“I found a bunch of silver fish!” I recently announced to my family.
“Call the exterminator,” my husband replied.
Then, as a good Man in Green, he corrected himself. “Oh, you mean the other one.”
Indeed, this is what I found in the bargain bin at Jo-Ann Fabrics:
It’s a string of silver-colored, fish-shaped beads. Each is about 1″ in size. I thought they would be perfect additions to a Juliette Gordon Low costume or a Daisy-themed Kim’s Game.
The Silver Fish was the highest award available to Girl Guides. It could be considered the first highest award for Girl Scouts, because it was listed in the 1913 handbook, How Girls Can Help Their Country, along with the list of the 20 badges needed to earn it. But no Girl Scouts ever did. In fact, some of the “required” badges were not even available in the United States. Instead, Daisy created a US equivalent: the Golden Eagle of Merit.
In October 1917 Girl Guides redefined the Silver Fish as an adult-only award recognizing outstanding contributions to the movement.
Originally the award depicted a whiting with its tail in its mouth. It changed to a swimming fish on a dark blue/light blue striped ribbon in October 1917.
Today the fish is an Atlantic salmon. According to the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, Lord Baden Powell suggested this species, “a salmon swimming up a river, overcoming every water fall, boulder, and other obstacle in order to reach a quiet place in which to spawn.”
Lady Baden Powell received a specially created golden Silver Fish in 1918.
Three Americans received the prestigious Silver Fish. Lord Baden Powell personally presented the first to JGL at the 1919 national convention in Washington, DC. Anne Hyde Choate and Helen Storrow received theirs at the 1921 national convention in Cincinnati. Choate, JGL’s goddaughter, was national president from 1920 to 1922. Storrow led the effort to build Our Chalet.
Daisy was buried in her Girl Scout uniform, including her Silver Fish, at Laurel Grove cemetery in Savannah.
Anne Hyde Choate’s Silver Fish was donated to GSUSA. Earlier this year, it was on display in the lobby of the 17th floor of national headquarters, 420 Fifth Avenue in New York.
Today Storrow’s fish lives at the Cedar Hill Museum in Massachusetts.
Thank you to the Cedar Hill staff and volunteers who confirmed the location!
©2016 Ann Robertson