Remembering World War I

Just off the National Mall in Washington, DC, lies a little-known war memorial, one with an even more obscure Girl Scout connection.

Resembling a Greek temple, the District of Columbia World War Memorial honors the 499 DC residents who died in World War I. With its open-air design and widely spaced Doric columns, the memorial could easily be used as a bandstand.

In fact, it was located at the site of a former bandstand, and legendary conductor John Phillip Sousa led the Marine Band’s performance for the dedication.

WWI Memorial dedication

Dedication of memorial on November 11, 1931 (World War I Memorial Inventory Project)

640px-District_of_Columbia_War_Memorial,_July_2017_(close_up)

The restored monument today (MusikAnimal via Wikimedia Commons)

While some Girl Scouts likely took part in the dedication of the memorial, there is one strong link between it and the young women’s leadership group.

The award-winning memorial was designed by Frederick H. Brooke, whose wife, Henrietta “Texas” Bates Brooke, helped found the first Girl Scout council in Washington, DC, in 1917.

Mr. Brooke seems to have been a bit camera-shy.  This is the only photograph of him that  I have found. It was taken in 1928 at the groundbreaking for the current British Embassy in Washington, another of his projects. Could that be his wife next to him? If only she had worn her Girl Scout uniform to the embassy event!

The memorial is located on Independence Avenue NW, between 17th and 23rd Streets. It underwent extensive restoration in 2011.

©2018 Ann Robertson

 

Who’s That Girl Scout? The Peach Pit Girls

One hundred years ago, the onset of World War I provided many opportunities for the new Girl Scout movement.

The "Peach Pit Champions of Washington, DC, collected thousands of peach pits for the war effort.  From left: Lillian Dorr, Troop 60; Helen Collier, Troop 33; Eva Tarslush, Troop 60.  (The Rally, March 1919.)

The “Peach Pit Champions of Washington, DC,” collected thousands of peach pits for the war effort. From left: Lillian Dorr, Troop 60; Helen Collier, Troop 33; Eva Tarslush, Troop 60. (The Rally, March 1919.)

A December 20, 1914, Washington Post clipping reports Takoma Park Troop 5 busily knitting scarves “for the European soldiers.”

In February 1915, Juliette Gordon Low arrived in Washington from England. She met with troop leaders at the National Headquarters (the Munsey Building at 1327 E Street NW) and “gave a graphic account of the remarkable relief work being done in England by the Girl [Guides].”

WP1915 June 13

The Girl Scout organization pledges its support to President Wilson during World War I. (Washington Post, June 13, 1915)

After the United States entered the war in 1917, Girl Scouts stepped up their efforts. Girls joined Lou Henry Hoover to distribute sandwiches to soldiers passing through town, raised homing pigeons destined for the front lines, and made bandages for the Red Cross.

The March 1918 edition of The Rally (the first Girl Scout magazine) introduced a Girl Scout War Service Award to “stimulate thoughtful direct effort that would have a distinct value to those in the war.” To earn the award, girls had to knit two pounds of wool, make 50 jars of jam, and sell at least 10 Liberty Bonds. The Rally also directed Girl Scouts to collect and dry fruit pits and nut shells:

A CAMPAIGN FOR PITS

Gather up the peach pits,

Olive pits as well.

Every prune and date seed

Every walnut shell.

The magazine article explained that “200 peach pits or seven pounds of nut shells produced enough carbon for one filter for a solider’s gas mask” (GS Collector’s Guide, p. 87).  With the German military deploying highly toxic chlorine gas against the Allied troops, the Red Cross and other organizations launched peach pit collection drives across the country, according to The Atlantic magazine.

The Girl Scouts rose to the occasion, and three Washington, DC, Girl Scouts — all under age 13 — were declared “Peace Pit Champions.”

Well done, ladies!