A friend of mine is a Daisy leader and is now getting the troop ready for their bridging ceremony. This event has inspired me to look back on the tradition of becoming a Brownie and share a bit about the Brownie Program and its origins.
At the beginning of Girl Scouting, there were only Girl Scouts, which started at age 11. Only one complication: the Girl Scouts were often responsible for their little sisters, as they often had to babysit the little ones. To solve this problem, the first official Brownie Program was created.
The program and its principles were inspired by the children’s book, The Brownies by Julia Horatia Ewing. In the book, the Brownie is a quiet, clever fairy helper who helps the mortals in their homes by doing “good turns.” Early Brownies had traditions like making a Brownie Promise and being “obedient and helpful to other people, especially those at home.” They had a motto: “Be Prepared,” and a cry: “L. A. H.” which stood for “Lend A Hand.” The Brownies became little versions of their big sister Girl Scouts. They also went by the nickname “Junior Scouts.”
The leaders were lovingly called Brown Owl and Tawney Owl. The leaders had a guidebook, The Brown Book for Brown Owls. (Note: the council historians have this book in our collection. You may request to see it. You may request any book in the collection if you ask by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org)
Only Brownie Girl Scout leaders had a handbook titled Leader’s Guide to the Brownie Scout Program. Some topics were: Service Brownie Scouts Can Give, The Brownie Song, Brownie Scout Troop’s Own Special Days, Suggested Activities for Brownie Scouts in the Outdoors – Three Years of Progressive Activities, and lots more! The handbook also included tests and requirements to lead the Brownies to awards and become Girl Scouts!
It was not until 1951 that Brownies got their handbook. It was titled Brownie Scout Handbook. The book was all about Girl Scouts and traditions, and, in those days, a girl had to attend four meetings, pay $1.00 for national membership dues, and recite the Brownie Promise before becoming an official Brownie.
I became a Brownie in 1957, and we still used the 1951 handbook. My mom was one of the troop leaders. We had a huge troop and three leaders. It was great! I went through Girl Scouts until I reached Cadettes in 1962. I later became my two daughters’ Girl Scout leader until they became Seniors. And now, I am a Girl Scout historian! Thanks, Mom!
Today, the Daisy Program starts in kindergarten, and when Daisies reach second grade, they can become Brownies through a special bridging ceremony.
You may be wondering: what is a bridging ceremony?
A bridging ceremony is when troop members, volunteers, and family gather to recognize those who are ready to move up a level in Girl Scouting. They are a time to reflect on the past and look toward the future with confidence, courage, and character.
Bridging ceremonies happen between all levels of Girl Scouts. Each level of the bridging ceremony is unique, but all ceremonies are a key part of the life of a Girl Scout.
For a bridging to Brownie ceremony, the words are special. The ceremony relates to the same children’s book that the Brownie Program was inspired by.
The leader states, “To prepare for bridging today, our troop read “The Brownie Story,” a story about girls who went to a forest in search of “very helpful persons” called Brownies. There they met a wise old owl who told them that they could find the Brownie if they looked upon the magic pond and finished a magic rhyme. Now we, too, will perform a little magic. I’d like to call all new Brownies to stand around the magic pond and listen carefully while I read this poem.
Cross your little fingers, stand up on your toes,
That’s a bit of magic that every Brownie knows.
Now we all are standing inside a forest glade,
Listen very carefully; see the magic made.
And tucked inside this great big wood,
You’ll find a pond that’s pure and good.
Then turn yourself around three times,
Gaze into the pond; complete the rhyme.”
One at a time, each new Brownie walks to the pond and is met by a co-leader or helper who turns her in a circle while the Girl Scout says, “Twist me and turn me and show me the Elf; I looked in the water and saw myself!” The Girl Scout then receives a Brownie Membership Pin pinned upside down and returns to her fellow Girl Scouts. The leader explains that Girl Scouts must perform three good deeds for their family for their pin to be turned right side up.
After the three good deeds are done, the Girl Scout is now ready for new adventures, new badges, new skills to learn, and new trails to blaze as an official Girl Scout Brownie.
As a volunteer leader, one usually looks to an experienced leader for instruction, advice, and mentoring. Pat Walenga, who died suddenly in 2019, was one of those mentors.
Pat Walenga was a Girl Scout herself. With disruptions in her own life growing up, she could always count on Girl Scouts as the place that provided stability.
Initially an assistant leader for two years when she was just out of high school, Pat returned to being a leader when her older daughter needed one. Pat never stopped being a leader over the next forty years, which led to having four or five troops at a time every year.
Pat was steadfast in promoting Girl Scouting. She was a service unit manager, area chair, master trainer, council and national delegate, board of directors’ member, board secretary (for the Girl Scouts of Chicago, before the merger of councils in 2008), and historian. She served on numerous committees: 75th Anniversary, By-Laws, Contemporary Issues, Outdoor, Long-Range Property, and Field Policy.
With Pat’s many jobs, her dedication to girl involvement and experiences was always at the heart of what she did. Girl Scout activities needed to be fun, as well as a place to learn skills, learn about oneself, and learn about others.
At Salmagundi, a northwest area annual event she ran, Pat appeared as Yum Yum, her clown character. On camping trips and outdoor events, Pat would have teams of girls go on an unnatural hike, looking for non-natural items near the path.
