display vintage uniforms.

Commercial mannequins can be expensive and usually are several sizes too large for the dainty uniforms of old.

Dressmaker forms can work for adult uniforms, but are difficult to find in child sizes.

 

I found a fantastic, very affordable solution at…..IKEA.  Yes, the assemble-it-yourself Swedish furniture store! Who knew?

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IKEA mannequins in use at our Archives and History Program Center.

The NÄPEN mannequins are sold in IKEA’s children’s department for the budding fashionista.

They are sold in two parts: the stand and a cover. You could use the stand without a cover, but the covers give the torso more definition. The stands are light enough to take with you for programs, but heavy enough not to tip over.  Total price is $19.99.

Here are the details:

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Napen stand (402.379.15) , $14.99.

The stand is metal and plastic and the height adjusts from 30″ to 50″.

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Napen cover (503.065.26) , $5.00

The cloth and wire cover comes in either lilac or turquoise. There is no size difference.

If you don’t have an IKEA near you, consider ordering from the website. You can get an entire troop for $100.

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©2016, 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

 

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.

 

Remembering Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan, like every First Lady since Edith Wilson, was honorary President of the Girl Scouts of the USA. However, her pinning ceremony was delayed by the assassination attempt on her husband.

Newly invested as National Honorary President, First Lady Nancy Reagan receives a bouquet from Brownie Rhonda Johnson on May 15, 1981.

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Rhonda Johnson presents a bouquet to First Lady Nancy Reagan (GSCNC Archives)

What Happened to Girl Scout Roundups?

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The Girl Scouts of the USA held four fabulously successful Roundups, in 1956, 1959, 1962, and 1965. Thousands of Senior girls pitched tents for two weeks of group living, friendship, songs, and adventure.1968 Roundup 2

Plans were in the works for a fifth Roundup in 1968. Leader magazine ran an article in which “Roundup ’65 Advises Roundup ’68.”

But the event never happened.  Why?

I’d hoped to research this question while I was at the GSUSA archives in January, but that trip was cut short by the Blizzard of 2016. Using other sources, I found three explanations.

1. The US Enters Vietnam

According to the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, “A fifth Roundup was projected for 1968, but the conflict in Vietnam interfered with securing adequate supplies and government assistance” (p. 247). Indeed, US combat units began formal deployment in Vietnam in 1965.

As with Boy Scout Jamborees, the US military provided logistical support and equipment to the Girl Scout Roundups. The large-scale operation was used as a practical exercise in troop movements (military troops, not Girl Scout troops!).

 

Senate Aid 1961

New York Times, August 8, 1961

 

Senate Aid 1964

New York Times, June 30, 1964

2. No Reason

Official statements from GSUSA did not mention the military.

The GSUSA National Board voted to the cancel the 1968 Roundup in spring 1966.

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3. Use Resources Wisely

Members evidently wanted an explanation. National President Margaret Price sent a letter to all council presidents.

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New York Times, August 8, 1961

She cited the desire to create more opportunities for older Girl Scouts, instead of one super-sized event every three years. Indeed, Roundups were not cheap. Nation’s Capital spent $12,131.70 to send eight patrols to the 1965 Roundup.

That statement went to council presidents, not the membership at large. Leader magazine was not published in the summer, eliminating that opportunity to share the news. The only official notice was a small blurb in the fall:

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According to Leader’s coverage of the 1966 National Convention, held October 23-28 in Detroit, the final session included discussion of the cancellation, but no specifics were included. I imagine it was a heated conversation.

Councils followed Mrs. Price’s directive and the Wider Opportunities (now Destinations) program was born. Many councils tried to hold an event in 1968, often using the familiar “Roundup” brand in their event name.

The Roundups are still fondly and vividly remembered by participants. Many still hold reunions to see their friends from across the country. I was surprised how many women still remembered their ID numbers after my first Roundup post.

 

 

 

 

The flags that lined the Avenue of Flags at the Roundups were donated to Rockwood National Center, where they greeted visitors for another decade.

©2016 Ann Robertson

Shining Light on the Civil War

Last Saturday I was a guest of honor at the 27th annual Antietam National Battlefield Memorial Illumination.

For the past 27 years, the first Saturday in December is a huge event at the National Park in Sharpsburg, Maryland, about an hour’s drive from my house.

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Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and other volunteers spent all day installing 23,110 luminaries (candles in paper bags full of sand) to commemorate the 23,110 soldiers killed, wounded, or reported missing in the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862.

The ceremony started promptly at 3:45 pm and featured distinguished speakers, a bagpiper, a color guard from the Army’s Old Guard unit, a choir, vocal soloists, and a bugle choir.

 

I was seated with Congressman John Delaney, former Congressman Roscoe G. Bartlett, Jr., and the wonderful Georgene Charles, founder and organizer of the Illumination.

