The pin is engraved “Suncoast Girl Scout Council,” but the seller had no information about its origins.
A few weeks ago I received an email from Terri Costello, the special events manager for Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. Suncoast was one of the councils that merged to create West Center Florida during realignment.
Terri had recognized the pin immediately. It is presented each year to the council’s Women of Distinction. Many councils have similar programs to recognize inspiring women.
This event is held each year to honor and celebrate local women who have achieved success in their chosen fields and serve as inspiring role models for girls and other women in our local communities, each exemplifying ethical leadership and a commitment to making a difference in the lives of their fellow citizens through community service.
While the Suncoast program dates to 1992, the pin, designed by Tampa artist Karen Arch, and was introduced in 2002.
I am delighted that even though I am not a “Woman of Distinction,” Terri has given me permission to continue wearing it with pride. In fact, I think I’ll wear it today!
There are no words to adequately acknowledge the tragedy suffered by our Girl Scout family this weekend. In Wisconsin, a pickup truck plowed into a Junior troop gathering trash on a roadside, killing three girls and an adult and seriously wounding another girl.
How can we possibly comment on this loss? How do Girl Scouts grieve?
My first thought was to share part of some traditional Girl Scout song, but none seemed quite right.
I also remembered an odd set of photos from the Nation’s Capital archives. It seems to be a Girl Scout honor guard at a funeral in the 1920s.
Girl Scouts carry the casket of a friend, circa 1920 (GSCNC Archives).
But then I thought of something else. Something much simpler, a ritual that a 9 or 10-year old’s troop mates would understand.
It is a ceremony known as “Our Last Friendship Circle.”
UPDATE: This ceremony was created by Mary Burdett of the Western Ohio legacy council.
Please share. This tradition should not be stored away in the depths of an archive.
When we changed the history display at the council headquarters recently, I realized that I hadn’t shared our summer exhibit online.
The theme came from a non-Girl Scout source: a regular feature in Us Magazine. Each week, the magazine has a celebrity dump out her bag; usually a purse, but sometimes a diaper bag, backpack, or shopping bag.
Singer Meghan Trainor’s bag, Us Magazine (August 25, 2018)
Magazine editors tag various items, usually providing a handful of product names and purchase information. I think a little pruning happens before the actual photo shoot, as you never see dirty tissues, used gum, and other unmentionables that you’d find in my purse, at least.
I didn’t fully photograph this exhibit due to lighting issues. Instead, I tried to recreate parts in my tabletop photo studio.
We created paired “now-and-then” vignettes for girls, leaders, and campers.
How many items do you recognize?
I’m not going to label these pictures today. I will update with labels on October 1.
Of course, the first Girl Scouts didn’t need a purse. They carried all of their essentials on their utility belt or in their pockets.
Here’s a quick look at the entire display. You can bet I took plenty of photos as we installed our fall exhibit!
Regular readers of the Girl Scout History Project know that I am obsessed with the former Council’s Own badge program. From the 1950s until the Girl Scout Leadership Experience was introduced in 2011, troops and councils could create badges on topics not already covered by the national Girl Scout program. (More history will come in another post.)
I used my Council’s Own collection as the basis for a website (gscobadge.info) that archives the images and requirements for over 1,000 badges. My intention is to help identify mystery badges and to provide inspiration for new patch programs.
Look, a Council’s Own bug!
Other Girl Scout adults have been bitten by the CO bug, and many people have helped expand the website contents. I see “my” photos across the internet. Of course, the biggest surprise was seeing one of my website photos (unattributed, of course) appropriated for a presentation former CEO Anna-Maria Chavez made at the 2014 National Council Session. (Now I watermark most photos, just in case.)
Why are they showing a photo of my desk?
It is an especially thrilling moment (at least for me) when I finally identify a mystery badge. I’ve cracked the code on several this summer and decided to share them here.
If a mystery badge is on a sash, that provides some major clues: specifically, a council and a rough date. The council indicated on an ID strip may not have created the badge, but it is a start. In addition to knowing the years a particular sash or vest was in use, don’t forget to look at cookie and event patches that have a specific year or two.
