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.
barbara bush 2
barbara bush 1
barbara bush 3
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.
pages from washington scouting news
pages from whos who in 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
coleman to hoover page 1
coleman to hoover page 2
coleman to hoover page 3
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.
Girl Scout summer camps are in full swing by mid-July, and even in the digital age girls are encouraged to write letters home. A few lucky girls may even be asked to write about their experiences for local newspapers.
I thought I would share a few from our archives. This report appeared in the Washington Post, September 14, 1930, and I’ve added some photos from various scrapbooks.
My Summer at Camp
by Helen Sheets (age 13)
1831 Lamont Street NW
Old camp sign (GSCNC Archives)
This summer I went to Camp May Flather for a month. It is a Girl Scout camp near Stokesville Va on the North River. We lived in log cabins that faced the river, and ate in one big mess hall. Our camp uniform was a green suit of middy and shorts.
There were two different classes going on in the morning and two in the afternoon, and we could pick one in the morning and one in the afternoon to go to, like: campcraft, handcraft, weaving, or some others.
Swimming Test (GSCNC Archives)
In swimming we were divided into three groups beginners, intermediates, and· advanced and we all went swimming in one pool but at different times.
Ready for an overnight trip, 1930s (GSCNC Archives)
We had horses up there three days a week that we could ride if we wanted to. I went with a group of girls up to Pioneer Camp for three days where only the girls that have passed all their camp craft tests can go We got red ties as a kind of badge to show that we had been up there.
I went with a group of girls up to Pioneer Camp for three days where only the girls that have passed all their campcraft tests can go. We got red ties as a kind of badge to show that we had been up there.
Lou Henry Hoover strides across the bridge that she donated (GSCNC Archives)
The big event of the season was the dedication ceremonies. Mrs. Hoover, Mrs. Flather and some other important people came up and we had a program in their honor. Mrs. Hoover also dedicated a bridge that she had given to the camp.
We also had a water carnival, a wedding between the old and new campers and lots of other things.
Circus night at camp, 1938 (GSCNC Archives)
Camp was not all play though, we had to do kitchen duty about once a week and dishes about twice a week. We also had our cabins inspected every morning and they had to be just right.
We got in lots of mischief too, like powder fights, mud fights, midnight feasts, and sliding down a mountain on a clean pair of pants, and lots of other things.
In all I had a wonderful time in spite of all the scrapes I got into.
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.”
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.
The dancing Girl Scouts must have been a hit. They performed a square dance during the rainy 1931 event.
In recent decades, Girl Scouts have returned to their child-wrangling role.
Has your troop ever worked at the Easter Egg Roll? We need some newer photos!
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:
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.
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.
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.
Postcard of the Hains Point Tea House.
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
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
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.
The tea house was swallowed by flooding in 1985. The “Awakening” statue is visible at the bottom of the photo (Library of Congress).
The second Girl Scout tea house proved more enduring, and the proprietors knew exactly what menu item to feature:
On November 16, 1921, the Girl Scouts of Washington DC opened a tea house at Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park.
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.
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!
(Girl Scout Council of Chicago and Northwest Indiana)
And for those amazing Samoa waffles in the first photo, visit the Domestic Fits blogto get the recipe.
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.
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.
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:
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!
Virginia Hammerley is one of the most important women in the early years of Girl Scouting in Washington, DC.
“Ginger” wasn’t one of Juliette Gordon Low’s debutante friends. She wasn’t a wealthy socialite who could donate buildings with a single check. She didn’t organize troops in poor neighborhoods.
She was simply a Girl Scout; a teen-age girl who loved her sister scouts and the activities they did together. But she preserved her memories in a series of scrapbooks that provide some of the most extensive documentation of Girl Scout troop life during the Great Depression.
About 10 years ago, a relative of Ginger’s contacted Nation’s Capital. They had five of her scrapbooks; would we like them? You bet we did!
These five albums are chock full of newspaper clippings, photos, holiday cards, invitations to friends’ weddings, and souvenirs of all kinds.
She was an active troop member, taking part in events held around Washington (click images to enlarge):
Visiting the Little House, attending a national convention, and buying a brick for a new national headquarters building:
Ginger was one of the first campers at Camp May Flather when it opened in 1930, attended regular camp reunions, and became a counselor herself.
Like any teen-ager, she also saved holiday cards, celebrity photos and more:
Born in 1913, Virginia Hammerley was the only child of Charles and Mabel Hammerley. She grew up at 1819 Ingleside Terrace, NW, Washington, DC.
After graduating from McKinley Technical High School, she took a job with the Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia, but she apparently was let go in 1941.
I did a little research to find out what became of Ginger and was so sad to discover that she did not live happily ever after.
After the Girl Scouts, she took a clerical post with the Department of Agriculture.
Her father passed away in 1935 and Ginger and her mother moved. first to Iowa Avenue NW, then into an apartment together at 721 Fern Place NW. Mabel died in 1953.
Two years later, on the night of October 17, 1955, Ginger locked her front door, engaged the night chain, picked up a pistol, and took her own life.
I can only imagine what circumstances led to that fateful night in 1955. After spending so much time reading and handling hundreds of items that she carefully clipped, pasted, and preserved, it feels like losing a dear friend.
Ginger likely had no idea that her memories and mementos would still be around decades later, treasured records used by Girl Scouts and historians. Just this summer a graduate student spent days viewing scanned copies of the scrapbooks for a research project.
Virginia Hammerley may be gone, but she is hardly forgotten.
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!)
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?
Archives and History Committee members LOVE to share our collection. If you haven’t been able to schedule a visit yet, contact me (email@example.com), we’ll try to work something out.