The number of badges offered over the last 110+ years of Girl Scouting is truly amazing. You can find everything from architecture to zoology, but only one badge has survived for 110+ years: the Cook Badge (now known as the Simple Meals Badge).
Several other badges have had a long tenure. The First Aid Badge and the Citizenship Badge started in 1938, and both continue to this day. The Cyclist/Bicycling Badge and the Swimming Badge started in 1912, but the Cyclist/Bicycling Badge ended in 1980 and the Swimming Badge in 2010. The Birds Badge has been around off and on during our 110+ years. Close to the length of the Cook Badge, the Art Badge has also been around for the past 110+ years, but it has had many different focuses, including painting and clothing design, to name a few.
The first Cook Badge in How Girls Can Help Their Country said that Girl Scouts must know how to:
wait on a table
light a fire
lay the dishes correctly for a table for four
clean and dress a fowl
clean a fish
make a cook-place in the open
make tea, coffee, or cocoa
state the approximate cost of each dish
cook two kinds of meat
boil or roast potatoes and another vegetable
make two salads
preserve of berries or fruit, or can them
The requirements in the 1920, 1929, and 1933 versions of the Girl Scout handbook are essentially the same. They add knowing how to cook eggs and operate a gas stove (if available).
With the end of the depression in view and the war in Europe threatening to involve us, the Intermediate level for the Cook Badge was started in 1938. The Intermediate level of Girl Scouts is what we now refer to as our Junior and Cadette Girl Scout levels. Back then, the Intermediate level was for Girl Scouts in grades fourth through eighth grade. The Senior level was for Girl Scouts in ninth through twelfth grade.
The 1941 handbook had the revisions for the Intermediate level and showed the new badge. A Girl Scout had to complete ten of the fourteen requirements and five of the chosen activities required cooking. The requirements also changed with the focus on planning menus and nutrition.
The 1950 handbook listed twenty activities, with a Girl Scout having to complete ten to earn her Intermediate Cook Badge. Eleven out of the twenty activities required cooking.
In 1963, Juniors were now an official Girl Scout level, and the handbook had ten requirements to earn the badge. A Junior Girl Scout had to complete all ten to earn the badge, but only three required cooking.
The 1990 Junior handbook renamed the badge “Exploring Healthy Eating” and showed the badge with a red border as part of the Worlds to Explore Girl Scout Badge Program. It had nine activities, with six, including two mandatory cooking activities, required to earn the badge.
The 2001 Junior handbook renamed the badge to “Let’s Get Cooking” and returned to a green border. This badge had ten activities, and a Junior Girl Scout must complete six activities to earn the badge. Five of these activities required cooking, so cooking has made a comeback compared to the last version, where only two activities required cooking!
In 2011, the Junior badge was renamed to “Simple Meals” and pictures a steaming pot on the badge with a purple border. All five steps must be completed, but there are three choices for each step; only one of the choices for each step must be completed to earn the badge—four of the five steps require cooking.
The Simple Meals Badge has changed over the years to reflect what our society at the time thought Girl Scouts should know. Today, very few of us have to dress our own chickens or turkeys, and our recipes are more likely to come from an internet search than a magazine, but we still want Girl Scouts to be able to cook for themselves.
To earn your Simple Meals Badge, check out the activity book and badge available for purchase here.
You may remember an earlier blog, written by Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Historian Christine Caragher, about the ceremonies a Brownie participates in to become part of Girl Scouts.
As troops are now forming for the new Girl Scout year, we’d like to further examine the history of becoming a Girl Scout Brownie and how the Brownie “elf” still lives on today.
The Brownie program was inspired by the children’s book The Brownies, by Julia Horatia Ewing. In the book, Brownies were compared to fairies or elves (who were to help others by doing a “good turn”), and their uniforms often sported an elf in one way or another. It was only fitting that the first Girl Scout Brownie uniforms also had elf-like features. One of their earliest hats was a peaked cap like an elf might wear, and their first uniforms had an elf patch stitched onto them.
In 1921, Brownie Girl Scouts were given a membership pin to wear on their uniform, which was in the shape of an elf. Eventually, the elf was placed inside a trefoil shape, which has been the Brownie membership pin ever since.