I was particularly moved by Bartlett’s comments. He emphasized that all soldiers are remembered equally at the Illumination. Casualties are not broken into Union versus Confederacy, but rather have been united by their sacrifice. Noting the country’s current toxic political atmosphere, he held up the unifying aspects of the Illumination ceremony as a model for today’s leaders.

I had been asked to speak about the Girl Scouts and the Civil War. Since the movement began nearly a half-century later, I anticipated a very short presentation. But as I researched the topic, one very clear connection emerged.

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Nellie & William Gordon, Jr., Daisy’s parents.

Juliette Gordon Low was born on October 31, 1860; the Civil War began in April 1861. Her father immediately volunteered and left Savannah. Meanwhile her mother faced the added burden of being a Chicagoan living in the deep south. Her husband, brothers, and uncle were fighting on opposite sides, and her neighbors questioned her loyalty.

Daisy did not see her father again until she was three. She grew up knowing the hardships, stress, and anguish that affects a family when the father goes off to war. She also understood the heavy burden that falls on women at war, both mentally and physically.

That, I think is the connection between the Girl Scouts and the Civil War. The movement was only a few years old when the United States entered World War I, but Daisy knew immediately what role her girls could play. She made sure that Girl Scouts had the cooking, homemaking, and first aid skills that would allow them to keep the home fires burning, as men went to war and women went into the fields and factories. She dispatched her girls to ease the burden and worries of mothers and wives.

Back at the Antietam Battlefield, the sun was beginning to set and  the distinguished guests lit the first luminaries. (I almost lit a few bags instead of candles, it was harder than you’d imagine!)

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Slowly, volunteers lit the luminaries across the battlefield. As the sky darkened, the candles began to flicker brighter, until the entire park was aglow.

The ceremony ended with a 21 Gun Salute from The Old Guard and bugles sounding an echo version of Taps.  Everyone returned to their cars and joined a slow procession through the park.

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Photo from Hagerstown Magazine (better than any I took!)

 

Girl Scouts have been a part of this tradition since its inception. I think Juliette Gordon Low would agree that it is an excellent form of citizenship training. The scope of the conflict becomes much more tangible through the luminary installation rather than a paragraph in a textbook.

©2015 Ann Robertson

 

 

 

 

First National Headquarters

Juliette Gordon Low used her carriage house in Savannah for the earliest Girl Scout meetings and the first administrative office.

But she envisioned her movement as a national one, so in June 1913 she set up a national headquarters in the Nation’s Capital — Washington, DC.

Low signed a lease for Room 502 of the Munsey Building at 1327 E Street NW in Washington, DC. Monthly rent was $15, and she spent $2 for a sign on the door.

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Munsey Building (Library of Congress photo)

The building was conveniently located near the Willard Hotel and the Treasury Department.

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Neighborhood map (Library of Congress image)

The Munsey Building was the Washington base of Frank Munsey, a New York newspaperman who had made his fortune publishing racy articles on cheap, low-quality paper — the original pulp fiction. In 1901 he purchased the Washington Times from William Randolph Hearst.

According to Lost Washington, DC, by John DeFerrari, Munsey bought the old Lawrence Hotel on E Street in 1905, razed the building, and erected one of the first Washington “skyscrapers.” He hired the prestigious architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White to design his new offices.

The 12-story building boasted luxury details throughout, including marble Roman Doric pilasters, brass details, and exotic wood paneling. Black and red marble designs on the floor indicated the entrances to each suite.

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Typical suite entry (Library of Congress photo)

The Munsey Building became the center of Washington’s “Newspaper Row.” The Washington Times and Washington Post offices were just doors away, with the Evening Star a few blocks east.

National Executive Secretary Edith Johnston arrived from Savannah, GA, and set up shop with Miss McKeever, a local woman hired to handle mail requests for information, handbooks, and badges. Johnston also publicized troop activities, and local newspapers had a regular column about local Girl Scouts.

DeFerrari writes that the building was home to “a variety of patent attorneys,” which proved convenient when Low patented the trefoil design in 1914. Other tenants included the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

 

Munsey Interior

Typical office suite in the Munsey Building (Library of Congress photo)

Low paid the rent herself and covered the cost of uniforms, handbooks, and all types of expenses until the organization could become self-funding. She famously sold her wedding pearls in 1914 to raise funds for her girls. Low moved the national headquarters to New York City in 1916.

Johnston later lamented that Washington was not adequately recognized as the site of the first national headquarters:

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Letter from Edith D. Johnston to Kathleen Eihlers (GSCNC Archives)

The Munsey Building was torn down in the early 1980s.

©2015 Ann Robertson

My Favorite Girl Scout Memorabilia

What is your favorite piece of Girl Scout memorabilia? Your sash? An old handbook?

