If I Were CEO of GSUSA

With the search underway for a new Chief Executive Officer at GSUSA, I started thinking about what I would do if I were CEO.

1. Relocate Headquarters

Earlier this year GSUSA announced its intention to sell part of its suite of floors at 420 Fifth Avenue in New York. Why not sell all of it? Let’s relocate to a less expensive, more centralized city, how about Chicago or Memphis or Kansas City? Personally I vote for bringing HQ back to Washington DC.

In addition to corporate offices, archives, and an expanded museum, let’s include a conference center and hostel facilities for traveling troops. Girl Scouting promotes active citizenship, which is enhanced when girls tour the Nation’s Capital and see how our government works. The Rockwood National Program Center served a similar purpose for decades but today still suffers from a lack of public transit options. A better model might be that of the National 4-H Conference Center. Nice, affordable space near public transit.

2. Return to a Skills-based Program

4 levels cover

The October 1963 issue of Leader magazine highlighted new handbooks for all levels.

Girls learn by doing activities, not by reading about them. They like challenges and stretching themselves. Let’s dump the Journeys and emphasize learning by doing with a rich range of badges. Put them all in ONE handbook, available in print and online. As Miss Frizzle always says in the Magic School Bus, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” (Wouldn’t Miss Frizz make a great troop leader?) She had great field trips and knew the importance of getting outside.

 

3. Invest in Staff Stability

Girl Scout councils have become pass-through workplaces. Few staff stay as long as two years, regarding the jobs as temporary stages in their careers. But younger doesn’t necessarily mean better in terms of employees; it simply means cheaper. How do we get them to put down roots? We could ask new hires to make a two-year commitment. We could also recruit from another demographic—current volunteers. Would empty-nesters, long-time volunteers whose troops have graduated, be interested? They are already  familiar with the program, so they would have less of a learning curve. We can’t build strong relationships and continuity with fleeting partners.

4. Promote a Culture of Collaboration

The various components of our movement must commit to improving communication, treating others with respect, and not going off to pout in our tents. This is OUR movement. It is up to us to find ways to perpetuate it.

APR23AR07The old recipe for Brownie Stew applies in the conference room as well as the campsite: everyone brings something to the table—new ideas, hard-earned experience, and enthusiasm, to name a few. Just because an adult wasn’t a member as girl doesn’t mean they can’t contribute today.

We must eliminate the fear of being expelled or fired that intimidates leaders and staff into silence.

Staff must learn to value the contribution of volunteers—that means recognizing the hours they serve as well as the dollars they give. Both forms of contribution are equally vital to the future of our movement.

National, council, staff, volunteer, girl—we’re all part of the same big troop.

5. Promote Girl Scout Pride

The Girl Scout uniform is a symbol of an internationally respected organization devoted to the development of girls. Wearing your uniform identifies you as a member of Girl Scouts of the USA and of a worldwide movement rich in tradition. It shows Girl Scout pride and provides for recognition and visibility. (“The Girl Scout Uniform,” Leader Magazine Fall 2003).

TakomaParkUnifThe best way to improve our visibility is to, duh, BE VISIBLE. Part of that means wearing a uniform. The public won’t know what we’re doing if they don’t realize who we are. This includes staff, perhaps just one or two days a week, but we’re all in this together. Plus, uniforms are one segment of merchandise whose profits go to GSUSA. Is it a coincidence that the budget deficits swelled when uniforms were all but eliminated?

Getting off my soapbox now. The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the members or staff of my council, my family, or even my cats.

GSUSA Executive Search Team: Interested? You know where to find me.

©2016 Ann Robertson

Open House a Success

On Sunday, June 26, the Nation’s Capital Archives & History Program Center in Frederick, Maryland, opened its doors to the public.

The Center’s grand opening was September 19, 2015, and programs are held there for troops on the 3rd Saturday and Sunday each month. Otherwise, the all-volunteer-operated center is open by appointment only.

We are re-evaluating hours and program opportunities for the 2016-2017 Girl Scout year and hope to have more drop-in days. We are also planning a few training classes for adult volunteers.

I was especially happy to finally meet fellow Girl Scout Historian Sandy Dent in person. She’s with the Central Maryland council, and we’ve been Facebook friends for years.  Most of the photos here are hers. (Thanks Sandy!)

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One guest–and now a new committee member–had several questions about former camps. She also shared memories of wading at camps in the 1960s. That reminded me of one of the most treasured items in our collection, the Murray Camp Scroll. Naturally, I had to pull it out.

The scroll is the 1960 Camp Committee report, but rendered in a truly unique fashion. The scroll is about 80 feet long and was donated by the family of Ann Murray, a former Camp Committee chair. Isn’t it amazing?

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Archives and History Committee members LOVE to share our collection. If you haven’t been able to schedule a visit yet, contact me (ann@robertsonwriting.com), we’ll try to work something out.

Meet Golden Eaglet Farley Massey

Golden Eaglet

Golden Eaglet pin

At age 92, Ruth Farley Massey is perhaps the last Golden Eaglet in the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital family.

Farley recently participated in a council documentary marking the centennial of the Gold Award. Her segment starts at 0:32 and she returns at the end of the six-minute video.

Enjoy!

 

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.)

Ducey_Tag

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

 

How the Gold Award Got Its Design

Ever wonder why the Gold Award looks like it does? gold patch

According to the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, “The rays emanating from the trefoil represent the Girl Scout influence in the wider community and the interdependence between Girl Scouting and the community.”