I also regularly troll eBay and sometimes I’ll see the mystery badge there. If it’s on a sash, then there are a few more clues.
Next, I do some keyword searches on Newspapers.com. I use the state and year clues to limit the results, and, lately, I’ve had some really good luck.
Searching for “Girl Scout,” badge, and “Tennessee history” gave me 32 results. But when I limited it to the 1970s, based on the badge fabric and design, I found that a troop of girls in Reelfoot Council had created their own Tennessee History badge in 1977.
The design description is a little different, but it is reasonable to think that when the badge was manufactured on a larger scale, the design became more elaborate.
I also have this patch, which is likely another incarnation of this program.
Staying with the Tennessee theme, I was delighted to acquire this badge around the same time. Opryland USA was a theme park in Nashville from 1972 to 1997. I grew up in Kentucky, about 2.5 hours away, and Opryland was a frequent destination for school, church, and other field trips.
Another search on Newspapers.com turned up several clippings about Girl Scout troops going to Opryland. According to one, there was an annual Girl Scout weekend that included a badge. It sounds like girls had to complete a scavenger hunt across the park’s attractions to earn it.
1982 World’s Fair
I never attended the Opryland Girl Scout weekend when I was a girl, but my troop did go to the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville. I didn’t know at the time there was a World’s Fair badge, but better late than never!
This castle badge has long been one of my favorite mystery badges, and I assumed it was something about fairy tales. Then I saw TWO of them on a single sash from Central Maryland. Someone had added a date to one of them with a pen. Hmmmm…
Back at Newspapers.com, I tried a search using “Girl Scout,” cookie and castle. That came up with over 12,000 hits. When I restricted the findings to 1982 and Maryland, the database returned a much more manageable four articles.
It turns out that Central Maryland sponsored an annual Cookie Castle Contest, with specific themes like fairy tales and famous landmarks. Every Girl Scout who entered received this cute castle badge.
A little more searching turned up photos of some of the creations, especially as more and more councils held their own competitions.
20 feb 1982 26 the baltimore sun at newspapers com
26 jan 1984 3 the daily times at newspapers com
22 jan 1984 1 the daily times at newspapers com
Finally, let me repeat that THESE BADGE PROGRAMS ARE DISCONTINUED. Do not contact Council shops asking to purchase them, because that triggers snippy emails asking me to take down the reference site or portions of it.
Perhaps instead of getting annoyed, council shopkeepers should take the hint and reinstate or update their programs.
One of the joys of a high-school level Girl Scout troop is watching the girls pass a major milestone: earning their drivers’ licenses. You see it at the end of troop meetings. The same parents arrive, but scoot to the passenger seat so their daughter drives them home. Next, the girls drive themselves, and, finally, girls take on carpool duties themselves.
That might be because founder Juliette Gordon Low was not the most accomplished driver herself. Perhaps it was because she divided her time between two countries and two sets of road rules. According to Daisy’s niece:
She’d drive on the left-hand side of the road in Savannah “because I am English” and the right-hand, side in England “because I am an American.”
–Peggy Gordon Seiler, niece of Juliette Gordon Low
The Automobiling badge was introduced in 1916, a time when only one out of every five US households owned a car.
In 1920, the badge was renamed Motorist and manufactured in the new khaki fabric used for uniforms.
GSUSA highlighted the Motorist requirements in a short video from 2015.
I’ve heard many times that earning a driver’s license was a requirement for the prestigious Golden Eaglet award, but Motorist does not appear on any list of required badges that I’ve seen. (If you have, please let me know!)
From 1938 to 1947, Intermediate-age Girl Scouts could earn the Transportation badge. It took a broader look at the many forms of transportation, and girls were encouraged to take rides on trains, trolleys, buses, and whatever else their communities had to offer.
In the 1950s, when the auto industry responded to the rising number of female drivers by introducing pink vehicles such as the Dodge “La Femme,” the Girl Scouts had been teaching young women to get behind the wheel and under the hood for decades.
