The Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia

You might assume that the Girl Scout Council of Washington, DC, began with a formal meeting of prominent women concerned with youth issues. Perhaps Juliette Gordon Low trotted across Pennsylvania Avenue from her office to meet with the first lady at the White House.

But in reality, the Washington Council was the product of an auto accident, a case of appendicitis, and a brief kidnapping.

The first Washington DC troop formed in December 1913. With the national headquarters located in the Munsey Building, near the White House, national staff initially handled matters related to local troops.

 

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Washington DC Troop 1 with Juliette Gordon Low 

 

But when JGL moved the headquarters to New York City in 1916, Washington Girl Scouts had to take charge of their own affairs. With more than 50 active troops, it was time to get their files in order and apply for a charter.

LHH in Uniform Portrait

Lou Henry Hoover (Herbert Hoover Presidential Library)

The first question was who would be the commissioner (president) of the DC Girl Scouts. The obvious choice was Lou Henry Hoover, an old friend of Daisy’s, but she was too busy for the amount of work necessary to seek a charter. After thinking about civic-minded  women in Washington, she came upon the solution by accident–literally.

In 1916, Mrs. Hoover had been in a fender bender with Henrietta Bates Brooke. Mrs. Brooke was well known in Washington for her various charitable endeavors. She had met JGL years earlier in Savannah and seemed ideal. Mrs. Hoover called on Mrs. Brooke, only to find her confined to her bed with a severe attack of appendicitis.

 

Being in no physical condition to deny any request, [Mrs. Hoover] quickly persuaded me to build a council, so when I got well, I had that to do.

Memoirs of Henrietta Bates Brooke

 

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Portrait of Henrietta Bates Brooke that hung at Rockwood National Center

 

Mrs. Brooke turned to her friend Edith Macy, the head of the New York council, for advice. They decided to invite a group of like-minded women to tea at Mrs. Macy’s apartment in Washington’s Dupont Circle neighborhood. As an added incentive, they promised a viewing of Mrs. Macy’s art collection.

This was a plum invitation. Mrs. Macy lived in the newly built McCormick Apartments at 1785 Massachusetts Avenue NW. The luxury Beaux Arts building had five stories and only six enormous apartments.

Edna Coleman, director of Girl Scouts in Washington, invited Mrs. Hoover to attend the tea, but, unfortunately, the future first lady was traveling at the time. That invitation is preserved at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.

In any case, there was a huge turnout for the Thursday afternoon tea. About one dozen women admired the paintings, nibbled on cookies, and exchanged pleasantries.

After tea was served, I simply locked the doors. Learning that they would only be permitted to depart after accepting places on the Washington Girl Scout Council, they all accepted and always stayed in scouting.

Memoirs of Henrietta Bates Brooke

On July 17, 1917, the Girl Scout Association of the District of Columbia became the eighth council chartered by the national headquarters.

From these humble and haphazard beginnings, the Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia has grown in include parts of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. One hundred years later, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital is the largest council in the United States, with over 87,000 members.

We rarely kidnap volunteers anymore.

©2017 Ann Robertson

Egg Rolling with the Girl Scouts

The White House Easter Egg Roll has been a Washington, DC, tradition since 1878. While the event skipped a few years, local Girl Scouts have been an Egg Roll fixture since the 1920s.

Local troops remember meeting First Lady Grace Coolidge’s pet raccoon, Rebecca, in 1927.

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First Lady Grace Coolidge shows Rebecca the raccoon to Girl Scouts in 1927 (Library of Congress, National Photo Company)

In 1928, their duties were spelled out in a letter from Captain (leader) Adah Bagby. Three years earlier, Grace Coolidge had replaced White House police officers with Girl Scouts and assigned them to locate “lost parents.”

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Easter plans for Girl Scouts in 1928 (GSCNC Archives)

Also in 1928, Mrs. Coolidge noticed the rose troop crest on the girls’ uniform and gave each girl a rose from the Rose Garden.

The Girl Scouts performed a May Pole dance during the 1929 Easter Egg Roll, much to the delight of First Lady Lou Henry Hoover.

May Pole

The dancing Girl Scouts must have been a hit. They performed a square dance during the rainy 1931 event.

Square Dance

Hoe Down on the South Lawn! (GSCNC archives).

In recent decades, Girl Scouts have returned to their child-wrangling role.

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Photo call for a Junior troop, late 1970s (GSCNC archives)

Has your troop ever worked at the Easter Egg Roll? We need some newer photos!

©2017 Ann Robertson

 

Archives at Annual Meeting

Saturday, April 8, was the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital. The Archives & History Committee always creates a display for the event.

