In 1938, Belgian Girl Guide Elisabeth May sent this beautiful Christmas card to her Girl Scout friend, Virginia Hammerley in Washington, DC. “Ginger” had been friends with Elisabeth and her sisters when their father was the Belgian ambassador to the United States.
I know cookie t-shirts, cookie toys, and I have a large collection of cookie patches. I’m even making a cookie patch quilt.
But somewhere between my years selling cookies and my daughter’s cookie season, the cookie pin appeared. Why?
The first cookie pin debuted in the fall 1998 Girl Scout catalog. The requirements are in separate activity guides available from GSUSA.
The pin is a different color each year, but the year is not part of the pin’s design, which guarantees confusion.
In the 2005-2006 guide, then-CEO Kathy Cloninger explains that the cookie pins focus on Girl Scout core values. I can’t complain about that purpose, but it would be nice if those core values were explicitly listed in that guide. (Fortunately they are on the cookie boxes.)
I also think that it’s nice to have a cookie prize available to all Girl Scouts. Each baker has their own annual theme, which means rival slogans and different cute cartoon animals across the country.
But isn’t that what the various cookie badges do?
Three cookie themed badges–Cookies Count (Brownies), Cookie Connection (Juniors), and Cookies and Dough (Cadettes and Seniors)–were introduced in 1997. Why add a repetitive set of ugly pins the next year? How are they different? A second badge for Juniors, Cookie Biz, was introduced in 2004.
Introduced in 2011, the current Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE) program also has two cookie badges per level. They are the soulless silkscreened variety, using words as a lame design effort. The requirements overlap with the cookie pin requirements, and now some councils are offering their own patch programs with similar requirements and names. The badge in the left is for Juniors, on the right is a patch for multiple levels.
cookie ceo badge
lbb cookie ceo
But what I really don’t get is why are cookie pins such expensive pieces of junk? I have gotten higher quality jewelry out of gum ball machines. These pins aren’t worth a quarter, much less $2.
I haven’t actually counted, but it certainly seems like the number one item that parents are trying to replace in the various Facebook Girl Scout groups is a cookie pin. The pin backs snap off within days of putting one on a vest. Perhaps they jump off and flee in embarrassment.
How can a girl possibly earn a cookie trifecta–badge, baker patch, and pin–without double-dipping?* There are just so many ways to practice a sales pitch.
Like I said, I just don’t get the cookie pin program.
And I’m not going to put them on my patch quilt!
*Double dipping = using one activity toward requirements for two awards.
I have had the good fortune to make two trips to the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah in the past month. In between, I decided to learn more about the history of the building. How did it become a Girl Scout National Center?
Girl Scouts of the USA, the national organization, purchased the home from the Gordon family in 1953. The Birthplace became the third national Girl Scout center, joining Camp Edith Macy in New York and Rockwood outside of Washington, DC. The Savannah home would become
a unique center for Girl Scouting in this country — a place where ideas for new troop activities can be tried out, where there will be records of the past and plans for the future of Girl Scouting where girls from all over the world may come together to find friendship and inspiration.
–Lilly Macintosh, chair of Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace Committee in 1954
The GSUSA Board of Directors advanced the purchase price ($500,000), intending to launch a national fundraising campaign to pay for the building and its renovation.
Girls were asked to contribute pennies equal to the cost of an ice cream cone.
However, the campaign did not go as smoothly as hoped. Only $88,450 had been raised by late 1954; $100,000 was needed before restoration could begin.
To date, contributions to the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace fund have been very slow. As a report will be made at the regional conference of Girl Scouts in October, it is asked that any adult or troop wishing to make a contribution to this fund do so as soon as possible.
Other indications of trouble were sprinkled throughout local news columns on Girl Scout activities, such as “the local quota of $105 for the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace restoration” and “each troop be contacted and made acquainted with the plan of contributing one dollar or more for restoration.”
If the Girl Scouts were to meet their target grand opening in 1956, they needed a new strategy. So they turned to a time-tested fundraiser: baked goods.
One year earlier, Helen Duprey Bullock, of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, had begun adapting “classic” cake recipes for Dromedary Heritage Series cake mixes. Not only were the recipes based on family traditions from historic American homes, but a portion of the profits went to restore the related home. Dromedary was a division of the National Biscuit Company
The company’s first mix, First Lady Martha Washington’s “Great Cake,” was a flop (perhaps because it required 40 eggs), but her gingerbread recipe was a hit.
