RIP Rockwood Warrior Stephen H. Sachs

Former Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs passed away on January 12, 2022. His Washington Post obituary cites his prosecution of the “Catonsville Nine” as one of the highlights of his career. Personally, I think his advocacy on behalf of the “Rockwood Nine” was instrumental in saving part of Rockwood National Girl Scout Camp.

The Catonsville Nine

The Catonsville Nine case dates to May 1968, when two Catholic priests and seven Catholic activists stormed a Draft Board office in Catonsville, Maryland, to destroy draft records. Sachs, then US Attorney for Maryland, successfully prosecuted the nine, arguing that, however just their cause might have been, their actions were illegal.

The Rockwood Nine

While it is hard to top the mental image of cat-burglar priests carrying out some Mission Impossible style caper, I can top that.

Imagine several dozen Junior Girl Scouts, all in uniform, marching into the Montgomery County, Maryland, Courthouse on January 29, 1979, to file a class-action lawsuit against the Girl Scouts of the USA. Two attorneys, brandishing giant, overstuffed briefcases accompanied them, as did an elderly woman who had been in the very first Girl Scout troop. The media had been tipped off about the procession, and photographers were on hand.

Photo of girls and attorneys with legal papers
from the January 30, 1979, Washington Post

One of the attorneys, Maryland Assistant Attorney General Koontz, stepped in front of brandished microphones to explain the scene. Stephen H. Sachs, who had just been sworn in as Maryland Attorney General, had joined the girls’ lawsuit as the tenth plaintiff, citing an obscure law from 1931 that obligated the Attorney General to protect the interest of a charitable trust.

Wait, What???

Rockwood had been the country estate of Washington philanthropist Carolyn Caughey, who left her considerable wealth to the Girl Scouts of the USA upon her death in 1936. Caughey created a trust that gave the Girl Scouts the 67-acre Rockwood immediately, while her other properties and investments would be liquidated and distributed to the Girl Scouts over time–provided the Girl Scouts used Rockwood for “character-building purposes.” When GSUSA sold Rockwood to a residential developer in 1978, a group of adult volunteers argued that the sale violated the terms of Mrs. Caughey’s bequest. GSUSA officials brushed off their inquiries, saying the national office dealt with councils, not individuals. Frustrated, seven adults and two girls (those in the photo above) went to court to block the sale.

Photo of stately brick home
Postcard of Camp Rockwood’s two main buildings in the mid-1950s

Back to the Courthouse

When AG Sachs entered the fray, GSUSA could no longer dismiss the Rockwood opposition as a mere nuisance. Now they had to take notice.

The lawsuit unfolded over the next two years, in court filings, document requests, and depositions. Rockwood supporters created a formal organization, Friends of Rockwood, and raised money for legal fees through donations, bake sales, yard sales, and other grass-roots efforts. GSUSA tried as much as possible to ignore the Rockwood Nine and their attorney and communicate only with Sachs.

Both sides were hampered by poor-record keeping at GSUSA. There were plenty of rumors and legends about Mrs. Caughey and the acquisition of Rockwood, but neither side could come up with hard evidence. At one point Sachs even complained that GSUSA had ignored his requests for information.

Time to Settle, Folks

Ultimately, Sachs decided that neither side had a particularly strong case and that settlement would be in the best interests of all. The Attorney General’s Office approached the Montgomery County Parks office about turning part of Rockwood into a county park. The answer was favorable–provided that the deal include funds to improve the land and buildings.

By the time of the sale, Rockwood had grown to 93 acres.

Stephen Sachs man in white shirt and tie
Stephen Sachs

The process of getting everyone on board with the compromise is too long for a blog post; the important part is that Sachs did. GSUSA sold the land, but had to pay the Rockwood Nine’s legal costs ($60,000) and seed money to Montgomery Parks (almost $1 million).

Today’s Rockwood Manor Park sits on 30 acres, and iconic buildings, especially the Manor House, remain. It is a popular venue for weddings and small group meetings.

Camp sales continue to be a point of contention between Girl Scout councils and members. I’m often asked what was the Rockwood difference? What advice can I offer?

I firmly believe the Rockwood difference was Stephen Sachs. His participation made the stakes much higher for GSUSA. With the Attorney General watching, volunteer complaints could no longer be ignored.

Victory! Badge PDFs Are Here!!

This week Girl Scouts of the USA announced the introduction of 42 new badges and one program journey. With topics ranging from cybersecurity and coding to astronomy and high adventure, there are new options for every age level.