At times, questions were asked at troop meetings that girls did not feel comfortable asking in any other environment. One Daisy was worried that her grandparents would be sent back to Mexico; Pat was there to listen. Pat was always there to squeeze the hand of a Junior who got a bad grade; she encouraged a Cadette struggling with school; she hugged and assured others.
Pat connected not only with girls but also connected with former Girl Scouts wherever and whenever she could. When Girl Scouts of Chicago was considering selling Camp Juniper Knoll, Pat provided the local newspaper with a very old photo from the archives which showed young campers with lily pads on their heads; a half-million-dollar donation was received from a woman who remembered the event, saving the camp.
Pat received every award over the years. However, her most outstanding achievement was the fun and adventures with her many Girl Scouts. Her reward was the joy of working with the girls to help them become confident and caring women.
Thousands of incredible volunteers routinely show Girl Scouts what it means to be unstoppable.
Girl Scout volunteers put their skills to good use and develop new ones; build community and connection; and make a meaningful, lasting difference for future generations of Girl Scouts through mentorship. Volunteers meet Girl Scouts where they are and respond to what they want and need, using care, knowledge, and experience to guide the way without dictating it. Volunteers’ talents and experiences can change girls’ lives.
From troop leader to service unit cookie manager, the list of amazing people volunteering their time and talents is long. In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month, we would like to introduce you to a few of the explorers, trailblazers, changemakers, and stargazers that our members called to our attention.
Michelle is a fearless volunteer who raised her hand four years ago when her daughter’s troop needed a new troop leader. Michelle was eager to learn more about the product program side of Girl Scouts, so she started volunteering at the Joliet Cookie Cupboard. Two years later, Michelle became a service unit manager. As a troop leader, Cookie Cupboard volunteer, and service unit manager, Michelle is a true champion for girls. Girl Scouts GCWNI thanks you for making a meaningful and lasting difference for Girl Scouts through your mentorship and dedication.
Monica boldly stepped up to be troop leader five years ago and has been empowering girls ever since! Monica has gone above and beyond by becoming a troop fall product and cookie manager. She sorted out all the girl’s rewards and made sure each girl got the rewards they earned as she fearlessly led them through years of cookie and fall product seasons. Monica used her talents to hand-sew all the patches on each girl’s vest in her troop. We are extremely grateful for volunteers like Monica who pour their heart into making authentic experiences for girls and truly making a difference in their lives. Girl Scouts GCWNI extends our appreciation to you, Monica, for guiding girls to listen to their heart and showing them what true confidence, courage, and character looks like.
Marissa is a lifetime member of Girl Scouts GCNWI and started her leadership journey in 2014 as a troop leader. Today, Marissa leads a multi-level troop, where she guides girls to be their most authentic selves. On top of her work as a troop leader, Marissa is also a service unit manager. Her dedication to living out the Girl Scout Mission is powerful and inspiring. Not only is it inspiring to the Girl Scouts in her service unit, but to adults as well. Her confidence, courage, and character have inspired others to become new troop leaders. Girl Scouts GCNWI thanks you, Marissa, for your outstanding leadership, years of service in Girl Scouts, and for living the Girl Scout Mission daily.
New volunteers may not realize the impact they have, so it is important for us to let you know that each one of you plays a vital role in showing girls how to be courageous and navigate life when challenges arise.
The volunteers mentioned above were submitted by Girl Scout GCNWI community members. If you’d like to highlight a stand-out volunteer, we’d love to hear about them. You can do so by clicking here. You can also head to our Facebook and Instagram pages to see more incredible volunteers highlighted in our stories and posts.
Happy Volunteer Appreciation Month to all Girl Scout volunteers; we couldn’t do it without you!
Girl Scouts take pride in recognizing the traditions and special days that make up Girl Scouting. Girl Scout Week is a perfect example of how Girl Scouts and Girl Scout volunteers come together and showcase their Girl Scout spirit. Girl Scout Week 2023 started on March 12 and concluded on March 18. Girls had a great time participating in the many fun activities throughout the week, including birthday parties, outdoor activities, ceremonies, community service, exploring Girl Scout traditions, and much more.
The tradition of celebrating Girl Scout Week is lively, but did you know that from 1919 to 1953, Girl Scout Week was observed in the fall? It included Juliette Gordon Low’s birthday (October 31), and each day of the week had a different focus:
Sunday Girl Scout Sunday
Monday Homemaking Day
Tuesday Citizenship Day
Wednesday Health and Safety Day
Thursday International Friendship Day
Friday Arts and Crafts Day
Saturday Out-of-Doors Day
During the National Council Session (NCS) in 1953, it was decided to combine Girl Scout Week with Girl Scouts’ birthday and celebrate during the week that includes March 12.
Why March 12?
On March 12, 1912, Juliette Gordon Low held the very first Girl Scout meeting in Savannah, Georgia, making March 12 Girl Scouts’ birthday.
Since the NCS in 1953, Girl Scout Week has started with Girl Scout Sunday and ended with Girl Scout Jummah/Sabbath/Shabbat Saturday.