The felt beanie, which is easily recognized as belonging to a Brownie Girl Scout, was introduced in 1941. Over the years, the color of the elf and the beanie changed to match the other accessories for the Brownie uniform, but the image of an elf remained. The elf was also found on a dress pocket, anklet cuff, uniform tie, blouse sleeve, and a belt purse. Even the official uniform buttons had an elf stamped onto them. In 1996, a baseball-style cap with the Brownie elf on it was introduced. Camp uniforms also had the Brownie trefoil printed, embroidered, or stamped.
When everyone in your troop is wearing the same apparel or uniform, it makes you feel special. You are not only part of a group, but a sisterhood, too!
Stop by any of our Girl Scout shops, or look online to see what Brownie Girl Scouts wear today!
For more than 100 years, Girl Scouts have discovered outdoor adventures full of learning, challenges, friendships, and tons of fun by going to camp. Today, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana offer outdoor programming at four camps across Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Camp Palos and Camp Greene Wood are day camps where Girl Scouts spend the day at camp and return home in the evening. Camp Juniper Knoll and Camp Butternut Springs are resident camps where Girl Scouts can have an overnight camping experience. With all summer camps now in full swing, our council historians and previous Girl Scout members have shared their fondest memories of attending and the history of former Girl Scout summer camps.
Camp Timber Trails – Munising, Michigan
Camp Timber Trails was leased for nine weeks from 1928 to 1942 from Bay DeNoc Lumber Company. It was in the heart of the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was a pioneer camp for older Girl Scouts where they could roam over the entire National Forest from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan.
Girl Scouts who attended the camp came from Chicago and other surrounding councils. Some Girl Scouts were driven to camp, while others traveled from Chicago by train. Former Girl Scout Mary-Jane Ryan started her camping experience at Juniper Knoll, and at age 17, she attended Camp Timber Trails. Mary-Jane Ryan returned to Juniper Knoll as a staff member. Mary Jane Ryan’s daughter, Corkey Waite, said her mother’s Girl Scout experiences made her who she is today and that she always talks about Girl Scouts.
Camp Cloverleaf – Sheridan, Illinois
Camp Cloverleaf was originally named Camp Sheridan until 1959 and was located on the Fox River. By the spring of 1958, the winter house, which is seen in the above picture, was completed. It was the only building with hot and cold running water, central heating, and a stove. In the early 1960s, eight cabins that housed four Girl Scouts each and an outdoor kitchen were added. Eight platform tents were erected in 1962. In 1964, the Cloverleaf Council purchased another 44 acres adjacent to the original land. The next building to be built was the summer troop house; it had an indoor kitchen and fireplace. Between 1969 and 1972, the council purchased another 84 acres, bringing the total acreage to 198 acres. In 1979 and 1980, more platform tents were built. These had wooden roofs and canvas sides. Eventually, the original platform tents had wooden roofs added. The last building to be built on the property was a shower house. The camp also had two primitive camp areas, trails, an archery field, and a canoe launch area.
Former Girl Scout Marty Devereux-Poch’s fondest memories of Camp Cloverleaf were that her grandma was one of her Junior troop leaders and loved camping in the little cabins. Each cabin had a name like Sleep Inn. There was space for activities and for having meals in the middle of the ring of cabins.
“My troop was from Our Lady of the Mount Catholic School, so we always packed our Girl Scout uniforms when we went camping. On Sunday morning, we would all get dressed up and head down to Wedron, IL, to attend Mass, and then we would return to camp for breakfast before packing up for home. As a Cadette, I learned archery, and Mr. Whelen, who farmed part of the camp property, always found some arrows during harvest time. I learned to canoe at camp. Some trips on the Fox River were short, to Wedron and back to camp. Others were day-long trips from camp to Yorkville, stopping at Camp Merrybrook to eat our lunch in their meadow, then being picked up and driven back to camp,” said Marty.
Former Girl Scout Gwen Novy Ferguson also has fond memories of Camp Cloverleaf. She camped there as a young Girl Scout and became a Junior troop leader and council trainer in the late 1970s.