This year we featured vintage adult uniforms and uniform kits. As usual, I visited with so many people that I forgot to take many pictures, but here are a few:

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Vintage adult Girl Scout uniforms.

IMG_3787The uniform display was so popular that we had people lining up to take photos with them!

Troops can check out vintage uniform kits for meetings or events. Each kit is a suitcase containing about seven uniforms and handbooks. We have all-age samplers, as well as Brownie, Junior, and Teen kits. We will be adding an adult kit soon.

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Uniform Program Kits

We were delighted to receive an enormous new donation just a few days before the Annual Meeting.  Not only did the donation include many adult uniforms in near-pristine condition, there also were nearly 50 international uniforms from the 1950s.

They came from the family of Janet McIntyre of Chevy Chase, Maryland. Janet had been an active Girl Scout leader beginning in the 1950s. Like many leaders, she accumulated many, many, GS materials over the years, and troops could borrow items, such as these vintage uniforms, for meetings and ceremonies. Janet passed away in June 2015 (age 94). Her children discovered the uniforms as they prepared to sell the house and contacted the council to inquire about donating.

We brought a few of the international uniforms to display at the Annual Meeting as well. This Brownie dress from the Philippines may be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. The hand-embroidered badges are sewn on the waistband. (See next post.)

Committee members also wore vintage uniforms. I picked the Stella Sloat dress from 1968. I think we should bring back gloves.

Council members can check out vintage uniforms to wear for the National Conference Session this October. Contact me if you are interested.

©2017 Ann Robertson

 

Don’t Buy Cookies from an Aardvark

I found this treasure in one of our cookie boxes at the GSCNC Archives & History Program Center in Frederick, MD. (An archival box of cookie sale materials, not a box of actual cookies, although I could use one right now…)

It is a letter-size sheet of paper, folded and printed as a booklet, that tells the story of Girl Scout cookies:

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(GSCNC Archives)

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(GSCNC Archives)

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(GSCNC Archives)

The back cover, in tiny print, reads “J. Moore, 51-4 GSCNC.” I assume that this is the work of Jean Moore, who was once an active member of Nation’s Council (and a plaintiff in the Rockwood case).

I suspect there’s a good story behind this delightful tale.

If it has made you half as hungry as it’s made me, try out the Girl Scout Cookie Locator to find cookies close to your location. Look for the girls in green, blue, brown, or khaki, and beware any aardvarks.

©2017 Ann Robertson

 

Brownies and Blair House

Tradition holds that the president-elect spends the night before his inauguration at Blair House, the “President’s Guest House” at 1651 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

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Blair House (Carol Highsmith)

But what do you know about the Blairs?  The family produced several prominent American statesmen—and one very spunky Girl Scout leader, Edith Blair Staton.

Edith’s grandfather, Montgomery Blair (1813-1883), studied law at my alma mater, Transylvania University in Lexington, KY, and his most famous client was the fugitive slave Dred Scott. Blair moved to Washington in 1852 and became Lincoln’s Postmaster General in 1861.

The family’s “country house,” Falkland, was the earliest residence in Silver Spring, Maryland.  Today, Montgomery Blair is the namesake of one of the largest high schools in Montgomery County, Maryland.

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Edith Blair Staton, 1924 passport photo

Edith arrived at Blair House on September 6, 1896, and was the last baby born at the residence. She married a young naval officer, Adolphus Staton, on July 28, 1917.

While her husband was at sea, the young bride took the helm of a Girl Scout troop. When the girls were preparing for their first camping trip and realized they had no bedrolls or other equipment, Edith went to her hope chest, stored in her attic of her parents’ home, and took her brand new wedding linen into the woods!

Edith threw herself into Girl Scouting and met founder Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah in 1922, where Daisy taught her how to stand on her head.

When Girl Scout leaders decided to adapt the British Brownie program for younger girls in the United States, Edith was recruited to help launch the program. She organized the first Brownie “Pow-Wow” for prospective leaders in November 1922. She had the perfect venue for a large meeting–Manor Country Club. Her uncle’s club was about to open and the meeting offered a good dress rehearsal opportunity for the staff.

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Logo for the First Brownie Pow-Wow in 1922 (GS Collector’s Guide)

Edith Blair Staton thus became the first Great Brown Owl, the main Brownie leader for the United States.

Edith remained active in Girl Scouting for most of her adult life. She was a member of the advisory committee for the Rockwood National Camp and was president of the District of Columbia council.

Edith passed away in 2001, at the age of 104. She is buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to her husband, Admiral Staton.