Girl Scout Jammah/Sabbath/Shabbat Saturday, as a part of Girl Scout Week, was established to spread awareness of Girl Scouting at places of worship, to share the Girl Scout legacy of service to others, and deepen girls’ connection to their faith and Girl Scouting.
Everything in Girl Scouting is based on the Girl Scout Promise and Law, which include many common principles and values found across religions. Therefore, during Girl Scout Week, faith partners join us to help girls celebrate the connections between their faith and Girl Scouts.
Girl Scout Week connects Girl Scouts across the globe.
We hope you had an unforgettable experience celebrating this historic Girl Scout tradition.
Since 1926 World Thinking Day has been celebrated by Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world on February 22, which is the birthday of both Lord Baden-Powell and Olave Baden-Powell, the founders of Girl Guides. It was set aside as a day for “Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world think of each other and express their thanks and appreciation for our international Movement.” (History & Impact (wagggs.org)
The World Association was established to set standards shortly after the Girl Guides, and Girl Scouts began in a number of countries. The First World Conference was held in England in 1920 and was an opportunity for Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from around the world to meet and exchange ideas. But it wasn’t until representatives from 26 countries attending the Fifth World Conference in Hungary in 1928 formally established the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. The founding member countries were Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, India, Japan, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and Northern Ireland, USA, and Yugoslavia
Special programs with international themes are presented, and money is collected to help support WAGGGS, the World Association of Girl Guides, and Girl Scouts. It was proposed at the 1932 World Conference that girls could show their appreciation for the worldwide Scouting and Guiding movement by fundraising or making a donation. It was Olave Baden-Powell herself who suggested that girls “spare a penny.” This led to troops devising unique ways to collect donations for WAGGGS. For example, donating a penny (or a larger amount for older girls) per inch of height, length of hair or distance of a jump.
Today over 150 countries have Girl Scout or Girl Guide organizations. American Girl Scouts who are living in other countries with their families may belong to American troops if there are enough girls in the area, or they can join a local troop and experience their lifestyle while they participate in the activities and earn the badges of the local council.
Starting in 1915 in Washington, D.C., the democratic process has been continually promoted by our organization through the National Council Session (NCS), a.k.a. the National Convention.
Orlando, Florida, will host the 56th National Council Session from July 18-20, 2023, followed immediately with Phenom by Girl Scouts from July 20-22, 2023. This triennial meeting, comprised of delegates from each council, is charged with giving clear direction to the future of the Girl Scout Movement. It is the central link between Girl Scout councils and GSUSA. Each local council is allotted delegates on an adjustable formula to keep the National Council close to the optimal size of 1,500 delegates. Once elected by their local councils, the delegates serve a three-year term.
So, what do these National Council delegates do once they are elected to their positions? During NCS, National Delegates represent their local councils as voting members. They gather input, debate, and vote on proposals that impact the future of the Girl Scout Movement, including changes to the Constitution and the Blue Book of Basic Documents. In addition, National Delegates elect the National Board of Directors and the Board Development Committee. However, during the interim three years between each NCS, the National Delegates can also develop and submit proposals to the National Board for consideration as agenda items. In Girl Scouting, a proposal is a leading motion to bring a recommendation before the National Council for a vote. The National Board of Directors decides whether each submitted proposal is worthy of being on the agenda.
However, if any proposal developed by a local council receives support from 15 percent or more of the Girl Scout councils, then the National Board of Directors is obliged to have that proposal on the agenda so the National Council can act upon it.
This may sound boring and mundane, but the National Council Sessions are vital to keeping the movement forward-thinking. There has been a wide range of proposals since that first Girl Scout convention in 1915, and it’s quite interesting to look back on what has transpired at NCS.
My first encounter with the National Council Session occurred in 1990 in Miami Beach. At that convention, I was the chaperone for the two girls from legacy South Cook County Council who were sent as visitors. Since I had no previous association with NCS, I didn’t realize how many councils would actually send girls as delegates. I then began to lobby for a change to any subsequent South Cook County delegations to include at least two girl delegates.
After Miami Beach, I attended all but one NCS either as a delegate, a girl chaperone, or often both! However, Miami Beach was an experience I will never forget. The keynote speaker was the author and poet Maya Angelou who captivated and inspired the attendees. The Spring 1991 Leader Magazine described her address in this manner: “. . . she held everyone spellbound. In song, in prose, in poetry, she captivated one and all with her wisdom, her insight, and her humor.”
An additional highlight of the Miami Beach convention was the launching of GSUSA’s national service project on literacy with the help of an unexpected visit from our Honorary President at that time, First Lady Barbara Bush. Leader Magazine depicted it this way: “The excitement of the First Lady’s visit began with the arrival of the Secret Service people who checked the arena thoroughly. A surprise for those stern-visaged gentlemen must have been the immediate silence resulting from our Girl Scout quiet sign!”
The 1990 NCS is memorable for another reason, too. At this triennial meeting, the National Council passed a proposal to establish the designation Girl Scout “Gold Award” as the highest award to be earned by a girl member. After having the name of the highest award change several times in our Girl Scout history, this proposal dictated that the name “Gold Award” could not be altered.