But the press release overlooked another major development:

Do you see it? Down at the bottom?

YES!!!!! The day has finally come.

On October 8, 2014, on the eve of the Girl Scout National Convention, I published a blog post, “Let’s Make Downloading Badges Legal.”

I argued in favor of creating official downloadable PDF files for journey program books and individual badge requirements. Specifically:

Let’s be honest and fair and admit that distributing bootleg scans of journey books and badge requirements constitutes theft. It is taking a person’s hard work without paying for it. Go ahead, argue “sharing” and “sisterhood” all you want, but if thieves share stolen goods among themselves, it does not make the theft acceptable. Would you walk into a Girl Scout shop, pocket a handful of badges, and walk out without paying? This is no different.

Let’s resolve to respect authority, including copyright law. The bootleggers know they are breaking the law, which explains why they try to shout down anyone who calls them out with nasty comments and name calling. Do we really have to put labels on every page, photo, design, etc. saying “Not yours. Don’t steal”?

Demand for downloads was obviously high, and I reasoned that many volunteers would come out of hiding and purchase legal copies if given the opportunity.

I also explained why this issue is important to me:

As a writer and editor, words are literally my income. I know that every book has an author, and I know that writing is hard work. Authors deserve to be paid. That is why it really bothers me to see leaders sharing photocopies of badge inserts or websites advertising free downloads of scanned journey books.  (While I don’t get paid to write this blog, it is an opportunity for potential clients to get to know me better.)

Finally, I argued that GSUSA might use PDF fees to recoup some of the lost potential income from leaders who use photocopies instead of purchasing official materials.

I even created a Facebook page called “Girl Scout Publication PDFs Please.” To date over 1,100 people have “liked” the page.

This is just a small step in the ongoing quest for GSUSA to listen to its adult volunteers, and this is merely one step in a long journey.

As this week commemorates the Apollo 11 moon landing, I can’t resist:

PDF Badges: That’s one small step for Ann, one giant leap for Girl Scouts.

©2019 Ann Robertson

So That’s In Your Bag, Girl Scout

Last week I shared photos of our exhibit of pocket-sized Girl Scout memorabilia. We had photos of various Girl Scout bags and what girls and adults might have carried over the years.

As promised, here are the four main photos, with the various items labeled. Did you recognize all of them?

Enjoy!

Girl Purses 1970s Labels2
Girl purses then

Girl Purses today Labels2
Girl purses now

Leader Purse 1950s Labels2
Leader purses then

Leader Purses today Labels2
Leader purses now

 

©2018 Ann Robertson

 

Girl Scout Spirit of 1776

To celebrate Independence Day, I’ll share part of my Girl Scout Bicentennial patch collection.

The Girl Scouts joined the rest of the United States to celebrate our country’s 200th birthday in 1976. Councils, troops, and cookie bakers all got into the spirit, issuing Bicentennial-themed patches. The Connecticut Trails Council even issued a very popular series of badges, “If I Were a Girl Scout in 1776.”

Enjoy!!

©2018 Ann Robertson

Daisy and Her Travel Documents

My daughter recently mentioned that visitors on her tours at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace are often surprised when Erin says, “She was about my size.”

That comparison surprised me, too.  Erin and I are only 5 feet tall, and even then we really have to stretch on our tippy toes. “Hold on,” I replied. “I think I’ve seen her height.”

Less than a minute later,  I texted her a copy of  Low’s 1919 passport application, which states her height at 5 feet, 4.5 inches.

“OK,” Erin conceded. “But that’s still pretty small.”

“You’re not going to comment on my just happening to have JGL’s passport application sitting around?”

“No, mom.” She replied. “I’ve learned to expect that.”

I had found the passport records earlier on Ancestry.com.  It is fun to see Daisy’s handwritten comments, description of her own appearance, and to read the reasons given for her travel abroad.  The passport photos are great, as well.

The documents have been bound into hardback volumes, and some text is not fully visible.

Her 1915 application gave her destinations as England, Italy, and Egypt, and she requested that the document be delivered to her parents’ home on Oglethorpe Street.

1915-Description
Daisy describes herself as 5 ft, 4.5 inches tall.

1916 Photo
Passport Photo, 1915, 1916

She renewed her passport in 1916, and her brother’s statement served in place of a birth certificate.  The file also includes a letter noting that her landlord in London, Lady Coghlan, was upset to discover that Daisy had used parafin oil lamps and left at least one sink stopped up.

