With the re-launch of Girl Scout Mariner and Trailblazer troops planned for 2020, it is a good time to revisit the original programs.
Senior Girl Scouts did not have their own proficiency badges until Interest Projects were introduced in 1980.
Instead, Senior troops concentrated on specific topics, with a particular emphasis on practical training for service roles. Girls earned small service bar pins, with the color indicating the focus.
Starting in 1955, troops and patrols could choose from five concentrations: Trailblazer, Mountaineer, Explorer, Wing, and Mounted. A “General Interest” path was added in 1958. Seniors wore a 3″ green bordered patch to indicate their focus.
The Mariner program, which launched in 1934, remained separate. The Wing program, dating to 1942, was not as popular as the Mariners and flew into the new framework as one of the five.
Personally, I think if the Wing groups had distinct, spiffy uniforms like the Mariners, they would have been more visible and likely more popular.
Based on girl feedback, the Senior program was tweaked in 1960. New interests were added, unpopular ones dropped, and patches slimmed down to 2.25″. Now Mariners were grouped with everyone else although their patch remained blue.
The biggest change came in 1963, when more paths were introduced, such as Community Action, Homemaker, and Arts.
Each focus now had a specific color that was used on the border of the emblem, but also on the tie and hat cord of the uniform.
But unlike the badges earned at younger levels, there was no earned insignia specific to this program. Instead, the large patches were simply an oversized troop crest.
A new set of four interest patches was introduced in 1974 along with a new Senior Handbook, Options.
The book marked the peak of Girl Scout efforts to be mod, hip, and crunchy granola. It practically came with a choker made of love beads and puka shells. Girls regarded the suggested activities, such as “Mysterious Musical Mood” and “Reading for Pleasure and Profit” as childish and condescending.
Finally, take a close look at the design of these patches. See the gold starburst design in the background? That was taken from the earlier special Senior membership pin.
Many troops simply kept using their trusty 1963 handbook and related interest patches.
In 1980, Options was officially declared dead. Few noticed.
An entirely new set of earned recognitions for Cadettes and Seniors (Ambassadors date only to 2008) came with the Worlds to Explore program. The program retained the “interest project” name, although the name changed several times: Interest Project Award, Interest Project Patch, and Interest Project.
The new program also launched a new highest award for Girl Scouts, the Gold Award.
Now, dear readers, take a good look at the images above. Did you ever notice the sunburst design carried through to the current Gold Award design?
Thank you to members of the Facebook Girl Scout historian community for sharing their experiences with these programs.
Usually we have to come up with ideas for our vintage exhibits at the Nation’s Capital Council headquarters. But sometimes we get lucky, and a display comes together on its own.
That’s what happened last fall when we received a donation of Girl Scout dolls. People often contact us saying that they or a friend has some items they’ve held onto to for years, would we like them.
Of course, the answer is yes!
And when we had such a query about dolls, we said yes and suggested the donor drop them at a council field office. They would make their way to the archives eventually. So we knew some dolls were coming and we assumed it was perhaps four or five.
This is what arrived:
They were all in pristine condition, most even labeled with manufacturer, date, and the relevant page from the doll handbook!
We have displayed dolls in chronological before, so this time we tried thematic grouping. We staged the dolls doing typical Girl Scout things.
Proudly Wearing Their Uniforms
Whenever Girl Scouts of the USA issued a new uniform, doll uniforms were updated as well.
Girl Scout dolls, like actual Girl Scouts, come in many shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.
The first African-American Girl Scout doll was available in the mid-1940s, although she did not appear in the official equipment catalogs.
Advertising and packaging of Girl Scout doll clothes began featuring dolls with mobility challenges, although there has not been a Girl Scout doll that comes with her own wheelchair—yet!
Making New Friends!
Girl Scout friendships have always been reflected in the range of Girl Scout dolls. Dolls celebrate troop friends as well as Girl Guide friends abroad.
Girl Scout dolls love being outdoors as much as real girls do! Many dolls come with their own camping gear.
From Barbie to Beanie Babies and Build-a-Bear, popular characters and toy lines have signed up with the Girl Scouts.
Learning Their History
Many dolls have been issued to honor Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts. Whether an expensive collector’s piece or a soft, snuggly cloth friend, girls can be close to Daisy day or night.
Learning Skills; Giving Service
Sewing and gifting dolls has long been a popular service project.
The full exhibit can be seen at the Girl Scout office at 4301 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite M-2, Washington DC.
Girl Scout National President, poet, and suffragist Birdsall Otis Edey penned the following message to Girl Scouts for 1925:
Mrs. Edey (and was there EVER a better name than “Birdsall Otis Edey”) is referring to the Girl Scout headquarters at 670 Lexington Avenue in New York City. Funds for the building came in part from the “buy-a-brick” campaign associated with “Dorothy,” the yellow brick girl.
A future post will profile the marvelous Mrs. Edey.
Happy New Year from the Girl Scout History Project!!
Does anyone remember the golden pins offered for adult service? There were two programs available between 1987 and 2005.
The Leadership Development Pin was introduced in 1987. A similar Volunteer Development Pin was released in 2003. Both were designed to emphasize long-time service and to be worn for many years.
Leadership Development Pin
The Leadership Development Pin featured a brown owl on a gold metal circle. Five holes had been punched at the bottom of the pin in anticipation of future attachments. Green, silver, and gold leaves could be attached as leaders accumulated credentials.
There were four steps to earning the basic, golden circle pin.
Complete one year as a troop leader or co-leader.
Complete basic leadership training.
Attend at least two meetings or events beyond the troop, such as service unit meetings, council annual meetings, or Thinking Day celebrations.
Secure camp certified and first aid trained adults for the troop.