Previous highest awards featured eagles (Golden Eagle of Merit, Golden Eaglet) or a red ribbon and clover motif (Curved Bar, First Class).

For the current highest award, introduced in 1980, GSUSA considered reviving the prestigious Golden Eaglet, but some members were concerned that it would be seen as a “little sister” of the Boy Scout Eagle Award.

Senior pin      IMG_0069

Instead, the program committee resurrected a membership pin once reserved for Senior Girl Scouts. In 1938 GSUSA released a tiny electroplated golden pin featuring a 12-point sunburst and a small trefoil in the center. Just 1/4 inch in size, the pin answered girls’ requests for inconspicuous insignia resembling a sorority pin. The pin was worn on the uniform breast pocket.

1938F-40

The new Senior Pin appeared in 1938 catalog.

The sorority-style pin formed the center of the Five-Point pin introduced in 1955. This program was intended to provide a well-rounded introduction to Senior Girl Scouting through five activities:

  1. Go camping
  2. Carry out a service project
  3. Develop emergency preparedness skills
  4. Learn about your council or Lone Troop Committee
  5. Expand your interests (do a project in the arts, crafts, music, homemaking dancing, literature, dramatics or nature).

When the Five-Point program was completed, girls swapped the plain Senior pin for the Five-Point pin.

GS 5-point

Senior Five-Point Pin (photo from eBay)

Isn’t it nice when traditions are maintained?

©2016 Ann Robertson

 

 

 

Sharing Girl Scout Ways

GSWay_AmbThe Nations Capital Archives & History Program Center has been open for six months now. We offer workshops to help girls earn their Girl Scout Way badges on the third Saturday and Sunday of each month. Registration is through the Council event calendar.

Girls watch “The Golden Eaglet,” learn the history of our council, and examine vintage uniforms and badges. They also do a scavenger hunt through the 1963 handbooks and try some activities from older badges.

One troop just sent me a delightful thank you note, and their leader included a few photos. Enjoy!

Watching_Eaglet

Watching “The Golden Eaglet” in October 2015 (photo by Sarah Barz).

 

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Ambassador Jenn, an archives aide, watches as I model my own vest (photo by Sarah Barz).

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Sandy Alexander teaches Council history.

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Don’t forget classic songs and games! Susan Ducey teaches Strut Miss Lizzie (above).

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Trying out an old badge requirement (photo by Sarah Barz).

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Group shot! Each workshop ends with a group photo. We immediately print it out, paste it into our guest book, and each girl signs before she leaves.

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What Happened to Girl Scout Roundups?

Roundup_Line

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.

1968 Roundup 4

3. Use Resources Wisely

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

1968 Roundup 1

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:

1968 Roundup 3

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

Roundup 1962 in Pictures

Just after my recent post on Girl Scout Roundups, I saw a collection of Roundup photos for sale on eBay.

No one bid on them, so I snapped them up at the last minute. Even if they aren’t of Nation’s Capital people, they are part of Girl Scout history and should be saved.

There were two dozen black and white snapshots, most stamped “August 1962,” which coincides with the Button Bay Roundup in Vermont.

The seller lives in Ohio, and one of the girls in some of the photos (not included here) seems to be wearing an Ohio State University sweatshirt.

I’ll share some of the photos here, perhaps readers can help with captions?

Whoever these ladies are, they seem to be having tremendous fun.

Next up: What happened to the Roundups?


 

1962 Roundup 1

Photo 1: Pyramid

1962 Roundup 13

Photo 2: Tent city

1962 Roundup 12

Photo 3: Cooking in curlers

1962 Roundup 10

Photo 4: Patrol meeting

1962 Roundup 8

Photo 5: Church

1962 Roundup 5

Photo 6: Is that a goat? No, it’s a calf!

1962 Roundup 4

Photo 7: Crowd shot

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Photo 8: Group shot with hats

1962 Roundup 2

Photo 9: “You can take your hats off, now.”

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Photo 10: Smokey, leave the Pilgrim alone!

1962 Roundup 9

Photo 11: Guitars

 

1962 Roundup 7

Photo 12: Rehearsal

1962 Roundup 6

Photo 13: Helicopter

Changes at National Girl Scout Museum

My research trip to GSUSA last week was cut short by Blizzard Jonas, but I was delighted to discover some interesting changes afoot.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the National Historic Preservation Center (NHPC) is undergoing a major transformation. The museum has been emptied and a completely new exhibition is being staged.

The new exhibit is still a work in progress, but I will share a sneak peek.

Door_17

Entrance to 17th Floor Suites. (I bought a new patch with the same design.)

 

Hall_Uniform

Vintage uniform display along corridor to executive offices.

Flashlights

Vintage Flash Lights Used as Pendant Lighting in Museum

 

NHPC Badges

Novel Way to Display Badges

My only disappointment was finding out that the 11th floor cafeteria had closed. I was really looking forward to the best grilled cheese in Manhattan.

I understand that regular staff probably grew bored with the cafeteria, but it was a wonderful attraction for visiting troops and researchers. It was affordable food, conveniently located near clean restrooms and the Girl Scout Shop – three selling points for any troop leader.  As a researcher, it was nice to have someplace in the building, where I could grab a quick lunch and not lose valuable research time.

At least from a visitor’s perspective, the cafeteria was a valuable resource that I’m sad to see eliminated.

©2016 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.

Munsey Building

Munsey Building (Library of Congress photo)

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

Munsey Map

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.

Munsey 12 floor

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:

Johnston June 12 1954

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

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

©2015 Ann Robertson