You probably already know that the Girl Scout Promise and Law have been changed several times. However, you may not realize that some changes were voted upon during a National Council Session. The first-time changes were made at NCS took place in 1972 in Dallas. The delegation voted to approve this wording of the Promise and Law:
On my honor, I will try:
To serve God,
My country and mankind,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.
I will do my best:
—to be honest
—to be fair
—to help where I am needed
—to be cheerful
—to be friendly and considerate
—to be a sister to every Girl Scout
—to respect authority
—to use resources wisely
—to protect and improve the world around me
—to show respect for myself and others through my words and action
The Promise was again revised by the NCS delegation in Detroit in 1984 to its current form:
On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.
However, The Law did not undergo additional changes until the Fort Worth NCS in 1996, which is the version we use today:
I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
respect myself and others,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.
Perhaps the most misunderstood proposal concerning the Girl Scout Promise was passed by the National Delegates in 1993 at the Minneapolis convention. The proposal was titled “Flexibility in Wording for Spiritual Beliefs in the Girl Scout Promise.” It stated:
THAT, since the Girl Scout organization makes no attempt to interpret or define the word “God” but encourages members to establish for themselves the nature of their spiritual beliefs, it be the policy of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. that individuals when making the Girl Scout Promise may substitute wording appropriate to their own spiritual beliefs for the word “God.”
Having attended the 1993 National Council Session, I still remember the headlines of that time declaring that the Girl Scouts had taken “God” out of their Promise. The intent of the proposal was to promote inclusivity for girls of various faiths whose religious beliefs might have a different terminology for “God,” such as Allah or Yahweh. Many media outlets totally misrepresented what had transpired, so GSUSA had to do damage control and make numerous explanations on what the proposal intended to do.
At other National Councils Sessions, the delegates have reviewed the request to increase dues. The Constitution was amended in 1975 during that year’s Washington NCS, giving this authority to the delegates. It stated: Decision on annual membership dues shall be by ballot and shall require a majority of votes cast. However, the wording in the GS Constitution concerning membership dues was somewhat altered at the 2008 NCS in Indianapolis. Within its rationale for the changes, the National Board included the statement that after the 2008 NCS, it would be the one to set dues amounts going forward and included a lengthy explanation as to why it felt it had the authority. At their January 20, 2012, meeting, the National Board raised annual membership dues from $12 to $15, effective with the 2014 membership year. This was the first time since the 1975 amended Constitution that the National Board raised annual membership dues without the National Council’s approval. Then in 2016, the National Board raised the dues again, going from $15 to $25. A lawsuit initiated by the Farthest North Council against GSUSA claimed that the dues increase violated the Constitution. The lawsuit went all the way to the Alaska Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Farthest North Council.
This controversy on who has the authority to raise the membership dues caused the delegates of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) to write a proposal for the 2020 NCS that would create a compromise between the National Board and the National Council. The proposal inserted into the Constitution has this wording:
The National Board of Directors must seek approval from the National Council whenever planned dues increase will increase by more than 25% in any triennium. This amendment to the Constitution passed, making it one of the two proposals submitted by GSGCNWI in 2020 to be approved.
Another proposal associated with membership dues was passed at the Houston NCS in 1981. However, it was at this time the Lifetime Membership category was established. Then in 1999, at the Kansas City NCS, a vote was taken to have a special Lifetime Membership dues be offered to any girl who was a registered Senior Girl Scout at the time of her high school graduation or equivalent. In 2017 in Columbus, the delegates approved the elimination of the multiplier formerly used to establish the cost of a Girl Scout Lifetime Membership and voted for a flat rate of $400 or, for alums under age 30 and currently registered volunteers with ten or more years of service, a $200 cost. This change was supported by the GSGCNWI delegation.
There have been other significant proposals passed during NCS, such as those concerning the National Board. For instance, the Denver National Council session in 1978 reduced the number of National Board Members from 65 to 51. This number of National Board members was again reduced in 1996 in Fort Worth to 35. During the Atlanta NCS in 2005, the number of members of the National Board of Directors was amended to 25, which is the number that is in place today. Also, in 2005, the number of consecutive terms for the National President was reduced from three to two.
As I mentioned before, GSGCNWI had two proposals pass during the virtual NCS of 2020. Besides the proposal to restrict any dues increase to not exceed 25% in a triennium unless voted upon by the National Council, the GSGCNWI delegates also developed a proposal for the movement to establish a feasibility task group to research the formation of a National Gold Award Scholarship Foundation. When both proposals received positive outcomes, the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana made NCS history. We were the first local council to have two proposals pass during a single NCS. As one of the authors of the National Gold Award Scholarship Foundation proposal, I was asked to sit on the feasibility task group. Our findings will be shared at the NCS in Orlando this coming July. Stay tuned!
The GSGCNWI delegation is really looking forward to attending the Orlando NCS this July. After having the 2020 NCS held virtually due to the pandemic, it will be so satisfying to be in a convention hall once again with Girl Scouts from across the country. Being a National Delegate is a huge commitment with the numerous meetings before and even after the National Council Session. However, it’s extremely gratifying to know that this work is tremendously important to the vitality of the Girl Scout Movement.
