Girl Scout historians know how challenging it can be to display vintage uniforms.
Commercial mannequins can be expensive and usually are several sizes too large for the dainty uniforms of old.
Dressmaker forms can work for adult uniforms, but are difficult to find in child sizes.
I found a fantastic, very affordable solution at…..IKEA. Yes, the assemble-it-yourself Swedish furniture store! Who knew?
The NÄPEN mannequins are sold in IKEA’s children’s department for the budding fashionista.
They are sold in two parts: the stand and a cover. You could use the stand without a cover, but the covers give the torso more definition. The stands are light enough to take with you for programs, but heavy enough not to tip over. Total price is $19.99.
Here are the details:
The stand is metal and plastic and the height adjusts from 30″ to 50″.
The cloth and wire cover comes in either lilac or turquoise. There is no size difference.
If you don’t have an IKEA near you, consider ordering from the website. You can get an entire troop for $100.
The 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:
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).
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: email@example.com.)
Still, we had nearly 3,000 names! Here’s a sample:
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.)
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.
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.
Ever wonder why the Gold Award looks like it does?
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.
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.
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:
Carry out a service project
Develop emergency preparedness skills
Learn about your council or Lone Troop Committee
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.
My name is Miya Carey, and I am a doctoral candidate in history at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. Last month, I had the pleasure of spending a week at the new Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital History Center in Frederick, MD, completing the last bit of my dissertation research. My project looks at the shifting constructions and experiences of black girlhood in Washington, DC from the 1930s to the 1960s through an examination of African American and interracial girls’ organizations. One of the main organizations in my study is the Girl Scouts.
I found many gems during this research trip, but one of the most fascinating was a photo album from the Ethel Harvey collection. Harvey was one of the most prominent leaders in the scouting movement in Washington, DC. She became the first African American to serve as president of any Girl Scout council. In 1961, she and Pansy Gregg, her co-leader and dear friend, traveled with their troop to Our Cabaña, a WAGGGS world center, in Cuernavaca, Mexico. [The same troop would visit Pax Lodge in London and Our Chalet in Switzerland in 1964.]
The most striking photographs in the album featured the scouts, who were all African American, dressed in their sharkskin “stewardess” uniforms and posed listening to record players, creating scrapbooks, and writing post cards. Following this series of photographs is a note that says, “photographs taken by USIA.” This note refers to the United States Information Agency, which President Eisenhower established in 1953 as the organ of U.S. public and cultural diplomacy. It is unclear how the USIA used these photographs, if they used them at all, but it is useful to speculate how these photographs could have been used, and why the USIA thought that photographing the scouts would further their goals.
The agency’s main goal was to maintain the image of the U.S. abroad as the bastion of democracy and on the right side of the Cold War. However, this was a difficult task when images of racial violence and civil rights protest dominated international headlines, and revealed the cracks in America’s promise of democracy for all. The Our Cabaña photographs were taken after Little Rock, the start of the sit-in movement, the Freedom Rides, and numerous other civil rights struggles. The common thread linking each of these events is that young people were at the center of each.
The scouts offered an alternative image of black childhood and young adulthood abroad. The image of black girlhood offered in these photographs is one that is both playful and patriotic. The scouts were doing typical teenage activities, such as listening to music, rather than being victims of racialized violence. They were proud members of the Girl Scouts, an organization that espoused patriotism and democracy, rather than young people marching against injustice. The USIA could use the figure of the black Girl Scout in American propaganda to demonstrate racial harmony, and counter the notion that the United States was in opposition to its black citizens, even if this was not completely true.
I still have many questions about these photographs. How did the USIA come to photograph the scouts at Our Cabaña? Did the agency have a relationship with the Girl Scouts? Most importantly, what did the girls in the photograph think? Did they know the purpose of photographs and the USIA? I would suspect that when they embarked on their trip to Mexico, they saw it as a chance to experience a culture different from their own, rather than serving as ambassadors of the American model of democracy. Regardless, these photographs demonstrate the far-reaching and rich legacy of the Girl Scouts in American culture.
The 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!
Last Saturday I was a guest of honor at the 27th annual Antietam National Battlefield Memorial Illumination.
For the past 27 years, the first Saturday in December is a huge event at the National Park in Sharpsburg, Maryland, about an hour’s drive from my house.
Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and other volunteers spent all day installing 23,110 luminaries (candles in paper bags full of sand) to commemorate the 23,110 soldiers killed, wounded, or reported missing in the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862.
The ceremony started promptly at 3:45 pm and featured distinguished speakers, a bagpiper, a color guard from the Army’s Old Guard unit, a choir, vocal soloists, and a bugle choir.
I was seated with Congressman John Delaney, former Congressman Roscoe G. Bartlett, Jr., and the wonderful Georgene Charles, founder and organizer of the Illumination.
I was particularly moved by Bartlett’s comments. He emphasized that all soldiers are remembered equally at the Illumination. Casualties are not broken into Union versus Confederacy, but rather have been united by their sacrifice. Noting the country’s current toxic political atmosphere, he held up the unifying aspects of the Illumination ceremony as a model for today’s leaders.
I had been asked to speak about the Girl Scouts and the Civil War. Since the movement began nearly a half-century later, I anticipated a very short presentation. But as I researched the topic, one very clear connection emerged.
Juliette Gordon Low was born on October 31, 1860; the Civil War began in April 1861. Her father immediately volunteered and left Savannah. Meanwhile her mother faced the added burden of being a Chicagoan living in the deep south. Her husband, brothers, and uncle were fighting on opposite sides, and her neighbors questioned her loyalty.
Daisy did not see her father again until she was three. She grew up knowing the hardships, stress, and anguish that affects a family when the father goes off to war. She also understood the heavy burden that falls on women at war, both mentally and physically.
That, I think is the connection between the Girl Scouts and the Civil War. The movement was only a few years old when the United States entered World War I, but Daisy knew immediately what role her girls could play. She made sure that Girl Scouts had the cooking, homemaking, and first aid skills that would allow them to keep the home fires burning, as men went to war and women went into the fields and factories. She dispatched her girls to ease the burden and worries of mothers and wives.
Back at the Antietam Battlefield, the sun was beginning to set and the distinguished guests lit the first luminaries. (I almost lit a few bags instead of candles, it was harder than you’d imagine!)
Slowly, volunteers lit the luminaries across the battlefield. As the sky darkened, the candles began to flicker brighter, until the entire park was aglow.
The ceremony ended with a 21 Gun Salute from The Old Guard and bugles sounding an echo version of Taps. Everyone returned to their cars and joined a slow procession through the park.
Girl Scouts have been a part of this tradition since its inception. I think Juliette Gordon Low would agree that it is an excellent form of citizenship training. The scope of the conflict becomes much more tangible through the luminary installation rather than a paragraph in a textbook.