I had plenty of time to think about this yesterday, on my six-hour drive home from the North Carolina Collector’s Show.

Aside from my old vest, I think my favorite is this unusual pin I purchased a few years ago on eBay.  I wore it at the show, too.

My Worlds to Explore pin

My Worlds to Explore pin

The pin is about 1.5 inches in diameter and stamped “sterling” on the reverse. However, the globe, sun, and heart have a slight golden color, which may be from another metal as well.

The pin is engraved “Suncoast Girl Scout Council” on the back of the rainbow.

Reverse

Reverse

The pin is probably from the 1980s, as the symbols are those of the old Worlds to Explore program.

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

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

Suncoast council disappeared in 2007, when the Girl Scouts of West-Central Florida was created.

I don’t know the story behind the pin, but I suspect it was custom made, perhaps as a gift to a special volunteer or board member. I don’t know how it ended up on eBay, either.

But I am happy that the mystery pin wound up in the hands of a Girl Scout who appreciates its symbolism. I am proud to wear and share this unique conversation piece.

Skills Needed: Girl Scout Badges Could Help

A new book claims that today’s college freshman lack basic life skills. This is a gap that Girl Scouts should address.

New book by former Stanford Dean of Freshmen Julie Lythcott-Haims

New book by former Stanford Dean of Freshmen Julie Lythcott-Haims

In How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshman at Stanford University, claims that incoming students had impressive resumes, but were increasingly incapable of taking care of themselves. To remedy this problem, she says that, especially with teenagers, we should “seek out opportunities to put independence in their way,” such as making them responsible for their own food or learning to take public transportation.

She’s not alone in this belief. Many colleges have “College 101” courses to teach some of the basics. US News & World Report suggests that college freshmen need Seven Essential Life Skills.

With college looming, my troop of Seniors and Ambassadors has been focusing on basic life skills. We haven’t found much help from the current badge offerings, especially given the slim pickings for Ambassadors. Let’s see how well current badges satisfy the US News Seven Skills:

Dinner Party

Dinner Party

(1) Cooking:  While learning to host a Dinner Party is a great idea, we’ve taken a more basic approach to cooking. We did one meeting on things you can microwave in a mug, like scrambled eggs (and a Nutella cake that will get you through almost any crisis). Another session is how to boost a packet of ramen noodles into actual food.

On My Own

On My Own

(2) Managing money and (3) Apartment hunting: We did On My Own, which was pretty good, although I wish the actual badge wasn’t screen printed. To teach budgeting and how to manage a checkbook, I turned to Teachers Pay Teachers. This is a great website where teachers upload materials they have developed for various age levels. For about $5 I downloaded a PDF packet with blank checks to cut out, registers to fill out, and more.

(4) Getting around town: This includes both auto care (which the Senior Car Care badge somewhat covers), but also public transportation, especially since many colleges do not allow freshmen to bring cars. Perhaps we should bring back the old Transportation badge from the 1940s?

Take Charge (photo by Annelies Squieri)

Take Charge (photo by Annelies Squieri)

(5) Staying safe and healthy: We did the old Studio 2B Take Charge badge, since there is no self-defense badge today. That was a controversial badge in its day, but girls need some blunt talk about domestic violence and rape with a trusted adult. It was surprising how many knew girls who had already been victims.

(6) Studying: I miss the old Reading badges that encouraged girls to read for fun and create troop book clubs.  To fill that gap, I’ve created my own patch programs based on the Hunger Games series and the Princess Diaries. They are fun ways to make stories come alive, learn related skills, and explore unexpected career paths.

(7) Planning: Any girl who has completed a Silver or Gold Award knows the importance of planning, but the current program is not adequately preparing them. I’ve been on my council’s Gold Award Panel for some eight years and have seen hundreds of girls who think adequate planning is a four-slide PowerPoint. With rare exception, project management is a skill that we have to teach girls as we mentor them, not one they’ve acquired in their troop.

I’ll add a few other skills:

Laundry Symbols Explained (http://visual.ly/laundry-symbols-explained)

Laundry Symbols Explained (http://visual.ly/laundry-symbols-explained)

  • Laundry: We don’t need to resurrect the old Laundress badge, but how about teaching girls (and their leaders) what all those mystery symbols on care tags mean?
  • Sewing: Perhaps GSUSA thinks we don’t need to know how to sew any more, since insignia are now all iron-in, but every now and then you have to sew on a button or fix a hem.
  • Swimming: Yes, swimming. There’s no Girl Scout badge for swimming any more.  But to graduate, every Columbia University student has to be able to swim the length of the pool.

So there are my suggestions. Some of these skills are covered at earlier Girl Scout levels, but Ambassadors at least need a good review.

But of course, that would mean revamping the flimsy Ambassador program.

©2015 Ann Robertson