Finally, I want to share a uniquely GSGCNWI tradition that was started for NCS in 2011. As a National Delegate who is also a Council Historian, I have had the capability to acquire vintage uniforms for our girl members who attend NCS as either delegates or visitors. The girls always feel special when delegates from other councils can identify the era of the uniforms they are wearing. Because 2020 was virtual, this tradition was suspended during that NCS, but it will definitely be brought back for 2023!
It may seem curious to discover that the woman who eventually founded the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, Juliette Gordon Low, spent a good portion of her life in Wellesbourne, England, in the county of Warwickshire.
Most Girl Scouts are familiar with the William and Eleanor Gordon home in Savannah, referred to as the “birthplace,” where Juliette had her start in life and became known to family and friends as Daisy. They also might know that the first Girl Scout meeting took place in the Andrew Low estate carriage house, which Juliette’s father-in-law had originally owned. However, when examining Juliette’s life, it becomes clear that the residence she and her husband owned in England, the Wellesbourne House, was the place Daisy considered to be the home that really belonged to her. So how did this 19th-century Southern debutante end up so far away from her upbringing in Savannah? It all has to do with the family into which Juliette married.
Eleanor Kinzie Gordon, Juliette’s mother, came from a family of well-educated women, and she expected the same from her daughters. Early on, Daisy was learning to read and write in the home of a local teacher. At the age of twelve, she was sent to a boarding school in New Jersey. A year later, she attended the Virginia Female Institute and, afterward, Edgehill School, also in Virginia. She studied mathematics, English grammar, spelling, French, piano, and drawing. Daisy was quite artistic, so she enjoyed drawing the most.
Her studies concluded at a finishing school in New York City, where she learned how to dance, curtsy, and sit properly, the important skills of the day for members of polite society. In this era, it was understood that an elite Southern girl was being educated to take her place in society and to be a good wife, not to espouse a profession.
William “Willy” Mackay Low came into Daisy’s life when she needed someone the most. Her sister Alice had died of scarlet fever in 1880, and Daisy was grieving deeply over the loss. Willy had been in England for some time, studying at Oxford, but had come to Savannah for the summer to stay with family and friends. He was the son of Andrew Low, an immigrant from Scotland who became the wealthiest cotton merchant in Savannah. Andrew had built a large house on Lafayette Square just a few minutes’ walk from the Gordon home. In 1864, when Willy was four years old, his mother passed away.
Andrew moved the family to the Warwickshire town of Royal Leamington Spa. However, he maintained the Savannah home and only returned there when he was on business. It should be noted that Andrew Low disapproved of the relationship developing between Willy and Daisy since he wanted his son to marry someone of equal status. On the other hand, Willie Gordon wanted Daisy to marry a man who could support himself through his challenging work rather than marry an idle rich man.
When Willy returned to England in 1881, the impetuous couple continued to correspond, disregarding parental objections. Daisy was given the opportunity to see Willy at Beauchamp Hall in Leamington when her father consented to her first trip to Europe in 1882. Her second voyage overseas in 1884 gave her another prospect to encounter Willy, even though Daisy assured her parents that her trip to Beauchamp Hall was to visit with the Low sisters. Juliette and Willy strengthened their commitment to each other that summer. A few months later, Willy came to Savannah, and the courtship continued. When the couple announced their intention to marry in February of 1886, Andrew Low insisted on a year’s waiting period. Otherwise, Willy would forego his inheritance. Willy and Daisy agreed to the arrangement, but Andrew died suddenly in June. Even though it was customary to have a year of mourning, they decided to get married as soon as possible. Willie Gordon, unwilling to relinquish his daughter totally, requested that Daisy come home to Savannah for six months each year. The couple agreed, and the date was set for December 21, 1886.
At first, the newlyweds resided in Savannah and occupied the luxurious Low home. However, during the summer of 1887, the couple returned to England. At this time, Willy had two rented homes, one in Leamington, near Beauchamp Hall, and the other near Blair Atholl in Perthshire, Scotland. However, he wanted to own a country manor befitting his social position. To that end, he purchased Wellesbourne House in rural Warwickshire in 1889, a fifty-five-acre estate. Having inherited 750,000 pounds from his father’s fortune, Willy could well afford the purchase price, and then he set about making improvements. The estate grew to twenty bedrooms with a stable for forty horses, a cottage for the gardener, a separate laundry facility, a greenhouse, and a garage where the first Wellesbourne automobile was housed. This was a home for entertaining and living the good life. Daisy was excited to have a home of her own and thoroughly enjoyed selecting the furnishings. From all accounts, she was delighted with Wellesbourne House and relished being the lady of this stately home.
As a part of the Marlborough set, a group of high society individuals close to Edward Albert, the Prince of Wales, Willy and Daisy had many social events on their schedule. Willy became president of the Wellesbourne Cricket Club and was also a member of the Warwickshire Yeomanry, his voluntary cavalry unit. In May 1895, the Prince of Wales attended a Warwickshire Yeomanry dance. Daisy was flattered to be the only woman in the room with whom the Prince asked to dance. In 1896, Prince Edward visited Wellesbourne House with his entourage. Daisy presided over a lovely luncheon for her honored guests.
Another celebrity of the time graced the Wellesbourne House. Rudyard Kipling and his wife Carrie frequented the home because Daisy’s mother was Carrie’s cousin. Once they had become acquainted, Juliette became good friends with Mr. and Mrs. Kipling. Daisy enjoyed this refreshing couple, who were quite different from the social elites to whom Willy was attracted.