Once the basic pin was completed, leaves could be awarded for additional training. One green leaf signified ten hours. Five green leaves could be exchanged for one silver leaf; five silvers (250 hours) merited one gold leaf.
The big problem with the “Owl Pin” was the leaves. They were tiny; no larger than a grain of rice. The main pin itself was less than an inch in diameter. Thus, by the time members accumulated silver and gold leaves, they needed reading glasses.
At least one of my leaves was possessed by demons. That’s the only explanation for the chaos that ensued the last time I tried to attach a new leaf:
Step 1: Gather pins, leaves, and jewelry tools.
Step 2: Recoil in horror as one leaf flies out of your fingers.
Step 3: Shake keyboard vigorously to remove leaf now lodged between keys. Retrieve and repeat.
Step 4: Attach leaf. Scowl as pinback snaps off, leaving a useless disc.
Fly Away, Fly Away
Like too many Girl Scout programs, the Leadership Development pin was never officially discontinued. It was last seen in the 2005 Girl Scout catalog.
Volunteer Service Award
The 2003 catalog introduced a new recognition, the Volunteer Service Award. Dubbed the “key pin,” it was even more complicated (and expensive) than the owl pin series.
The Volunteer pin continued the pin + dangles concept but focused on non-troop service. The main pin could be earned by completing one year:
On a board committee
On an appointed task group
On a service unit management team
On an association team or
As a GSUSA National Operational Volunteer.
After earning the main pin, volunteers could earn keys for additional service:
White: GS Mentoring Award
Black: GS Executive Award
Gold: GS Diversity Award
Silver: GS Community Cultivation
Copper: GS Fund Development
I could provide more detailed explanations of these categories, but typing them out would require more time than the pin was in existence. It also disappeared after 2005.
Alas, I am leafless and keyless
After the Great Leaf Debacle, I didn’t bother with the key pin. I don’t think many other volunteers did either.
Some programs never die, they just get stuck in the nooks and crannies of keyboards, junk drawers, backpacks, and couch cushions.
Troop Crests are some of the oldest official insignia. Originally, each patrol (sub-group) within a troop had a different crest. The first troop in Savannah, for example, had White Rose, Carnation, Red Rose, and Poppy patrols. Over time, crests began to encompass the entire troop.
Early troops were identified by their crest, not troop number, as in this Washington Post article from 1914.
Similarly, members of this troop were the “Surrey Poppies.”
In May 1913, Juliette Gordon Low brought a selection of English Girl Guide crests for the earliest American troops to use. The English crests were circles of black felt, embroidered with bright colors and a red border.
The Girl Scouts adopted many of the English crests in 1920. They soon realized that the Blackbird crest was almost invisible when embroidered on black felt. The girls decided to use blue thread instead and renamed it “Bluebird” in 1922.
Traditionally, once girls chose a crest, it was used for the lifetime of the troop.
But there are exceptions to every rule. Estelle Kelso, owner of this uniform, was either in a troop that picked a new crest each year or perhaps she changed troops.
Contrary to popular belief, meanings have only been ascribed to crests in recent years. The early crests were all flowers, trees, waterfalls, stars and other non-floral designs came later. Between 1923 and 1930, troops were encouraged to
choose the names of famous women, either from real life or literature, and “build up troop traditions around them. … select women “who have done conspicuous service or pioneer work in professional and scientific fields, or who were associated with our early American life, either in the colonies or in the Westward moving border lands.”
–Blue Book of Rules
From 1918 to 2011, troops could also design their own crests. They chose images that reflect their interests or perhaps a local landmark or significant culture. The meanings of many, however, are known only to the girls.
Whatever the design, fabric, or official status, crests can always be identified by shape. Crests are oval, all badges are (or were) round. That’s a difference that is easily overlooked by even the best historians. The rare fuchsia crest at right was mis-identified online by the Georgia Historical Society.
Designs have come and gone over the years. In 2011 the oval shape was replaced by a shield shape. Yet some designs have remained nearly unchained for over 100 years.
The Saturday, November 16, 2019 event was truly one for the record books.
9,000 girls explored the Dulles Expo Center in three-hour blocks. There was singing, archery, tent-pitching relays, robotics, book signings, and, of course, history.
The Archives and History Committee ran a booth with history-themed games. Linda Paulson taught girls how to play “Name that Cookie,” answer council history questions, and match new badges with their vintage counterparts. Girls received a “vintage” patch prize from our surplus. Most were excited to realize that the patch was older than the girl!
The booth also had a collection of Girl Scout dolls and
displays about founder Juliette Gordon Low. Our own Susan “Daisy” Ducey posed
for photos with girls all day.
But the Council History team didn’t settle for just one
little old booth. No, not us! We also provided international uniforms on
mannequins for another booth.
We proudly watched Archives Program Aide Vivian moderate a presentation.
We welcomed our own special guest, Margaret Seiler, who told
stories about her Great Aunt Daisy. Her presentation helped younger Girl Scouts
understand that Juliette Gordon Low was a real person, not just a character in
Last, but hardly least, we organized three vintage uniform fashion shows, one show per session. Ginger Holinka fitted girl (and a few adult) models on the spot, while Julie Lineberry emceed the show. Members of the audience gave special applause for “their” childhood uniforms and came away understanding how uniforms changed in response to fashion trends, war-time shortages, new fabrics, and the need for girls to move, move, move.
The Committee owes a deep debt to Lisa Jackson and Dena McGuiggan Baez, leaders who found replacement uniform models when others dropped out at the last minute. They saved the show!!
The last Council Expo was held in 2006. Many people have asked why it took so long to organize another. After Saturday’s experience, I know I will need at least 13 years to recover. But maybe I’ll pencil another one in on my calendar, just to save the date.