Soon Bullock created mixes for James Monroe’s white cake,Thomas Jefferson’s pound cake, Mary Todd Lincoln’s yellow cake, and Theodore Roosevelt’s devil’s food cake, among others.
For Juliette Gordon Low, she created an angel food cake mix. Thankfully, the required 13 egg whites came with the mix.
The result, according to advertisements, was
Angel Food light as a moonbeam, fluffy as a summer cloud, white and moist as a fresh snowfall. And with a delicate crust and flavor all its own.
Dromedary kicked off the deal with a $500 token payment. Going forward, the company would pay royalties of three-fourths of one cent per case of angel food cake mix. They anticipated selling six million cases per year and pledged an advertising campaign worth $1 million.
I haven’t found the total amount raised, but the cake mix strategy was evidently a recipe for success. The beautifully restored Birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low re-opened in 1956.
She’s the fresh-faced young lady in a khaki pork-pie hat beaming in a vintage Girl Scout poster.
Her friendly face is also captured on a vintage pin-back button.
But who is this famous Girl Scout?
Sadly, this model Girl Scout has no name. She is the creation of popular artist and illustrator Lester Ralph (1877-1927).
The watercolor painting was first used on a poster for Girl Scout week in 1919. It was used for a variety of publicity purposes, but she is best known as the face of the 1924 “Buy a Brick” campaign.
As the Girl Scouts entered its second decade, the national headquarters had outgrown its space at 189 Lexington Avenue in New York City. Perhaps another factor in the decision to move was the neighborhood. In May 1922, thieves broke into the offices and stole nearly $10,000 worth of Girl Scout pins, watches, and uniforms. According to the New York Times, the robbers dropped their loot when “they were frightened off by a shooting in the neighborhood caused by other criminals working at cross purposes.”
In any case, by 1924 the organization was trying to raise $500,000 for a new building at 670 Lexington Avenue.
The national fund drive was chaired by popular mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart, who came up with the notion to sell “parts” of the new building. One brick cost $10, walls were slightly higher. Donors received the small button as an acknowledgement of their generosity.
The building campaign overlapped with the Girl Scouts’ acquisition of the model Little House in Washington, DC, causing considerable confusion on several fronts. Unaware that the Girl Scouts had already approached the Rockefeller Foundation for a donation toward the new headquarters, the regular operating budget, and American Girl magazine, Lida Hafford, director of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, contacted the very same foundation about funding a permanent home for the Little House.
National President Lou Henry Hoover eventually came to the rescue. With a flurry of telegrams she clarified who was moving where, and she even put up her own money to physically tow the Little House to a permanent site just west of the White House.
Throughout the administrative ordeal, our yellow brick Girl Scout never lost her confident smile, never slumped her shoulders in despair. Her image was repurposed for additional posters before being retired in 1928, following the death of the artist.
I think it is time this girl has a name, and I propose that from here on she be known as:
Dorothy, the yellow brick Girl Scout.
If we could just make ruby slippers part of the Girl Scout shoe collection…..
Hooray to our confident young women who braved the insults and haters and stood tall and proud yesterday during the 2017 Inaugural Parade.
The issue of whether or not the Girl Scouts should have participated in the events surrounding the swearing-in of a new president generated considerable discussion.
Some commentators dismissed the uproar as the work of “childish feminists.” (Their argument might have been more convincing if they used our real name, Girl Scouts of the USA, not Girl Scouts of America.)
Today GSUSA, the national headquarters, released their own follow-up statement, which reads in part:
Being a leader means having a seat at the leadership table no matter what. It means being willing to work with whomever happens to hold political power. It means not running from the face of adversity but, rather, standing tall and proud and announcing to the world and the powers that be that SHE is a force to be reckoned with—and that girls’ viewpoints and needs must be taken seriously. This is what we model at Girl Scouts, as to do otherwise would be to tell girls to sit down and be quiet—and that they don’t count.
Now there is a movement afoot to not ask Melania Trump to serve as honorary president of the Girl Scouts, another 100-year old tradition dating back to Edith Wilson. (Edith was Woodrow Wilson’s second wife and second First Lady; his first wife, Ellen had declined the invitation and then promptly died.)
Again, I disagree. We are non-partisan, we can’t pick and choose who we’ll take and who we want. That’s the first lesson in troop management. Would we reject the Trump granddaughters if they wanted to join?
In fact, I hope Mrs. Trump becomes deeply involved in Girl Scouting. It would be an excellent way for her to be a voice for women in the United States, a voice that quite literally has the president’s ear.
