What Were the Most Popular Girl Scout Badges?

GSUSA recently announced the new Girls’ Choice outdoor-themed badges that will be available this fall. They are: Outdoor Adventure (Brownie), Horseback Riding (Junior), Archery (Cadette), Paddling (Senior), and Ultimate Recreation Challenge (Ambassador).

The results made me wonder what were the most popular badges of the past?

I used the sales figures reported in the 2005 edition of the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide by Mary Degenhardt and Judith Kirsch to find out. (I assume those numbers only go to 2004, and the book has not been updated.)  The results are grouped into the Worlds to Explore Era (1980-1999) and post-Worlds to Explore, when the border colors changed but most of the designs did not.

As I’ve previously written, for Cadettes between 1963 and 1980, the clear winner was Social Dancer.  Juniors in the same period, went for Troop Camper followed closely by Cook.

Brownies: 1986-1998

Brownie Try-Its were introduced in 1986 with 15 awards. They program was a huge hit, so additional Try-Its were added in 1989, 1993, and 1997. That makes it hard to compare overall totals, since some were available for more years than others. (Some names changed along the way, too.)

The top five Try-Its of the Worlds to Explore era.

The top five Try-Its of the Worlds to Explore era.

The top five were Girl Scout Ways (5.8 million), Playing Around the World (4.2 million), Food Fun/Make It, Eat It (3.8 million), Making Music (3.6 million), and Dance/Dancercize (3.6 million).  The top outdoor-themed Try-It ranked seventh: Outdoor Fun/Eco-Explorer, with 3.2 million.

Juniors: 1980-2001

The Worlds to Explore program, introduced in 1980, divided badges into five categories. Badges for each category had a specific border color: Arts (purple), Out-of-Doors (yellow), People (blue), Today and Tomorrow (orange), and Well-Being (red). Four of the top five Junior badges were from the World of the Out-of-Doors:

The all-time favorite of Juniors in the 1980s and 1990s was First Aid, with nearly 3 million sold. Followed close behind were Troop Camper (2.9 million; the design changed in 1990); Horse Lover (1.8 million), Swimming (1.4 million), and Wildlife (1.4 million).

The top five Junior badges from the Worlds to Explore era.

The top five Junior badges from the Worlds to Explore era.

Cadettes & Seniors: 1980-2004

Cadettes and Seniors were a remarkably consistent group, with nearly identical results in both time periods.

The most popular Interest Projects from 1980-1996 (top) and 1997-2005 (bottom).

The most popular Interest Projects from 1980-1996 (top) and 1997-2005 (bottom).

Under Worlds to Explore (1980-1996), teens chose Fashion, Fitness, and Makeup (301,391; it had a purple border its first year), Creative Cooking (262,163), Camping (204,851), Games (167,056), and Child Care (160,052).

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the favorites were Cookies and Dough (153,989), Creative Cooking (111,638), From Fitness to Fashion (97,469), Camping (93,923), and Child Care (86,509).

Juniors: 2001-2004

Juniors of the early twenty-first century were evidently a patriotic group, interested in good grooming, and still happy to go camping.

Popular Junior badges, 2001-2004.

Popular Junior badges, 2001-2004.

Top selling Junior badges were Cookie Connection (290,165), Looking Your Best (198,647), Girl Scouting in the USA (197,634), United We Stand (186,761), and Camp Together (171,069). Past favorites remained popular, including First Aid (6th), Horse Fan (11th), Outdoor Fun (12th), and Outdoor Cook (13th).

I was surprised at how popular United We Stand was. It was part of the trio of badges, including Wave the Flag for Brownies and American Patriotism for Cadettes and Seniors, issued following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These three were not included in the handbooks; leaders had to download the requirements themselves.

Brownies: 1999-2004

Brownies at the turn of the century also stuck with some favorite topics, including Cookies Count (1.6 million), Girl Scout Ways (1.55 million), Manners (1.2 million), Art to Wear (1.17 million), and Caring and Sharing (1.08 million)..

Top Brownie Try-Its, 1999-2004.

Top Brownie Try-Its, 1999-2004.

Cookie-themed awarded topped all three post-Worlds to Explore badge categories.

Top of the Charts

Drumroll, please, the most popular Girl Scout badges between 1963 and 2004 were:

The most popular badges between 1963 and 2004.

The most popular badges between 1963 and 2004.

 

Put Girl Scouts on Your Summer Reading List

For almost as long as there have been Girl Scouts, there have been Girl Scout stories.  Stop by the GSCNC office this summer to see an exhibit of Girl Scout fiction books.