Apparently, troops missed having driving instruction in their handbooks, so the national headquarters issued a separate booklet geared to driver education.
Auto Maintenance, 1980-1996
The Worlds to Explore program introduced in 1980 featured badges that both Cadettes and Seniors could earn. (Seniors had not had their own badges for years.) Many of these badges broke gender stereotypes by encouraging girls to explore technology and science. One of the most popular was Auto Maintenance.
I remember my Senior troop decided to earn the new Auto Maintenance interest project award. Kim, a girl in our troop, was taking auto shop, so she led us as we tinkered with our leaders’ cars during meetings.
(I also remember having to push start our leader’s pickup truck around that time. Presumably those two facts are unrelated.)
The new program wasn’t just Girl Scouts of driving age, either. Junior Girl Scouts (grades 4-6) got their own Car Care badge in 1990. (It changed to a green border in 2000).
junior car care badge orange
junior car care badge
The focus stayed on maintenance instead of actual driving when Cadette and Senior badges were updated in the mid-1990s (Car Sense, blue border). The ill-fated Studio 2B program briefly had a car care On the Road Focus Award (a charm), which was available for barely two years and was never produced in badge form. A Car Care badge for Seniors was introduced in 2011.
on the road
senior car care
Girl Scouts may also participate in workshops offered by local car dealerships and insurance companies. These programs are organized by individual councils and vary from year to year.
geico scout patch
Women in Trucking patch
Two years ago, the Girl Scouts partnered with the Women in Trucking association to expose girls to career opportunities in the transportation industry.
Thus, for 102 years, Girl Scouts have encouraged young women to embrace technology, cultivate personal independence, and challenge social norms.
How did you receive your Girl Scout volunteer training?
Was it in a classroom with other new volunteers, led by an experienced volunteer?
Was it a telephone conference call, with you alone in your living room?
Perhaps you watched an online video? Read a packet of papers that came in the mail?
When you were taught how to perform a friendship circle, did you hold the actual hands of a living, breathing human being, or did you have to make do with the throw pillows on your couch?
Chances are, you did not head to the nearest university to major in Girl Scouts. But that was the practice in the earliest days of the movement, especially in areas where troops were just forming.
In 1922, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller fund awarded the first of many grants to the Girl Scouts to train a group of young women who would teach Girl Scout Leadership Training Courses at colleges as universities. The program was extremely popular and quickly spread across the United States.
Reports for 1925 indicate that 6,000 young women had taken courses in the first three years they were offered. Training courses were available at 116 universities, colleges, and technical schools, located in 39 states and territorial possessions.
Participating institutions included Wellesley, Smith, Vassar, Columbia, New York University, Cornell, University of North Carolina, and the University of Texas.
from January 1924 Leader magazine
At Stanford University, for example, the Department of Education offered classes to prepare prospective troop leaders.
Typically, students from a variety of majors took the Girl Scout coursework in the spring quarter, but the smaller summer quarter classes were usually made up of rural teachers hoping to bring Girl Scouting to their schools.
Nancy Beck Young, Lou Henry Hoover: Activist First Lady
Some schools offered academic credit for the leadership training. The University of Iowa offered one credit hour to women who complete the course and run a troop for the rest of the school year.
Stanford alumna and GSUSA President Lou Henry Hoover threw her support behind college-level training and encouraged expanding the program to more and more teachers’ college whenever possible.
Textbook from 1942
Girl Scout officials also hoped the courses would encourage young women to consider careers in the Girl Scout movement.
GSUSA partly revived this idea with the website Girl Scouts University (http://gsuniversity.girlscouts.org/), which provided online training and enrichment courses. However, the website has not been updated in over two years.
This Girl Scouts University should not be confused with an earlier incarnation, also called Girl Scouts University (http://www.gsuniv.org/history/). This site somewhat links to the newer GSU site. Notably, it still has valuable history resources produced by the former National Historical Preservation Center.
The wrenching images of immigrant children separated from their parents reminded me of several articles about Girl Scout outreach programs. The Department of Homeland Security should take note:
Girl Scouts have a long tradition of welcoming newcomers. They have created innovative programs to welcome girls moving across the country or across town; girls moving into overcrowded boom towns, as well as refugees from all corners of the world.
