This poster hangs on a wall at our Archives and History Program Center in Frederick, Maryland. Bright yellow and 28×22″, it always attracts comments.
However, we didn’t know the story behind the picture. We found it in the back of a closet, in a ratty old frame held together with Scotch tape.
Based on the uniforms and the fact that it says “70th Anniversary,” the image is obviously from the early 1980s, presumably 1982.
But the mystery was solved thanks to an old Nation’s Capital newsletter. For Girl Scout Week 1982, Delta Airlines replaced their normal peanut snacks with packets of Trefoil shortbread cookies. Delta bought and distributed 800,000 cookies March 7-13, 1982.
This was the second time an airline joined the national cookie sales. In 1981 United made what was then the largest corporate cookie purchase in history. United included a packet of two Trefoils on every meal tray.
The success of the United program encouraged Delta to participate. Delta went one step further, having their own company artist, Brad Diggers, commemorate Girl Scouts’ 70th birthday with a special painting.
Limited editions of the painting were presented to 15 Girl Scout councils served by Delta. Nation’s Capital has print number 10 of 34.
As World Thinking Day approaches, we look back at a previous experiment in international friendship with a guest post by Katherine Cartwright, a doctoral candidate in history at the College of William and Mary. She was a Girl Scout for seven years in Michigan.
On Monday, April 27, 1931, First Lady Lou Henry Hoover, former First Ladies Edith Wilson and Helen Taft, the Vice President, the Ambassadors of Japan and Poland, and the ministers of Czechoslovakia and Austria crowded into Constitution Hall near the White House. The event? The “Festival of Nations” – a six-day theatrical production put on with the help of the Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia. The pageant, according to the Washington Star (March 22, 1931) was intended “to promote friendship and better understanding between the youth of all nations.”
exactly the type of event I was hoping to find while conducting research for my
dissertation in the archives of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital.
My name is Kat Cartwright and I am a Ph.D. candidate at the College of William and Mary. My dissertation examines how young people engaged in and shaped efforts aimed at cross-cultural understanding and internationalism from World War I through World War II and when volunteer archivist Ann Robertson handed me a 1931 scrapbook containing newspaper clippings that chronicled the Festival I knew I had struck gold.
newspapers began reporting on the Festival as early as November 1930. In
cooperation with the Department of State, four countries were chosen for the
play: Mexico and Canada, the closest neighbors of the United States; Czechoslovakia,
a nation “greatly interested in promoting friendship among nations”; and Japan
since the Festival was to correspond with the blossoming of the cherry trees, a
gift from the mayor of Tokyo in 1912. The drama was to feature the “authentic”
culture, dancing, and singing of these four nations and end in a finale with
youth representing 50 nations.
While the initial articles in the scrapbook concentrated
on the adults organizing the production, the articles increasingly emphasized
the youths’ participation throughout that spring. These articles allow me to
incorporate the actions and voices of young people into my work.
Not only did young people, especially Girl Scouts from
troops in the Washington area, join professional singers, dancers, and actors
in the cast and serve as ushers at each performance, they also played an
important role in promoting the Festival. For example, they submitted posters
to be circulated throughout the United States, Canada, and other countries
leading up to the Festival.
About 30 Girl Scouts and Girl Guides representing at
least ten countries attended a promotional “Flying Tea” held at Hoover Airport,
now the site of the Pentagon. Nellie Veverka from Czechoslovakia got to do the
honors of christening a new airplane. Other reports scattered throughout local
papers followed additional preparations for the Festival, from the spectacular
costumes to the involvement of embassies.
With so much hype leading up to the premiere, I was sure that the Festival was going to be a hit. But, alas, the first reviews were hardly favorable. The most scathing review came from an Eleanore Wilson, who wrote in the April 28 Washington News,
Once more, we regret to report, Washington has made a daring and desperate stab at art and fallen short of the mark.
Washington News (April 28, 1931)
Others cited the duration of the play as its primary flaw and wished that it had been a silent film because the discourse took away from the music and scenes. Though we don’t know the exact reason why, even First Lady Hoover left half-way through opening night! The crew and cast quickly responded, cutting scenes here and there.