Because Willy was away so much on hunting trips, racing his horses, or gambling with his friends, Daisy started to feel lonely. She had been an artistic soul from an early age and delved into various pursuits to take up the time whenever Willy was absent. Daisy had already proved herself an excellent portrait artist but branched out into other endeavors. She took up woodworking and carved a beautiful mantel for Willy’s smoking room and other ornamental pieces for her home. Then she took to metalworking. It’s not for certain who taught her how to forge, but it’s suspected that the village blacksmith John Thomas Thorpe was the one who instructed her. She took on a major endeavor by designing and then forging the gates for the entrance to Wellesbourne House. Those original gates were later shipped to Savannah to adorn the entrance of Gordonston Memorial Park, but they are now on display at the Birthplace. However, replicas made from Daisy’s design still hang at the Wellesbourne House entrance.
Although Daisy was thoroughly devoted to her husband, it cannot be said the same for him. Willy had a roving eye and was very keen on women. In 1901, Anna Bateman, an actress, was discovered to be Willy’s mistress.
This was particularly hurtful to Daisy since she had welcomed Mrs. Bateman to Wellesbourne House on several occasions. Now Daisy had a dilemma; how to end her marriage quietly and honorably. If she filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery, then her husband and Anna Bateman would be subjected to embarrassment and shunned in polite society. Not wishing to bring scandal to either of them, Daisy decided to leave Wellesbourne and reside in London. At a later time, she did file for divorce, but on the grounds of desertion. However, before the divorce was finalized, William Mackay Low died of a seizure in 1905.
Without her knowledge, Willy changed his will and left his estate to Anna Bateman. Nevertheless, Daisy persuaded Willy’s four sisters to contest the will. In the end, Daisy did receive a small settlement, along with the house in Savannah. Willy’s sister Amy Low Grenfell kept Wellesbourne House.
Daisy needed to put the heartbreak of her marriage and Willy’s death behind her. Without a career or the prospects of remarrying, she set her sights on traveling.
However, this strong woman wanted to have a purposeful life and continued to search for something meaningful to do. In 1911, she had by chance been seated at a luncheon next to Sir Robert Baden-Powell, who had just started the Boy Scouts. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I had the good fortune to visit Wellesbourne in July of 2017. At that time, the house Daisy so loved was an office complex. Then in 2018, the property was sold and converted into condominiums. However, it was nice to see the replicated gates and to imagine what an exquisite home it once was.
I’m sure the many people who enter those gates today are unaware of the lovely lady who once lived there.
Since there was nothing on the site to identify the property as once being the home of our founder, I started making inquiries as to how a historical plaque could be secured for Wellesbourne House. After much research and outreach, two local historians, who at the time did not know the property’s historical significance, offered to help. A plaque was affixed to the home at the end of 2019. Dedication of the plaque was to occur in March 2020, but this ceremony was canceled due to the pandemic.
It has recently been rescheduled and will take place in April 2023.
It’s good to know that the Wellesbourne House is now correctly identified for its distinguished history in the life of Juliette Gordon Low.
After years of being a Girl Scout troop leader for Brownies, Juniors, and Cadettes, I yearned to visit the birthplace of Girl Scouting, Savannah, Georgia. I viewed that as the ultimate pilgrimage to our founder’s home and, by extension, the birthplace of my Downers Grove-based Cadette Troop 606. It was the girls’ last year in this troop as they were faced with the decision to move on to a long-standing Senior Girl Scout troop, a “Mariner troop,” known as Ship 167, or end their active membership as they started high school.
At our meeting, we decided the trip would be a great idea, and we had enough cookie money in the bank to do it!
The troop applied for a date, as required by the birthplace, and chose a “high tea” program and house tour. Our reservation was for August 1, 1991. Now, all we had to do was to figure out the transportation costs, logistics, and the care and feeding of each member. Our troop loved camping and had been on short trips to Mackinac Island and Wisconsin and used Camp Greene Wood often, even in the winter, but this was much bigger! So, I called an airline. Tickets to fly would take all our cookie money plus more! We had to figure out another way.
My co-leader, Ginger, and I wondered if we could drive to Savannah, so we thought we’d check with the parents. We knew that we had parents who owned vans. We asked, and two dads volunteered, but they would need gas reimbursement to drive and would go for free. We calculated the miles, cost of gas, food, and activities.
At that time, the birthplace provided a booklet called Birthplace Bound.It had ads for accommodations, restaurants, local attractions, and some discount admission coupons for Girl Scouts. I called the hotels recommended for Girl Scouts and got a special Girl Scout rate reservation at Budget Inn.
The trip down to Savannah would take time, so we decided to leave early to do some activities on the way down and some on the way back; it turned into a 10-day trip. It was like a family vacation. We had snacks, drinks, games, camping equipment, luggage, and uniforms in each van.
The itinerary as told by a Girl Scout:
7/28 We visited the Kentucky Derby Museum and toured Churchill Downs. Afterward, we drove to Cave City, tent camped and cooked at Mammoth Cave National Park.