©2017 Ann Robertson

 

 

Tea and Waffles with the Girl Scouts

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Samoa Waffles from Domestic Fits

Before Girl Scout cookie sales began nation-wide, local Girl Scouts raised money by selling waffles.

The Girl Scouts of Washington DC eagerly joined the tea room fad that swept the United States in the 1920s. The girls operated not one, but two popular eateries in the nation’s capital.

Willow Point/Hains Point

In 1919 the Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia were allowed to open a “tea and refreshment” stand in East Potomac Park. A paved road, known as the “Speedway,” circled the perimeter of Hains Point, making the park a popular spot for leisurely summer drives. The Willow Point tea house began in an old street car under a large willow tree, with tables on the lawn. Many Washingtonians enjoyed the cool breeze from the waterfront while sipping a glass of cold ginger ale.

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The original Willow Point tea house. (Library of Congress photo)

The Willow Point tea house was a such huge success that in 1922 the Office of Public Buildings and Public Grounds asked Congress for permission to build a larger shelter complete with a “comfort station.” The request was approved, and in September 1924 the Girl Scouts moved into their new facility, known as the Hains Point Tea House. The classical white pavilion housed a restaurant, snack bar, and restrooms.

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Postcard of the Hains Point Tea House.

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The Willow Point Tea House was ideally located on the Hains Point speedway. A golf course was behind the building. (Library of Congress  photo)

President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding and, later, President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge were regular customers at the Willow Point tea house. President Harding (1921-23) was quite the waffle aficionado, and he usually ordered the breakfast dish at every opportunity. With his endorsement, the Girl Scouts became famous for their tea house waffles. (Although they served them with butter and syrup, not the president’s preferred topping: chipped beef gravy. Ewwwwww)

In fact, as the White House Waffle Maker, Florence Harding’s waffle recipe was widely published in 1920. It featured many ingredients that had been rationed during World War I and was part of a national campaign of “Back to Normalcy.”

Florence Harding’s Waffle Recipe

Serves Four
INGREDIENTS:
2 eggs.
2 tbls. sugar.
2 tbls. butter.
1 teaspoon salt.
1 pt. milk.
Flour to make thin batter. (I used about 2 cups flour)
2 large teaspoons baking powder
INSTRUCTIONS:
Separate the eggs
Beat yolks and add sugar and salt
Melt butter then add milk and flour and stir to combine.
Beat egg whites until stiff (but not dry) peaks form
Stir one spoonful of whites into the mixture to lighten and then fold remainder of egg whites and baking powder
Bake in a hot waffle iron.

(Atlanta Woman’s Club Cookbook, 1921)

Congress restructured park management in 1925, and took over the tea house on January 1, 1926. The Parks Service operated the restaurant until 1962, when it became a visitor’s center, and it was later used as office space. The building suffered from frequent flooding and was razed in 1987.

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The tea house was swallowed by flooding in 1985. The “Awakening” statue is visible at the bottom of the photo (Library of Congress).

Peirce Mill

The second Girl Scout tea house proved more enduring, and the proprietors knew exactly what menu item to feature:

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Washington Post (November 20, 1921): 6.

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Peirce Mill around 1934, with the tea house addition. (Streets of Washington blog)

On November 16, 1921, the Girl Scouts of Washington DC opened a tea house at Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park.

 

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DC Commissioner Evalena Gleaves Cohen, May Flather, First Lady Grace Coolidge, and Mrs. W. Bowyer Pain visit the Peirce Mill Tea House, March 25, 1925 (Knox History, GSCNC Archives).

The mill had housed a restaurant before, but the Girl Scouts redecorated it with pale yellow walls, blue tables and chairs, yellow curtains trimmed with blue fringe, and yellow and blue candles on each table. Menu favorites included coffee, muffins with marmalade, waffles with maple syrup, and gingerbread. Though not a financial success, the Council used Peirce Mill for meetings and training sessions for years to come.

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Teen Troop 2890 visited Peirce Mill in October 2013.

Peirce Mill still stands (2401 Tilden St. NW) and even without a restaurant, it remains a popular stop for hikers, bicyclers, and my own Girl Scout troop. It is about a mile from the Nation’s Capital headquarters at 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW.

Girl Scout Cookie Waffles

For a “traditional” Girl Scout breakfast, try making waffles with Girl Scout cookies!

 

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(Girl Scout Council of Chicago and Northwest Indiana)

And for those amazing Samoa waffles in the first photo, visit the Domestic Fits blog to get the recipe.

©2016 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.

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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.

 

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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