By the time more than 2,000 Girl Scouts and various other youth from the Washington area crowded into the hall for the children’s matinee on Saturday, the play had been shortened by an hour and fifteen minutes.
Many of the articles in the scrapbook suggest that the Festival
that took place in DC in 1931 was modeled on similar events held elsewhere.
That suggests many additional research paths to explore: Where did these events
take place? Were the Girl Scouts and Department of State involved? What
countries were represented in the festivals? How were young people—both from
the U.S. and abroad—active participants? I hope to explore these questions and
find more events like the “Festival of Nations” as I continue my research.
P.S. I am currently working my way through The American Girl magazine [the Girl
Scout publication, 1920–1979] and have evidence of international correspondence
between Girl Scouts in the U.S. and Girl Guides and Girl Scouts abroad. Maybe
you know of such letters collecting dust in an attic or basement? If you have
any leads, I’d love to hear from you! You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nestled inside a quiet bend of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal near Seneca, Maryland, Riley’s Lockhouse offers Girl Scouts a unique opportunity to learn about daily life in the 1870s and museum careers.
On weekends in the fall and spring, Girl Scouts dress in authentic period clothing and share the history of the Riley home to visitors of all ages. They serve as docents, demonstrating daily chores from the 1870s, including washing clothes, making butter, singing, playing games, sewing quilt squares, and making corn husk dolls.
Welcome to Riley’s Lockhouse! (GSCNC Archives)
The C&O Canal was in use from 1831 to 1924, with 1871 its peak year. It ran from the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, to Cumberland, Maryland; 185 miles. Barges navigating the canal used a series of 74 locks to adjust to the changing depth; from sea level in Georgetown to 605 feet in Cumberland. Riley’s is located at lock 24. Today, the canal’s towpath is popular with cyclists, joggers, and history buffs.
Approaching the lockhouse (Echo Reardanz)
In October 1975, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital launched the Riley’s Lockhouse History Program through a special permit from the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Searching for a special way to mark the US bicentennial, Cadette Troop 2032 of Bethesda, Maryland, devised a project to demonstrate how families lived in the 1870s.
In 2007 the Riley’s Lockhouse Program received the national Take Pride in America award from the US Department of the Interior. The program also won the 2007 George B. Hartzog, Jr., award for outstanding volunteer youth group in the local National Capital Region.
Over 40 years later, the program remains popular. Girl Scout troops still change into period costumes and give tours on Saturdays and Sundays in the spring and fall.
Leaders of troops interested in participating in the lockhouse experience need to take a half-day training course so that they can learn appropriate skills and teach them to their troop. Training classes are offered in both the fall and spring.
Veteran C&O volunteer and Girl Scout Joan Paull trains leaders in 19th century life (Echo Reardanz)
The program is open to all Girl Scouts, not just troops registered with Nation’s Capital. Many of the photos featured here were taken by Echo Reardanz, a volunteer from the Girl Scout Council of Central Maryland who frequently brings troops to the lockhouse.
The wrenching images of immigrant children separated from their parents reminded me of several articles about Girl Scout outreach programs. The Department of Homeland Security should take note:
Girl Scouts have a long tradition of welcoming newcomers. They have created innovative programs to welcome girls moving across the country or across town; girls moving into overcrowded boom towns, as well as refugees from all corners of the world.
They have established and operated Girl Scout troops in challenging, high-security settings, such as the Japanese internment camps of the early 1940s. Since 1992, the Girl Scouts Beyond Barsprogram has formed troops in women’s prisons so that inmates can participate in troops with their daughters. They even sell cookies to prison staff!
Early in the Cold War, troops were encouraged to seek out Displaced Persons arriving in their communities.
Item from January 1949 issue of Leader magazine.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Girl Scouts in the United States reached out to children in Europe and Korea, sending care packages and school supplies to communities ravaged by war.
Hugh M. Milton, II, Undersecretary of the Army (left) and Frank G. Millard, General Counsel of the Army, are presenting school kits to Vietnamese Girl Scouts on December 3, 1959, at CARE headquarters, Saigon. Thousands of kits donated by GSUSA troops (including 339 from Southern Maryland) were distributed in India, Vietnam, and Hong Kong between December 1959 and February 1960. (GSCNC Archives)
The Girl Scout way of Making New Friends continued in the 1980s. A February/March 1981 article in Leader magazine highlighted programs designed to help newcomers integrate into their new communities.
