People generally love to know about their past. Even if it’s disreputable. (My friend Lexxa tells a casual story about going to Scotland to look at the document that mentioned thievery and exiled her entire clan.) Even if it’s far away and only means wearing a ‘Kiss Me, I’m Irish’ button once a year. We like to know where we came from. We like to point at that place on the globe, we like to bring out the family bible or those faded letters and photos, we like to share our ancestors’ stories of adversity and triumph. We don’t want to be entirely melted down in the melting pot. We like that touch of difference almost as much as we like knowing from where we came.
As Girl Scouts, we have a double history. We share an incredible Girl Scout heritage that began in 1912 when Juliette Gordon Low, a fifty-one year old woman who was born in the same year as Abraham Lincoln, started an organization that changed the entire world. Yes, the entire world.
Have you ever asked yourself how the world would be different without Girl Scouting? I know how my world would have been different. I wouldn’t know how to lay a fire. I wouldn’t have looked out at Colorado from the summit of Mount Yale. I wouldn’t know how to react in a crisis situation involving twenty girls, a night of rain and a torn tarp, skills that have served me well in every crisis I’ve ever weathered since that night. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have met the woman who is my best friend to this very day. Girl Scouting was my solace in a world that was unkind to girls who were different. Girl Scouting was the one place in my life where wanting to be assertive and creative and in charge was nurtured rather than crushed. Without Girl Scouting I might have been a girl who did things she later regretted in order to fit in and be liked.
But although I know how firmly my personal Girl Scouting experience figured into the formation of the woman I am today, I didn’t really start thinking about the importance of teaching today’s girls about their Girl Scout History until I went to the Girl Scouts of Colorado History Center. My Girl Scouting experience was never connected to my Girl Scouting heritage. I had no idea Girl Guides had been a part of the French Resistance, that Girl Scouts trained as plane spotters during WWII, that their uniforms were unique for being part of the women’s clothing reform movement, that they were there at the polls when American woman cast their first ballots.
Are you excited now? Do you want to call the library and check out The First Girl Scout? (You totally should. It is well worth it if for no other reason than the heart wrenching photograph of the 200 uniformed Girl Scouts who formed the color guard at Juliette Low’s funeral.) Do you wish there was an easy way to start introducing your troop to their Girl Scout heritage? There is! Are you going to a “Palooza” training this fall? Swing by the table run by the History Center and pick up an historical hand book pack.
Fifty years of scouting in handbooks. A window to changing uniforms, badges, projects and promises. Each page contains ten or more hand and guide books, divided into program levels and a list of questions to provoke research and discussion.
As a nation, we have traditionally tended to write our history books from the view point of the white male. Although this is changing, Girl Scouts are still not mentioned in our classrooms and history books. That’s going to be up to us. The Historical Book Bag (which you get to keep and share with others in your area) is a wonderful tool not only for teaching researching skills, but also for displays, reports, power points and exhibits.
Located in Loveland, Colorado, the project is housed in an office suite overflowing with Girl Scout artifacts and is run entirely by volunteers. Please come and visit, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jane Severance is the author of Ghost Pains and Lots of Mommies. Please contact her at email@example.com . I would love to hear your areas about sparking interest in Girl Scout Heritage.