They have established and operated Girl Scout troops in challenging, high-security settings, such as the Japanese internment camps of the early 1940s. Since 1992, the Girl Scouts Beyond Barsprogram has formed troops in women’s prisons so that inmates can participate in troops with their daughters. They even sell cookies to prison staff!
Early in the Cold War, troops were encouraged to seek out Displaced Persons arriving in their communities.
Item from January 1949 issue of Leader magazine.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Girl Scouts in the United States reached out to children in Europe and Korea, sending care packages and school supplies to communities ravaged by war.
Hugh M. Milton, II, Undersecretary of the Army (left) and Frank G. Millard, General Counsel of the Army, are presenting school kits to Vietnamese Girl Scouts on December 3, 1959, at CARE headquarters, Saigon. Thousands of kits donated by GSUSA troops (including 339 from Southern Maryland) were distributed in India, Vietnam, and Hong Kong between December 1959 and February 1960. (GSCNC Archives)
The Girl Scout way of Making New Friends continued in the 1980s. A February/March 1981 article in Leader magazine highlighted programs designed to help newcomers integrate into their new communities.
Leaders in the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida … visited Cuban mothers to assist them with grocery shopping, cooking and coping with the trials their new and confusing lives, while the Riverland Girl Scout Council in LaCrosse, WI, held a five-day cross-cultural “get acquainted” day camp with some of their new Cuban neighbors.
When community members in Fort Smith, Arkansas, were less than welcoming toward a group of Cuban refugees, Mount Magazine Council staff greeted the newcomers. The council CEO went on local television to challenge Girl Scouts to be friendly, prompting more residents to come forward with donations.
The article highlighted efforts in my own council, Nation’s Capital, to warmly welcome Vietnamese and Laotian families to the Washington region. Council staff first recruited high-school aged Vietnamese girls into Girl Scouting, then used their language skills to form multi-level troops for each community. The best sign of the program’s success—the girls soon were bringing more friends to the meetings.
The current refugee crisis in the United States, with children desperate for friendship, attention, activities, and caring adults, provides a critical opportunity for the Girl Scouts to put decades of experience to work. We have the skills and a proven track record—if we are allowed to use them.
I was pleased to see this week’s news that the country of Macedonia finally had an official name: Northern Macedonia. Since the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991-1992, the new country had been at odds with Greece, which claimed it had the exclusive right to the name. For over 25 years the former Yugoslav province was saddled with the awkward name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM) whenever it tried to conduct diplomacy or other international business.
Locator Map for Macedonia (World Atlas)
What does this have to do with Girl Scouts? Stick with me, this is one of those examples of the academic world colliding with the Girl Scout world.
Flag of Macedonia (The Flag Shop)
Surprisingly, the experience of Macedonia and all of the new countries created by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia should have been a giant red flag pointing to the possible pitfalls of the Realignment project.
Specifically: Names matter. People form strong emotional attachments to places and placenames. They find redrawing borders and renaming places to be emotionally difficult, almost as an attack on their identity. They will object.
What Was Realignment?
A decade ago, GSUSA redrew the borders of all councils across the country. In just two years 315 councils were redistributed into 112.
Realignment began with a vote by the national Board of Directors on August 26, 2006. The policy was intended to create:
high-performance, community-based councils. The new structure will make the most effective use of resources to better serve local communities across the nation and deliver a superior Girl Scout leadership program to even more girls.
Realignment was almost entirely top-down, based on criteria determined by outside, non-Girl Scout consultants who produced a “GSUSA Demographers’ Map.”
Rather than simply combining two or three existing councils and retaining the overall council shape, Realignment created entirely new entities by grouping together multiple existing councils. The new “high-capacity councils” would have:
a population with at least 100,000 girls between ages 5 and 17,
a combined household income of at least $15 billion, and
at least one city with a population of 50,000 or more.
While 29 current councils met those criteria, 283 faced major changes imposed from above. Not only would they no longer exist as an independent unit, many councils would be chopped up, and their girls, properties, and assets allocated among several new councils.