Leaders in the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida … visited Cuban mothers to assist them with grocery shopping, cooking and coping with the trials their new and confusing lives, while the Riverland Girl Scout Council in LaCrosse, WI, held a five-day cross-cultural “get acquainted” day camp with some of their new Cuban neighbors.
When community members in Fort Smith, Arkansas, were less than welcoming toward a group of Cuban refugees, Mount Magazine Council staff greeted the newcomers. The council CEO went on local television to challenge Girl Scouts to be friendly, prompting more residents to come forward with donations.
The article highlighted efforts in my own council, Nation’s Capital, to warmly welcome Vietnamese and Laotian families to the Washington region. Council staff first recruited high-school aged Vietnamese girls into Girl Scouting, then used their language skills to form multi-level troops for each community. The best sign of the program’s success—the girls soon were bringing more friends to the meetings.
The current refugee crisis in the United States, with children desperate for friendship, attention, activities, and caring adults, provides a critical opportunity for the Girl Scouts to put decades of experience to work. We have the skills and a proven track record—if we are allowed to use them.
Fifty years ago today, the Girl Scouts of the USA released this telegram:
From Leader magazine, October 1968
Copies were also sent to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Judge Otto Kerner, every member of the Kerner Commission, every member of Congress, and every Girl Scout council president.
Two months earlier, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorder released a landmark study on race relations in the United States. President Lyndon B. Johnson had convened the 11-man panel of experts following riots in Newark, NJ, Detroit, MI, and 23 other cities the previous year. The violent uprisings, concentrated in African-American neighborhoods, were responsible for the deaths of 69 people in Newark and Detroit.
Known as the Kerner Report, as Judge Kerner of the US Court of Appeals chaired the panel, the report’s conclusion was concise and alarming: The United States faced such deep social and economic division that
Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.
—Conclusion of the Kerner Commission
The Report called for massive investment in housing and jobs to improve living conditions for African Americans and an end to segregation in urban neighborhoods, among other recommendations.
GSUSA received many responses to the telegram, including one from Judge Kerner:
Your message of the action of the Board of Directors of the Girl Scouts of the United States should be hailed by all throughout the United States. I am a great believer in using existing organizations to work on the greatest social problem the country has ever faced. I am sure that through the Girl Scouts you can reach into the economically deprived areas and give new experience and opportunity there as well as to those people outside the depressed areas by becoming acquainted with the conditions. Please extend my congratulations to the officers and the Board of Directors.
—Judge Otto Kerner
President Lyndon B. Johnson ignored the Kerner Report’s advice, mainly due to the cost, but the Girl Scouts paid attention.
Leader (Jan 1969)
At the 1969 National Council Session, GSUSA launched “Action 70,” a program to improve race relations within Girl Scouting. Within Nation’s Capital, the leaders of the Southwest Montgomery County and Mid-Eastern Washington Associations took up the challenge of fostering good relationships within the council. Mary Ann Claxton, of Southwest Montgomery County, invited Field Vice President Ethel Harvey to a discussion on “The Kerner Report and Its Implications for Girl Scouting.”
This discussion evolved into the Inter-Association Friendship Committee, a series of joint events between the Girl Scouts from the urban Mid-Eastern Washington and upper-middle class Southwest Montgomery County Associations spanning more than three decades. The Friendship Committee brought together troops for camping, swapping program ideas, service projects, and fun. One of the Committee’s most popular annual traditions was polishing the brass on the carousel at Glen Echo Park, once a whites-only establishment.
Nation’s Capital troops polishing the brass on the Glen Echo carousel (GSCNC Archives)
A half century later, the United States remains a sharply polarized society. The Girl Scout’s persistent determination to be inclusive is still a model worthy of consideration.
Much has been written about the legacy of former First Lady Barbara Bush, who passed away on Tuesday, April 17, at age 92. Commentators have noted her unusual position as a wife of one president and the mother of another; many tributes have also mentioned her extensive commitment to literacy promotion.
