If you’ve ever visited the Chicago Gathering Place, you’ll remember the cases that line the hallways, filled with guide books, uniforms, badges, and pins from the past 109 years of Girl Scouting. These artifacts remind our members, visitors, and staff that our history is as important as our future—and who better understands that than our Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) Council Historians?
Their mission statement, “to acquire, organize, and preserve artifacts related to the Girl Scout Movement, to make the collection available to our membership, researchers, and the general public, and to promote an enduring understanding of the rich history of Girl Scouts,” has held true even among the difficulties of the pandemic. In continuation of our celebration of Girl Scout Day (March 12), we are featuring these incredible archivists, who work tirelessly to preserve our council’s legacy.
Read on to meet some of the GSGCNWI Council Historians!
Honoring the Trailblazers
These historians have seen firsthand the changes Girl Scouts has undergone over the years, and part of their job is to, as Jane Doyle explained, “take what happened in the past and connect it to what we do today.” Veronica Pradelski continued: “A minute ago is history. History is every day. We have to preserve everything.” One of the historian’s most important missions is to pay homage to the risk-taking women who paved the way for present-day girls. Even camping was once taboo for girls and women to do—and as Karen Schillings puts it, “it’s a big thing for girls to appreciate all that had to be done to get to this point.”
The historians have a variety of training and educational background that lends to their project: from historic costume and textile restoration, to preservation of paper and text, to recordkeeping and photographic archival (and more). They represent the seven distinct legacy councils that merged in 2008 to become GCNWI, (Illinois Crossroads, Prairie Winds, Chicago, South Cook, Calumet, Trailways, and Drifting Dunes), as well as councils that merged into those seven entities over time.
Because of the diversity of historic items amassed over the years, the historians are now able to boast a large, fascinating collection of artifacts from all legacy councils that existed within the current geographic footprint. “We are where we are today because of those legacy councils,” Karen continues, each of them holding a rich local history carefully preserved by our historians.
Motivated by their passion for history and their love of Girl Scouting, these historians are doing the essential work of saving stories that might otherwise be lost. “Girl Scouting is the best thing going for girls and young women,” Jane Doyle said, reflecting on her motivations, “so being able to tell the Girl Scout story is what keeps me in this group.”
“My leader told me to give back to Girl Scouting what I got out of it,” Rosemarie Courtney shared. “So I never quit.”
Thank you to all of the GSGCNWI Council Historians:
Levita Anderson, Christine Caragher, Christine Cline, Rosemarie Courtney, Jane Doyle, Phyllis Drewno, Heidi Gannon, Janice Gerovac, Elise Gould, Nancy Hackett, Heather Linehan, Carol Macola, Mia Mehta, Catherine Mori, Kelly Pavlik, Veronica Pradelski, Margaret Rogers, Karen Schillings and Vikki Zack.
Are you interested in helping the historians?
If you’d like to learn more about the archive, how to become a part of the team, or something else about the GSGCNWI historians, email Rosemarie Courtney.
Check out some of these special items from the Chicago Gathering Place!
Look out next week for more Girl Scout history talk with the GSGCNWI historians!