7/29 Mammoth Cave Tour and lunch in their cafeteria, then departed to Indian Springs State Park near Macon, GA, where we visited the Historic District. When we arrived at the campground at 7 p.m., we discovered we had lost our campsite for being late, so we just found a long stretch of grass, set up our tents in a single line, and shared a fire with the friendly campers next door. We made a snack and settled into our tents. After breakfast in the morning, we waded in the creek before we left.
7/30 We visited the Macon Historic District and a trinket store tourist trap, then drove to Savannah, GA, through a torrential rainstorm and arrived at a flooded Savannah. As troop leader, I was elected to wade through the water to check in to the Budget Inn, 3702 Ogeechee Rd., Savannah. It was an old, one-story motel with outside doors looking nothing like the ad in the Birthplace Bound booklet, but it was clean enough and turned out to be safe. The promised swimming pool was out of order and filled with rainwater, but we went swimming at one of the owner’s other properties. We ate at a real sit-down restaurant and ordered off the menu! Thank goodness!
7/31 Toured the Savannah Visitor Center, the Savannah Experience, and the Ships at Sea Museum. We walked along the ocean, visited the Andrew Low House and other mansions, learned about the city’s squares, had fun, ate popcorn, shopped for souvenirs, saw a movie about Juliette Low and her childhood, and more. We walked ’til we dropped and ate out, but not at the famous restaurant everyone else was eating at. It was way too long of a wait time for hungry girls!
8/1 Birthplace Day! – JULIETTE LOW DAY AT HER HOUSE! We had a lovely tour and took pictures. Saw all the rooms, including her bedroom and the old library. We went to the garden and learned all about JGL, her art, her wedding, the history behind the birthplace, and some things about the Civil War. We saw the real oil painting of Juliette Low in her pink party dress hanging in the living room. The docent answered all our questions. Then it was time for our activity program in the basement. We did a project to learn about the Girl Scout history of helping others and interacted with another troop that had signed up to try-on dresses that girls and women might have worn in JGL’s time. We invited the “dress girls” to our tea party.We had fun. Then we went to the gift shop for souvenirs. We all got a Birthplace Pin with a Daisy on it. Our precious spending allowance was also used, so everyone could bring home a keepsake.
One of our troop’s favorite fun songs was Boom Chica Boom.We came up with new lyrics that didn’t really fit the tune but went like this:
I said a Boom Chica Boom – a little bit Southern Style:
“So down to Savannah we went, I said a Boom Chica Boom,
Little did we know that the Budget Inn, I said a Boom Chica Boom!
Would be only a little better than a TENT,
I said a Boom Chica Rocka Chica Rocka Chica Boom!”
8/2 We started heading home but not stopping the fun. We made our way north to Stone Mountain. This was a place where a large bare rock was carved to show the Confederate Generals. Although we were mostly Northerners, it was interesting to see and part of our country’s history. We stayed in the beautiful campground behind the rock. It was a lovely place. At night, a laser light show reflected off the rock carving and special effects to make it look like the generals were actually riding their horses across. It was kind of like a fireworks show. Very cool. We had a good time, and I shared with the girls that my maternal grandfather, Josepha Bouska, who had been a stone cutter in Chicago, was one of the cutters hired to work on carving the rock.
I bought a book with a picture of all the stone carvers in a big group. I told the girls I could not figure out which one was my grandfather, but I wanted it anyway.
8/3 We went home a different way through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. We stayed at the Tanglewood KOA Swannanoa, North Carolina, near Ashville, which had a swimming pool! It had a big hall in a red building with screens all around, but no windows. We visited the National Park Shop and signed up to learn horseback riding. We had hoped to do this activity while planning the trip, so we packed the helmets. We learned how to lead a horse, not be scared of the horse, and we went on a trail ride. Then we brushed the horses and helped put them in the stable. It was great! There were many water activities around the area as well. Although we could not do the tubing activity because no lifeguard was going down the stream with the group. We still interacted with the water at the edges of the stream and got very wet. This area was beautiful to drive through.
8/4 Driving home through Indiana, it got to be late, so we decided not to camp. We found a nice hotel and a restaurant for a late dinner and collapsed from all the vacation activity.
8/5 Arrived back home. We called our moms to let them know we were home. We cleaned out the vans and gave them a car wash to thank the drivers. We had a little goodbye ceremony on the front lawn. It was not only the end of the trip but the last thing for our beloved Troop 606, as we disbanded with hugs and tears all around.
Girl Scouts have been selling calendars in the fall since the 1940’s. The calendars that were sold had themes for the different years and came in wall size and pocket size. As more people move away from the use of paper calendars and use calendars on their phones or tablets the need for paper calendars has decreased. To give girls and their troops another way to earn money Girl Scouts started selling candy and nut items and QSP magazines subscriptions.
Girl Scouts have used two companies to supply the items for their Fall Product Program sales: Ashdon Farms and Trophy Nut, which is in its 30th year working with Girl Scout councils as a GSUSA approved supplier.
The sale is held in the fall just in time for the holiday season. Each year, there is a Girl Scout inspired tin and a winter scene/seasonal tin which many people collect, or gift, these tins are filled with candy or nuts. The tins make great keepsakes. The Girl Scout tins are perfect to use for setting up Girl Scout displays in libraries and other events, or as a place to keep your Girl Scout Memorabilia.