“My memories include times spent with Junior Troop #13, Cadette Troop #17, and Senior Troop #99. During my Junior and Cadette years, my mom, Gladys Novy, was my leader, and Erma Slovak was my Senior leader. We enjoyed outdoor cooking, badge-work, singing, stargazing, knot-tying, compass, lashing, crafts, nature lore, campfires, skits, service projects, hiking, long and short canoe trips on the Fox River, and exploring other places that were a short distance from camp. During the summer, we’d drive to the Pitstak Dairy, which had a small swimming lake with a beach and offered horseback riding. I remember we’d use the council van, named the Green Giant, for transportation. For added adventure in the evenings, we’d sometimes hike down the road to Camp Merrybrook and have a campfire with the Girl Scouts from the West Cook Council,” Gwen said.
When the West Cook Council and the Cloverleaf Council merged, they decided to sell Camp Cloverleaf on April 1, 1994. The eight cabins and the outdoor kitchen were moved to Camp Merrybrook. Later, the platform tents were also moved, and the unit was named Cloverleaf.
Camp Merrybrook – Serena, Illinois
In 1954, the West Cook Council purchased 97.5 acres of wooded property near Sheridan, Illinois. It fronted on the Fox River and Mission Creek. The council originally named the camp: Camp Kiwanis-on-the-Fox, because the Kiwanis Club of LaGrange provided money for the down payment. An existing fishing lodge near the creek was named Kiwanis Club.
The first campers arrived in 1955, and Mr. Bray, Sr. was the first camp caretaker. In 1956, the camp was renamed Camp Merrybrook. From 1957 to 1958, three platform tent units were added to the camp. In 1958, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad donated a huge steam engine bell to the council. It was installed on a concrete pillar outside Lenona Lodge and used in emergencies. The camp was dedicated on October 4, 1959, and the mortgage was burnt. From 1960 to 1961, the caretaker house and maintenance building were constructed. The Heritage House Lodge was built in 1964. At some point, more acreage was purchased, and the camp totaled 136 acres. At some time, a totem pole was displayed in respect for Native American tradition.
In the late 1970s, electricity and running water were installed in Heritage House. It was renamed Bonnie Brae after a camp trainer and the first caretaker. In 1971, Idle-a-While Lodge was built between Lenona and Bonnie Brae. It was the first lodge to have flush toilets. The pool and pool house were built in 1976. In the early 1980s, a challenging adventure course for older girls was constructed. It was not maintained and deemed unsafe. Repairs were never made, so it was taken down.
Camp River Trails – Sheridan, Illinois
In 1986, when the West Cook Council and the Cloverleaf Council merged, the board decided to sell Camp Cloverleaf and keep Camp Merrybrook. They renamed the camp: Camp River Trails. As mentioned above, the eight small cabins, outdoor kitchen, and platform tents were moved from Camp Cloverleaf to Camp River Trails. At the same time, the post office changed its address to Sheridan, Illinois. In 1995, the old farmhouse was torn down, and the Dreamcatcher Room was added. The Lenona Lodge was renamed the Merrybrook Room.
The entire construction included:
Two kitchens joining the two-unit rooms.
Multiple leader rooms.
A handicap ramp.
A stone wall for sitting around the fire ring.
A washroom and shower house with a storage basement and storm shelter beneath.
The entire complex of new buildings became known as the Lenona Complex. In 2000, a Friendship Pole was installed, and a challenge course called The Challenge of the Castle Garden was installed near the pool. Then, in 2014, an Ambassador troop from Lyons, IL, donated the materials and built an archery course near the camp manager’s house. Other troops built and painted a map of the camp and archery rules that were installed on the outside of the maintenance building.
Near the manager’s house, there were two landmarks: Smokey Bear and his two cubs, added by a Senior troop in 1958, and a sign that read, Camp Built by Cookies. Both landmarks are now at Camp Greene Wood. Over the ravine on one of the trails, there was a footbridge over a stream called River Kwai. Senior Girl Scouts made and repaired the bridge using logs, and branches lashed with twine.
Lifetime Girl Scout member Kathi Krankoski shared some Camp Merrybrook tall tales and traditions that carried over to Camp River Trails:
Friendship Pole: One of the traditions was to place “wishing rocks” around the Friendship Pole. The rocks were painted with environmentally safe paint, and when spring came, the magic happened, and the rocks and their messages were carried out via the Mission Creek, Fox, Illinois, and Mississippi Rivers, and eventually into the ocean.