The Council’s Archives and History Committee has books ranging from The Girl Scouts at Bellaire, published in 1920, to the Giggling Ghost Girl Scout Mystery from 2012.

In the 1920s and 1930s, when the Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, and other juvenile mystery series became popular, the Girl Scouts followed with their own versions.

Edith Lavell published a 10-volume series in the 1920s that followed Girl Scout Marjorie Wilkinson through her college years. In the 1930s, Virginia Fairfax penned the six-volume mystery series about a group of Mississippi Girl Scouts.

Brownies soon insisted on their own stories, which led to the Brownie Scouts series by Mildred A. Wirt in the early 1950s.  Millie Wirt added three more Girl Scout titles in the 1950s as well.

But Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson was most famous for the books she wrote under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.

Mildred Wirt Benson, the original Carolyn Keene.

Mildred Wirt Benson, the original Carolyn Keene.

She wrote 23 of the original Nancy Drew books, including the first seven, and is largely thought to be responsible for developing the Nancy character. Her editor criticized the first draft of The Secret of the Old Clock, saying that the heroine was “too flip,” but sent the manuscript to the publisher anyway, launching an industry that remains popular decades later. (For more on the many lives of Carolyn Keene, see the new book The History of Nancy Drew, by Christine Keleny.) By the time of her death in 2002, at age 96, Benson had written more than 130 books.

 

 

 

Other book series have been issued over the years, including the three-volume Nancy series by Jean Henry Large, younger sister of Lou Henry Hoover, collections of articles from American Girl magazine, and the more recent Here Come the Brownies series.

Girl Scouts has long promoted reading and the love of books.

Badges related to reading have been around since the 1920s and national patch programs, many in cooperation with the QSP magazine program, have also encouraged reading skills. Over the years, Girl Scouts have also had opportunities to learn about how books are made, including the Intermediate-level Bibliophile badge available from 1938 to 1963. More recently, Cadettes can try the new Book Artist badge.

Girls have always been able to earn badges and patches for reading.

Girls have always been able to earn badges and patches for reading.

Next time you are at the Council main office of Girl Scout Shop, take time to stop by the history display cases and don’t forget to pick up a copy of the council history book. That one is not fiction!

Arcadia front Cover

New Exhibit: 50 Years, 4 Levels, 1 Program

New Exhibit: 50 Years, 4 Levels, 1 Program

In September 1963, Girl Scouts changed from a three-level program to a four-level structure. The Intermediate program was divided into Juniors (grades 4–6) and Cadettes (grades 7–9). The restructuring was accompanied by the release of new handbooks for each level, as well as new badges, uniforms, and awards.

The Nation’s Capital Archives and History Committee has created a new exhibit to mark the 50th anniversary of that exciting program. Items are on display in the lobby of the Council headquarters at 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW.  How many items do you recognize?

The October 1963 issue of Leader magazine kicked off the new program.

The October 1963 issue of Leader magazine kicked off the new program.

The new handbooks went on sale on September 9, 1963, and books purchased that first week came with a special commemorative bookplate.

The new handbooks went on sale on September 9, 1963, and books purchased that first week came with a special commemorative bookplate.

New badges were introduced for the Juniors and Cadettes.

New badges were introduced for the Juniors and Cadettes.

Virginia Walton (left) and Bonnie Johnson checked to make sure the badge sash was correct.

Committee members Virginia Walton (left) and Bonnie Johnson check to make sure the badge sash is correct.

The first Cadette uniform was a variation on the alternate Intermediate uniform.

The first Cadette uniform was a variation on the alternate Intermediate uniform.

The new yellow-bordered Cadette badges were sewn on sashes  beneath the Junior/Intermediate badges.

The new yellow-bordered Cadette badges were sewn on sashes beneath the Junior/Intermediate badges.

New insignia included the Sign of the Arrow and Sign of the Star for Juniors and new interest patches for Seniors.

New insignia included the Sign of the Arrow and Sign of the Star for Juniors and new interest patches for Seniors.

Cadettes had their very own logo!

Cadettes had their very own logo!

The handbooks, badges, and awards combined to create a framework of progression. One program, built on one foundation, would be adapted to four ages levels.

That foundation contained six basic elements, which are still followed 50 years later:

  • Dedication to the Promise and Laws,
  • Commitment to service,
  • Belief in girl-leader planning through the patrol system,
  • Participation as citizens in a democracy,
  • Hopes for international friendship, and
  • Concern for health and safety.

Text and Photos © 2013 Ann Robertson