While in the White House, first ladies are also invited to be honorary president of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Mrs. Bush accepted eagerly and was active in many Girl Scout events. She even attended the 1990 National Council Session in Miami to draw attention to the Girl Scout Right to Read program.
As her neighbor, not just in the White House but also at the Vice Presidential Residence, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital had many opportunities to see and interact with her.
She spoke at the GSUSA 80th birthday celebration on March 12, 1992, held at the US Department of Agriculture atrium. Mrs. Bush helped launch a new national service project that day, “Girl Scouts Care for the Earth.”
An official photograph of the event appeared in the Summer 1992 Leader magazine:
Leader Magazine (Summer 1992): 29.
But our council archives have several behind-the-scenes photos from that day. It is delightful to see Mrs. Bush and her friendly, unhurried interaction with a group of very nervous Girl Scouts.
The photograph below is my favorite. I went back to the original to see if there was any additional information, such as the girl’s name and what she is giving to Mrs. Bush. Could that be a sparkly yellow pom-pom SWAP? She seems fascinated by it!
Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital Archives, March 12, 1992
We are fortunate that this busy first lady always made time for the Girl Scouts.
I was so excited by a new item that popped up on eBay earlier this month.
Designated as volume 1, number 1, The Girl Scouts’ Rally Bulletin is the public record of the first national convention, which was held in Washington in 1915. It was compiled by Edna Colman, the local commissioner.
In 1915 local troops put on a demonstration for convention delegates, including this representation of Justice, Liberty, and Peace.
This 32-page booklet includes highlights from troops across the country, including Washington. It also has a uniform price list (hats, $1.25; middy blouses, $1.75, etc.), and the names and addresses of troop leaders from every state.
The Nation’s Capital council archival holdings are surprisingly thin on the early history of Girl Scouting in Washington, DC. While council consolidation has brought the records of many legacy councils into a central location, our historical records are scattered across multiple sites. It takes some ingenuity, detailed searching, and sometimes pure luck, to track down information about our earliest days.
The main problem is that our early history is so closely entwined with that of the national movement. The first troops in and around the District of Columbia were managed out of the Munsey Building, where Juliette Gordon Low established the first national headquarters in 1913. Records from those years are more likely to be found at the JGL Birthplace or the First Headquarters in Savannah.
Cover of 1923 booklet about the Little House
After national headquarters moved to New York, the national Little House opened in Washington, and the local council rented one room of the house to use as its headquarters. When the Little House closed in 1945, some of its files went to New York, but others went to Rockwood, a national Girl Scout camp just across the District of Columbia—Maryland border. When Rockwood closed, its files and fixtures went everywhere … but that is another story.
Surprisingly, some of the best information I’ve found about our early years comes from the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in Iowa. Lou Henry Hoover’s role in the first years of Girl Scouting cannot be understated, and archivists there have been very generous about scanning documents for me.
Another source, the first Girl Scout magazine, The Rally (1917-20), published a regular column about the Girl Scouts of Washington.
But back to eBay. The asking price for this booklet? Nearly $600!! Pardon while I grab the smelling salts. This was a 30-day auction, now ended, and the price was slashed several times. The final price was $299.99. It did not sell.
At first, I was furious. This was highway robbery! Holding our history hostage for a huge ransom! Unfair!
Then I looked closer. The listing included numerous photos of various pages and ended with the statement:
Early enough, very rare and important enough to be a museum piece according to my research. I could not find another one like it. I could only find a PDF version at Girl Scouts University, Girl Scout History & Preservation. RESEARCH IT!
So I did.
Girl Scout University pin
The website is still up for Girl Scout University, another promising idea that GSUSA quietly abandoned and allowed to die of neglect.
I downloaded a good-quality PDF that added several new pages to our history.
The thing is, even if I had an extra $300 or $600 sitting around, there is no way I could justify the cost. I see my task as documenting history, not necessarily collecting examples of everything Girl Scout. While it is important to have artifacts that can be held and experienced, we wouldn’t pass around a century-old, original report anyway. We would scan it, lock it away carefully, and work with a copy. Which is exactly what we now have. And it didn’t cost us $300.
A few days after I first saw this auction, I received a priceless donation of original documents from essentially the same time period.