Sparkler pencils: At checkout from camp on a weekend, if your site or cabin met inspection, each girl received a camp sparkler pencil.
Cadette roundup: During a special week when only Cadettes could attend camp,the Cadettes never used the words “poison ivy.” They just said, “PI.”
Daisy Bridge: If a Girl Scout didn’t make the Girl Scout sign before crossing the bridge, it would collapse.
Old wagon: There was an old wagon abandoned as a group was heading west. It was left behind after the group was attacked by Native Americans. When excavating the area, clothing and other items were found.
The Legend of Hernando’s Hideaway: Legend has it that Hernando was a local bandit river private. He and his group stole from farmers and hid the treasures along Mission Creek. From the beginning of Camp Merrybrook until 2013, Girl Scouts would walk the creek and investigate caves to see if they could find a treasure. Early on, wagon wheels and broken pottery pieces were found.
The Legend of the Crying Princess: Behind the area where Bonnie Brae stands, there are bluffs that form what we call the Crying Princess. It’s a sandstone formation that weeps out a trickle of water. Legend has it that long ago, a young Native American woman, while running to escape an undesired suitor, fell to her death there. Her tears are what are seen to this day.
In the January 2023 historian blog post that I wrote, From Savannah to Wellesbourne, The Story of Juliette Gordon Low in Warwickshire, England, I told the story of why Juliette Gordon Low’s Wellesbourne House was so important to her. I also shared that the dedication of the plaque, which identifies the house for its historical significance, had been rescheduled. Having recently returned from the dedication ceremony that took place on April 15, I will now share the journey for obtaining the plaque and what other individuals did as they accompanied me on the way.
The saga began in July 2017, when my husband Denny was planning an upcoming trip to the English countryside for that August. He had prepared a fascinating itinerary that took us to Canterbury, the Cliffs of Dover, Highclere Castle, Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall, and Stratford-upon-Avon.
When he shared his plans for our excursion, I thought that maybe when we reached Stratford, we would be close to Juliette Gordon Low’s country estate. This is probably something only an enthusiastic Girl Scout historian would ponder. Anyway, I searched the internet for the location of Wellesbourne and used Google Maps to determine its proximity to Stratford. I realized that the distance between the two towns was a short 15 to 20-minute drive, and I shared my findings with Denny.
Since he is a meticulous planner, he wasn’t thrilled when I indicated that I wanted us to take a short trip to Wellesbourne. His response was that his plan was for us to go to Conway from Stratford, and Wellesbourne was in the opposite direction, so that would cause a disruption to the schedule. After I explained to him how important it was for me to see Juliette’s house, he agreed to deviate from the set-in-stone itinerary only if I could acquire the house’s exact location. He would not travel around the countryside looking for it since that would put us behind on his rigid timetable. I told him I would find out the house’s exact location, making it possible for us to be in Conway by his designated time. However, after he agreed to this proposition, I had yet to learn how I would obtain the exact location. Enter Ben Earl, the webmaster at Our Warwickshire.
When I found the Our Warwickshire website, I had the option of contacting the webmaster for further information. I wrote a lengthy message to Ben, explaining my predicament. He was unfamiliar with Juliette Gordon Low and her Wellesbourne connection, so he had to do some research in the county record office catalog. Ben successfully found the house’s location, and he relayed that information to me. I could now tell Denny how to find it.
When we got to Wellesbourne and located the house, I was thrilled. Even though it was a Sunday morning, and the gates were locked, I could at least get a photo of the home’s exterior and of the replicated gates, which are copies of the original ones that Juliette forged and are now on display at the Birthplace in Savannah, GA. I kept trying to see if there was anything on the house that identified it as once being the home of Juliette, but to my disappointment, I could not find anything. I was quite concerned about the house not having something to recognize its historical importance. In the meantime, Ben had asked me to write an article for Our Warwickshire describing Juliette’s time in Wellesbourne, which I did when we returned to Illinois. I asked Ben how I could get a plaque placed on the house. He gave me some suggestions as to where I might start.
This next pursuit found me contacting My Wellesbourne, which gave me the web address for the Wellesbourne Local History Group. It was through the local history group that I found Michael Dane. Michael was very receptive to my idea of having the house identified with a plaque and offered to help with this endeavor. His first task was to acquire permission from the owners to place a plaque on the house. This was no easy task. He had to do a considerable amount of research to locate that information.