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By 1918 Daisy had misplaced her passport and urgently needed a new one. She included a letter from Boy Scout founder Lord Baden-Powell explaining the reason for her travel.

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In 1919 she explained that she needed to renew her passport for six months to attend an international scouting conference. She handwrote that her travels would include Switzerland, and another letter from Lord Baden-Powell confirmed the international meeting.

 

The last passport on file was for 1923. This trip included Egypt. She also indicates that her previous passport had been canceled.

 

Unfortunately, the photo for the 1923 document is almost illegible. Likely the product of poor quality microfiche.

I always enjoy looking at original documents, especially ones with personal details such as eye color, face shape, and height.

Now I have yet another reason to look up to Daisy Low.

©2018 Ann Robertson

 

Picture Yourself in the Girl Scout Archives

Last Saturday was the Nation’s Capital 2018 Annual Meeting, and the Archives and History Committee arranged an exhibit.

2018 Annual Meeting Patch

 

The exhibit theme was “Picture Yourself in the Girl Scout Archives,” and it had two parts. First, Committee members brought a current project to share. We are informally divided by specialty (uniforms, patch programs, books, publications, etc.) and this seemed a good way to demonstrate what the Committee does.

I brought some of our camera collection to decorate our display, and many girls were fascinated by them. We had to explain that these cameras did not have phones.

Second, we organized a photo booth with old uniforms. Last year we had a large exhibit of adult uniforms and people were literally lining up to have their picture made with the mannequins. We decided to build on that by having uniform pieces to try on.

 

Hats were easy to arrange.  We’d been advised by other history groups to be vigilant about hygiene since we didn’t want to accidentally spread germs or unwelcome critters. We lined each hat with a basket-style coffee filter that we changed after each wearing.

Uniforms were more challenging. Folks today are larger than people a few decades ago and some of our uniforms are tiny! We know that for fashion shows, we have to go for younger models.  Sometimes only a Daisy in kindergarten can fit into a vintage Brownie dress, and we have to use a fifth-grade Junior for one of the vintage teen uniforms.

But we’d gotten a fabulous idea from other historians: split uniforms. I saw them up close at the North Carolina Girl Scout Collector’s Show in March, and organizer Becky Byrnes offered some great advice.

 

Uniforms are split along the spine, hemmed, and ribbons or bias tape is sewn in to use as ties. Girls and adults slip the old uniform on over their clothing, much like a doctor slipping into a surgical gown. It doesn’t completely solve the size issue (tiny uniform + clothing = tight squeeze) but everyone seemed pleased with the results.

Our designated photographer reported snapping pictures of 74 groups, and many more visitors took selfies.

This experiment worked well and we plan to have more split uniforms available at our Program Centers.

©2018 Ann Robertson

 

A Practical Approach to Girl Scout Archives

I have a busy week coming up, first going to the North Carolina Girl Scout Collectors’ Show, then on to Savannah, Georgia, to see my daughter, who is a junior at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

She is busy studying schedules and determining what classes to take this fall and the rest of her senior year. I continue to be amazed at the variety of courses and career paths offered at SCAD. They have areas of study that I never knew existed, like yacht design, sequential art, and luxury and fashion management. SCAD takes a very hands-on, applied approach to learning that equips students for creative careers.

I already have another trip to Savannah penciled in for October, this time for a Girl Scout history conference. The last such conference I attended was very conceptual–discussions and presentations on the changing role of museums in the 21st century.

IMG_2356
GS Historic Georgia partnered with SCAD to create a Preservation Patch

I have no idea what is being planned officially, but if it were me, I know what Savannah resource I would want to use wisely–SCAD. A conference planned in coordination with the school could provide tremendous hands-on learning opportunities. There are many potentially relevant programs, for example:

Accessory and Jewelry Design: Techniques for cleaning pins and metal camping equipment;  novel ideas for displays of lots of tiny objects.

CharacterDesignWrkshpAdActing and Character Development: For our living Juliette Gordon Lows.

Branded Entertainment: I don’t have any idea what this is, but how often do we hear about communicating and protecting the Girl Scout brand? Maybe we would learn!

Fashion/Fibers/Costume Design: Best techniques for preserving old fabric; how do you clean 100-year old sweat stains and rust stains?

 

SCAD-Museum_School-Visit_07_FS
Museum Studies students craft narratives about their artifacts (SCAD).

Museum Studies: Duh.

 

Photography/Film/Sound: How to archive photos, film etc. (and could someone please convert some Beta tapes that we have?)