So, Mrs. Trump, after you drop your son at school Monday, why don’t you take a stroll down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. GSUSA headquarters is only a few blocks south of Trump Tower. You can pick up your membership pin and a beautiful official scarf in the GS Shop—and we’ll help you to begin learning what it means to be strong, confident, and independent.
The official lineup for the 2017 Inaugural Parade has been announced, and the backlash has begun. I was not surprised that the Girl Scouts are being criticized for participating, but I am very alarmed at the calls to boycott Girl Scout cookie sales.
I, too, was disappointed with the presidential election results, but I still think the Girl Scouts should participate for six reasons:
Girl Scout greeters at the 2013 Inauguration (GSCNC Archives)
Because We Respect Authority
The Girl Scout Law also instructs us to respect authority. That means to respect the office, if not the office holder.
Because We Teach Resilience
With elections, one side loses. Deal with it. We need to teach girls to lose with grace. If they don’t like the outcome, get up and do something about it. Don’t go home and pout.
Because We Keep Our Commitments
We should march because we made a commitment to march—a commitment to the Inaugural Committee and a commitment to the girls who applied and were selected. There are much fewer opportunities for Girl Scouts this year. While for past Inaugurations Girl Scouts were posted at metro stations and other locations to provide information and directions, this year they were only invited to participate in the parade.
Because It Was a Struggle to Participate
Girl Scouts have marched in Inaugural Parades since 1917, but it was a major struggle to win that privilege. Parade organizers didn’t think delicate young girls could stand the physical demands of marching, and we actually had to audition in advance.
Because the best defense against a powerful misogynist is to raise a generation of strong, confident young women.
Watch out. We are coming.
And one more thing…
Has anybody else noticed that the Women’s March on Washington logo looks familiar?
Today, instead of Throw Back Thursday (#TBT), let’s have Throw Out Thursday.
I’ve written before about the Girl Scout Little House in Washington, DC. Located at 1750 New York Avenue NW, about two blocks from the White House, it was a model home where Girl Scouts learned the basics of housekeeping, hospitality, and child care.
Built for the second Better Homes Demonstration Week in June 1923, the Better Homes in America and General Federation of Women’s Clubs donated it to the Girl Scouts, and National Girl Scout President Lou Henry Hoover quietly paid $12,000 to move it from the National Mall to its new location.
To encourage other councils to create similar opportunities for their troops, in 1930 Mrs. Hoover, now first lady, commissioned a highly detailed doll-sized version of the Little House. Everything matched the actual house, down to the wallpaper patterns. The dolls inside even wore tiny Girl Scout uniforms. She arranged for the doll house to be displayed at the 1930 national convention in Indianapolis. Afterward, the doll house toured the country, before taking up residence at the original house in Washington.
The Little House was used continuously for trainings and demonstrations of the domestic arts from June 1923 to April 1945. The Girl Scouts soon outgrew the building and vacated it in May 1955. The house itself was torn down in the early 1970s.
The doll house was taken to Rockwood, the Girl Scout national camp outside Washington, DC. But the manager there saw no need for a doll house at a camp, so it wound up on the trash pile.
I knew that a Rockwood housekeeper, Maude Hill, retrieved the doll house and gave it to a family that she worked for part time. The family had a little girl who was just the right age for the toy. She played with it and eventually donated it to the Hoover Presidential Library in 2012, the year of the Girl Scout centennial.
Imagine my surprise a few months ago, when that “little girl” contacted me, offering photos of the doll house!
Dorothy Angel Tenney grew up about a half mile from Rockwood. According to Dorothy,
On May 26, 1950, Mrs. Hill told Mrs. Angel that a wonderful doll house had been just tossed out for junk and that Mrs. Angel’s young daughter would love it. Mrs. Angel said she did not want some ratty little doll house that no one else wanted. Mrs. Hill persisted during the next several days and eventually prevailed upon Mrs. Angel to look at it. Mrs. Angel immediately had a laborer load the doll house in her car trunk and took it home.
For Dorothy, it was a wonderful toy. She played with it carefully and didn’t break a single piece of furniture. However, many of the original pieces, including the dolls, had been lost by the time Mrs. Hill discovered it.
Fortunately for Girl Scout history buffs, Dorothy’s father wasn’t just an ordinary father. He was an archivist! In fact, Herbert Angel, was Deputy Archivist of the United States from 1968 to his retirement in 1972. He researched the provenance of the doll house, and the family kept the treasure long after Dorothy outgrew dolls.
Dorothy shared these photos of the doll house. Isn’t it a delight?
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.
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.
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.