While councils could offer suggestions, it was clear that the program was going to take place. This “no exceptions” mindset was emphasized in GSUSA’s “Realignment News,” a weekly newsletter created in late 2005 and distributed to every council board chair and CEO. In the first issue, for example:
Q: What if councils don’t want to realign?
A: The future viability of Girl Scouting is tied to this most important nationwide effort. All councils are part of this process and all councils will have multiple opportunities to participate. … This will not be successful as an effort of “some,” it will only be successful as an effort of “all.”
Realignment News (December 5, 2005)
Needless to say, few council staff and volunteers were happy to learn of their impending extinction. Combining coucils would most certainly mean duplicate staff and downsizing.
Members hated to lose the councils they had been part of for decades. They were attached to the old name and found it surprisingly difficult to snip old council ID strips and patches off their sashes and patch jackets.
Many members understood and accepted the rationale for the changes. They agreed that it would be new opportunities for girls. But change, even for the best of intentions, is hard.
Originally, 80 mergers were planned, with an ultimate goal of 109 councils. If a council submitted a map that was similar to that proposed by the demographers, the council could be designated an “early adopter” and procede. Central Indiana became the first council to complete Realignment, opening for business in January 2007.
Despite the clear statements about Realignment being mandatory, several councils balked.
Manitou Council, headquartered in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, went to court to resist the proposed changes. National headquarters intended to divide Manitou’s territory and 6,000 girls among three new councils (60% to Northwestern Great Lakes, 35% to Wisconsin Southeast, and 5% to Badgerland). While technically Manitou could continue to exist as a legal entity, without the blessing of GSUSA it would not be able to present itself as a Girl Scout council nor could it use Girl Scout servicemarks and materials. Citing Wisconsin’s Fair Dealership Law, Manitou objected to GSUSA unilaterally seizing its territory without good cause. The council had met all of its charter criteria. Without the exclusive territory, the council argued, it would be unable to sell the cookies that comprised two-thirds of its annual budget. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ultimately agreed. Manitou remained intact.
Farthest North in Alaska and Hornet’s Nest in North Carolina also resisted and followed the Manitou lawsuit carefully. After the Manitou ruling, they were allowed to remain un-realigned. Illinois Crossroads and Prairie Winds initially declined to join the new Greater Chicago and NW Indiana council, but ultimately merged.
farthest north patch
hornets nest patch
New Names, Less Local Flavor
Realignment affected many aspects of council life, but this post only focuses on one: council names. I’ll deal with surplus camps and oversubscribed pension plans another time.
Ironically, a program intended to “better serve local communities” began by stripping away any trace of local character.
New councils voted on their new name, but the candidates had to follow a formula specified by GSUSA. Gone were the colorful, descriptive names that had been used for decades. In were bland names with clear geographical reference.
Vivid names such as Mile Hi, Wagon Wheel, Chipeta, and Mountain Prairie were clumped under the rubric “Colorado.” Efficient, but impersonal.
Some councils largely remaining intact still had their names tweaked. Wilderness Road, for example, was renamed Kentucky’s Wilderness Road.
As far as identity is concerned, these changes were disorienting. A major component of your personal story is gone. It was like discovering that your childhood home had been torn down and your high school renamed.
Organization names and borders are more than just lines and letters on a page. As I’ve written elsewhere, names, symbols, and mythology are vital to creating popular loyalty to a new country. The same is true for new councils, schools, and even churches. Groups cannot be erased from maps without generating complaints and resistance. (article 1) (article 2)
People who objected to Realignment are not ancient relics stuck in the past. They simply are human, an assertion backed by science.
Compared with Macedonia’s name issue and the battles associated with redrawing maps across post-communist Europe, Realignment was (almost) painless.
At least no council has been stuck with a name like FGCCBLC: “Former Girl Scout Council of Beaver and Lawrence Counties.”
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.
Daisy describes herself as 5 ft, 4.5 inches tall.
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.
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.
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.
1919 2 3
1919 6 7
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.