Preservation Design: This also seems obvious.

 

Production-Design_Student-Candids_Fall-2013_MN_-272
Designing exhibit displays and props (SCAD).

Production Design: Tips on how to construct and configure exhibits and display spaces.

 

Themed Entertainment Design: to create Juliette Gordon Low World (just kidding–mostly)

Conducting a two-hour workshop on these topics would be a great experience for students, as SCAD teaches them to hone their presentation skills whenever possible. I definitely would sign up for as many as possible.

Ultimately, the conference curriculum isn’t up to me.  Maybe I’ll just browse the textbook aisle in the campus bookstore and try to learn some of these skills on my own.

©2018 Ann Robertson

Rockwood Open House

Tomorrow, January 20, 2018, Montgomery County Parks will host an open house at Rockwood Manor Park in Potomac, Maryland, from 11 am to 3 pm. Open Houses are offered several times a year for brides and other people considering the venue for an event.

IMG_6016
The Manor House. Photo by Mark Bowles.

Rockwood was a national Girl Scout camp from 1938 to 1978. The neighborhood was largely rural in the camp’s early years, but as new houses and neighborhoods expanded, Rockwood staff reached out to make new friends. One open house was held in 1950.

 

RW Open House
Washington Post, March 17, 1950.

 

Visitors in 1950 might have found a troop preparing meals, a family camping together, or perhaps Brownies splashing in the stream.

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While some neighbors were not pleased to discover latrines near their homes (and they are long gone!), many groups near the camp considered it an asset.  Boy Scouts, church groups, and schools all used the facilities for meetings and occasional retreats.

One of the most successful Rockwood-community partnerships began in 1959, when a group of five women from the town of  Potomac asked if they could use Rockwood’s commercial kitchen to mash potatoes for the 1,000 guests expected to attend their church’s yearly community dinner.

Kitchen
Staff working in Rockwood’s Kitchen, 1950s (GSUSA/NHPC)

The meetings of the “Potato Mashers Guild” became so popular that many of the ladies offered to be on “stand-by” to volunteer as needed at the camp. The ladies hosted birthday parties for Guild members at Rockwood and even picnicked one summer at Rockwood director Ida May Born’s beach house.

 

 

 

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Rockwood kitchen equipment abandoned in June 1983. Is that the potato peeler in the center? (Photo by Patricia Cornish)

 

Another strong relationship developed with Potomac Elementary School. Students would come to Rockwood for science lessons and nature walks, while Rockwood’s kitchen staff would pitch in at the school cafeteria if needed.

After weeks of sub-freezing temperatures here in Washington, DC, tomorrow is forecast to reach nearly 60º. Seems like an ideal day to visit Rockwood, located at 11001 MacArthur Blvd, Potomac, Maryland 20854.

©2018 Ann Robertson

 

Happy Christmas from Belgium

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.

Xmas Card Cover

Xmas Card Inside_Page_3

Merry Christmas to All!

©2017 Ann Robertson

 

Gifts for Girl Scouts

This month’s history exhibit comes straight from the pages of vintage Girl Scout Christmas catalogs.

 

1930C-00-cover
1930 catalog

 

Starting in 1928, Girl Scouts published holiday-themed catalogs in addition to annual uniform and equipment catalogs. Leader magazine, when it existed, also had full-page ads with gift suggestions.

The National Equipment Service, which publishes the catalogs, sells the basics: uniforms, handbooks, badges, and camping equipment. But it also sells a range of other products: jewelry, casual clothing, books, and accessories.

Unfortunately, these trinkets often wind up in the trash when a girl decides she’s “outgrown” Girl Scouts. Sometimes the cheapest items become the rarest collectibles.

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The Archives and History Committee has many of these gems in our collection, but we rarely have the opportunity to show them off.  We decided to take a few pages from these catalogs and match up the items included.

 

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Brownie play clothes, pennant, dictionary, stationery, and records.

 

 

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Penguin sweater, headbands, trash can, wool cape, and gloves.

 

 

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Yes, that’s Girl Scout wrapping paper at the bottom!

 

 

What’s on my wishlist this year? This stylish housecoat from the early 1940s.

 

1941 Robe
Vintage Girl Scout Online Museum

Don’t forget the matching slippers, too!

 

1941 Slippers
Vintage Girl Scout Online Museum

The display will be at the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital main office, 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC, through January. Items are also on display year round at our Archives and History Program Centers.

©2017 Ann Robertson