He discovered that a property investment company had recently purchased the house and some of the other buildings, which would be converted into condos. He was finally successful in contacting the owners and was able to gain their approval to place a plaque on the house once the construction was completed. Michael then set to work getting bids for the fabrication of the plaque. On my end, I solicited my fellow Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) historians and the Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois historians for the funds to pay for it. Michael received the plaque and gave it to the owners, who were to install it after the renovation was finished.
In the advertising brochure for the condos, the history of the property and Juliette’s time in Wellesbourne were highlighted, with much of the information taken from the article that I had written for Our Warwickshire. While this was all happening in September of 2018, several of my fellow historians and I went to Our Chalet in Adelboden, Switzerland, for an adult program. To my delight, a group from the Warwickshire Trefoil Guild was there with us at the same time. They were very supportive of my pursuit to have a plaque placed on Juliette’s house, and I appreciated their enthusiasm for this undertaking. Initially, Michael thought the project might be completed in time for me to stop by Wellesbourne on my return trip from Our Chalet, but that didn’t happen. The remodeling was taking much longer than anticipated. However, I felt very hopeful that everything would eventually fall into place. Then we hit a slight bump in the road. Somehow the plaque had been lost during the construction, and Michael informed me of this unforeseen setback in October 2019.
At first, the owners wanted me and the historians to come up with the funds for the replacement. However, Michael and I convinced them that they were responsible for losing the plaque, so they needed to pay for another one. This time, Michael kept the replacement plaque until he was sure it would be mounted. In January 2020, Michael sent me a photo of the plaque attached to the house.
So, after much angst, Juliette’s Wellesbourne House finally had a plaque to properly identify who had lived there.
Plans were set into motion to have an unveiling of the plaque at the end of March 2020.
Denny had made all the arrangements for us to be in Wellesbourne on March 28. However, our plans came to a screeching halt. This time the COVID-19 pandemic put us in lockdown, and everything had to be canceled. It was such a disappointment. We were ultimately able to have a proper dedication on April 15 of this year, and it was such a joy to see the plaque affixed to the house.
Lesley Goodhead from the Warwickshire Trefoil Guild and the local historian Michael Dane made all the arrangements for the day. Michael secured permission for the event to take place on the property. He also arranged for me to have the opportunity to enter the house and see the front parlor, which has been modernized, but the same wrought iron railing still adorns the upstairs hallway.
Lesley informed local Girl Guides and Trefoil Guild members of the event. Additionally, she organized a luncheon to take place after the dedication in a nearby church hall and involved volunteers in preparing and serving the meal. I brought 12 boxes of Girl Scout cookies donated by GCNWI to serve and be enjoyed by all those in attendance. It was a gesture of our worldwide friendship, too.
At the dedication, I welcomed the Girl Guides and community members who came to the ceremony and thanked all those who supported the effort to have the house identified with a plaque. Since so many in the community were unaware of Juliette’s time in Warwickshire, I also explained the history of her journey that brought her to Wellesbourne House.
At the end of the ceremony, I presented Michael with the GCNWI Girl Scouts Hero Award for all his efforts in acquiring the plaque. Although Ben could not join us that day, he was approved for Girl Scouts Hero Award as well, and Michael agreed to take the award to him. In addition, I gave out to all the Girl Guides in attendance a Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana patch.
I, in return, received the Warwickshire Girl Guide Service Award for volunteers from the Girl Guide County Commissioner.
After the ceremony and luncheon, some of the Trefoil Guild members took me to Chedham’s Yard, the local blacksmith’s forge that has been in the same location since 1856.
It is believed that this is where Juliette was taught how to shape the iron to create the gates for Wellesbourne House.
The day’s international spirit was very evident, and it was heartwarming to be part of this effort to have Wellesbourne House properly identified for its historical importance.
So, in the end, why all the fuss over getting a plaque put on Wellesbourne House? It’s because Juliette Gordon Low’s vision has meant so much to girls for over a hundred years, and this particular house, is the one she considered to be her own. She imagined a movement where all girls could come together and embrace their unique strengths and passions—and as Girl Guides and Girl Scouts have done ever since, she made that dream a reality.
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 email@example.com)
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.
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.
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.