Some examples of GS inspired tins are camping tins, such as a GS wicker backpack tin, a GS camera,
and a GS metal tote bag for going places.
In 2017, Ashdon Farms offered a replica tin with 1920’s camping scenes on the tin. There were tins shaped like Girl Scout books, a flowerpot from Ashdon Farms labeled “Helping Girls Grow,” and even tins shaped like Girl Scout uniforms of the past.
For three consecutive years, there were tins that had different versions of the Girl Scout promise, each one from years when the Girl Scout promise was changed. In 2008, Trophy Nut had a tin labeled “Make New Friends.”
Tins were also issued for special anniversary years in Girl Scouts. For the new millennium in 2000 the tin was “Girl Scouts: Where Girls Grow Strong.” In 2005, Trophy Nut had a tin of Juliette Gordon Lowe’s Birthplace, a National Historic Landmark and the headquarters for Girl Scouts in Savannah, Georgia. For the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts, Trophy Nut had a green, round tin labeled 1912-2012.
Collectible Girl Scout tins were also available from some of the Girl Scout Cookie Bakers: ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers. They were made in anniversary years. Little Brownie Bakers had a Cookie tin containing an assortment of Girl Scout cookies for the 75th anniversary of Girl Scouts. In the year 2000, ABC Bakers had a cookie tin for the New Millennium 2000.
As the fall product season is quickly approaching, keep your eyes out for the Fall Product order forms to see what new tins will be available and place your order. The candy and nut products make great gifts, and nuts and candies are very delicious.
Who are the Historians you might ask? The Historian Team at GSGCNWI is made up of 26 volunteers who are interested in the history of Girl Scouts and actively work to preserve and present the story to our community.
History of the movement
Begun by Juliette Gordon Low on March 12,1912, Girl Scouts quickly spread throughout the country. Girl Scouts offered young women the opportunity to learn important life skills, as well as to live by the values of the Promise and Law – unselfishness, patriotism, loyalty and truth. Our current Council was formed in 2008 from seven councils in the Chicago media market following the guidance of Girl Scouts of USA (GSUSA). Those seven councils were the result of over 40 smaller councils that had been established, functioned and eventually combined over the years.
In the early days of the movement, individual towns were set up as councils that governed and guided their girl and adult members. Logistics, better governance and the opportunity to bring a better program to the girls brought these smaller councils together. What it also created was story after story about the local Girl Scout program.
Enter the Council Historian Team.
Some members of the team have been actively involved in preserving our memorabilia and stories since the 1980’s. GSUSA encouraged historians to step forward and provided professional level training in the preservation of all aspects of the history of Girl Scouts. Many of our team members have traveled to the Macy Program Center in New York, as well as multi-day programs held before National Council Sessions to learn the proper techniques to accession and store all the bits and pieces of history donated to us by our local community. Members of our team hosted “Learn to Preserve” in 2014 and were privileged to have experts from GSUSA and volunteer historians from throughout the Midwest attend our training.
When the words Girl Scout history come up, most people think of the uniform they wore and the handbook they used. We have all that and so much more. Each item that is donated to us is recorded and then passed along to the team member responsible for accessioning that category of material. We use simple excel spreadsheets to record our work and have over 70 categories of physical items in the council collection. Yes, we have magazines, dolls, camp canteens, mugs, postcards, volunteer gifts, tins, cameras, pens and pencils, membership cards…and the list goes on.
The collection is currently housed in the annex at the Joliet and Vernon Hills Gathering Place (GP). Team members meet on Mondays and Tuesdays each week at one of the GPs to process the literally thousands of pieces of historic memorabilia that have been donated to us over the years.
Over those same years, we have opened the gray archival boxes and shared the collection with our local communities. Sometimes it’s smaller displays at libraries, community meetings and events. We have produced fashion shows of uniforms for Alumnae and Service Unit events, as well as large scale shows at local malls. To celebrate our special anniversaries, we have held programs at Navy Pier (90-year anniversary) and at some of Chicago’s premier museums in 2012 to commemorate the 100 years of Girl Scouting. Currently there are displays in the Gathering Places in Chicago, Joliet and Woodridge. The displays are changed regularly to showcase just some of the treasures from the collection.
The team has offered Victorian themed tea parties throughout the council, taken books and uniforms to troop and Service Unit meetings, and participated in other council events, such as Trunk or Treat. We have put together kits that can be checked out by troops for use at their meetings – ranging from tea parties to history themed book and uniform bins from the 1960s and 1980s.
Take Home a Piece of History
This upcoming September 29 (10am – 4pm), 30 (10am – 6pm) and October 1 (10am – 2pm) will be our first sale of excess historical items from our inventory. We are always grateful for any donations, but we have limited storage space and must be selective about which items we accession. We invite you to the Joliet Gathering Place to shop for books, uniforms, badges and patches, and many of those extras that might be new to you.
Most of us are Lifetime Members of Girl Scouts and have served in many volunteer positions over the years. Our love of Girl Scouts and her history keeps us active in the movement and having fun. If you are interested in learning more about the team or donating some Girl Scout treasures, please contact our Archivist, Rosemarie Courtney at email@example.com.