Beyond the Cookies: 100 Years of Girl Scouting
Roughly 350 Girl Scouts, alumnae and community supporters were in attendance on Friday evening at the California Museum for the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California (GS HCC) 100th Anniversary Gala.
The gala was part of an ongoing national Girl Scouts of the USA anniversary celebration. It included an art exhibit dedicated to the history of Girl Scouting, guest speakers Randy Roberts and Linda Farley of the Crocker Art Museum, as well as a fashion show that featured designer Caren Templet and showcased Girl Scout uniforms throught the years. Refreshments were provided by culinary specialists from Mulvaney’s B&L.
The evening was ripe with reminiscing. CEO Pam Saltenberger recalled the night a bobcat found its way into her troop’s campsite, Board Chairman Robin Kren fondly regaled her three weeks spent backpacking through Wyoming with the Mitten Bay Girl Scouts, and Farley shared the tale of how her troop earned their first aid badges by tending to her cut toe while on a wilderness excursion.
It was 1912 in Savannah, Ga. when Juliette Gordon Low first conceived what would become the largest organization in the world dedicated to the growth and cultivation of young women. According to legend, her decision to teach girls how to play basketball was so progressive that she was forced to construct a tent around the court to prevent gawking onlookers.
Today girls all around the world play basketball freely, but Low’s groundbreaking vision is still evident in the Girl Scouts’ ongoing mission to build “courage, confidence, and character” in young women throughout the country.
As stated in the GS HCC event press release, “Girl Scouts created radio programs to mobilize relief efforts during the Great Depression, led initiatives and held events nationwide to support civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, and created a national environmental program in the 1970s.”
Martin Luther King Jr. himself described the Girl Scouts as “a force for desegregation.”
In honor of their 100th anniversary, Girl Scouts of the USA has initiated ToGetHerThere, a national program designed to change the face of leadership in the United States over the next generation.
“Right now, so few women are in public office, very few women are CEOs of major Fortune 500 companies, but the women that are were Girl Scouts,” said Saltenberger, who has served as the GS HCC CEO for fifteen years. “We really want to change that face of leadership so women are much more represented, and the way to do that is to start when they are young girls.”
What that looks like on the ground level varies from council to council.
“They’re hoping to really help girls break through a barrier and think about science, technology, math, and engineering,” said Kren, a former Girl Scout from Bay City, Mich. “They get women in those fields to come and connect with girls and be role models, examples they can see.”
“It’s a camp program that introduces the girls to alternative and nontraditional choices for when they get older,” Marshall said. “They actually build a cabin at the campsite for their use and the program teaches them the means and methods to do that.”
“The introduction course teaches them the properties of wood and about tools and safety and working together,” Turner added. “When we go there we see some shy, timid girls and by the time we’re into our second week they’re full of confidence. Our core purpose is to enhance the success of women in construction. The purpose of Girl Scouts is to build courage, confidence, and character. We see that right before our eyes.”
GS HCC also provides the Girl Scout Outreach Program to area scouts.
“We’re committed to making sure that every girl who wants to be a Girl Scout can be. There are places where we don’t have adult volunteers readily available,” Saltenberger said. “We serve 8-9,000 girls and we’re in places like juvenile halls, migrant camps, pregnant and parenting teen centers and homeless shelters. These programs are wonderful and they really make a difference.”
Fundraisers like Friday night’s gala also help pay membership dues and camp costs as well as provide books and uniforms to over 10,000 girls.
Attendees had the opportunity to learn more about Girl Scout history and California Girl Scouts both past and present while perusing the art exhibit on the California Museum’s second floor. The exhibit illustrates achievements of former Girl Scouts like civil rights activist Dolores Huerta and journalist Lisa Ling. It also offers a look at historical handbooks and uniforms.
“The Girl Scout Promise: 100 Years of Girl Scouting in California” will run through September at the California Museum. Interpretive planning and support was provided by the Crocker Art Museum. The majority of the display was provided by the GS HCC council.
The crowd had an hour to mingle in the courtyard, enjoy refreshments and explore the art exhibit before Tina Macuha of Good Day Sacramento kicked off the courtyard presentation by telling the crowd what the Girl Scouts signified to her.
“The road to independence,” she said, “Stand tall and stand up for what you believe in. It’s about service, and teaching others how important it is to help out a friend.”
Kren then took the stage to emphasize the importance of the Outreach Program and ToGetHerThere.
“Our community and our country are facing serious challenges,” she said. “We must develop solutions to the challenges of today.”
In closing she introduced Randy Roberts and Linda Farley, both former Girl Scouts, for their talk entitled, “Leadership Lessons from the Girl Scout Brownie Handbook.”
Farley wore her badge-laden sash on stage and carried the handbook in her arms. The two women read excerpts from the handbook on trusting the power of one’s troop, being a discoverer, being a self-starter and ready helper, and being a friend-maker. Both ladies urged the crowd to remember that such lessons were timeless.
Irene Farley, Linda Farley’s mother and former troop leader, waved from the audience.
“One of the greatest things I’ve learned is that from the beginning, Juliette Gordon Low was really committed to diversity,” said Roberts prior to the speech. “She really understood that each person is valuable, every girl matters and every girl is capable. It’s more accepted now but for her time she was very cutting edge.”
And over these past 100 years, what hasn’t changed?
“What hasn’t changed is that girls are still incredibly awesome,” Farley said. “We each have our own way of seeing, but we share a common vision.”
The fashion show began shortly after Farley and Roberts left the stage. Local area Girl Scouts modeled an array of uniforms from past to present. The show closed with a uniform of the future as conceived by fashion designer Caren Templet, who worked with eleven local Girl Scouts to create a more modern look.
“We wanted to change the typical vest because it’s not super attractive,” said Autumn, who modeled the very first Girl Scout uniform designed by Juliette Gordon Low in
1912. “We changed it to make it fit everyone better, and we wanted to make it so that instead of it looking like an obvious uniform it would look cute enough that you’d wear it out to the movies with your friends.”
Caren Templet is a British designer who has resided in California for nine years. The girls interned with Templet at her shop on L Street in Sacramento for three weeks, during which they discussed all elements of their ideal future uniform. As a team the ladies focused on creating a uniform composed of versatile pieces that could translate to a wide variety of activities, from an outdoor camping trip to the mall.
“Girl Scouts aren’t about screen t-shirts. They’re better than that,” said Templet backstage shortly before the fashion show. “They’re going to be the head of the Red Cross, running cancer organizations…They’re going to be involved in fashion, economics and politics. If I can inspire them, then absolutely I’m going to do it.”
Pam Saltenberger closed the program by thanking all those involved in making the evening a success, and urged anyone who had not yet visited the art exhibit to take a few moments to explore the collection.
These women truly are making history as part of a national movement to instill young women with confidence and a vision for their futures. According to Girl Scouting Works, The Alumnae Impact Study conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute in conjunction with an independent research firm, Girl Scouting does indeed work. Alumnae report a more elevated sense of self, a higher inclination toward volunteerism and community work, more advanced education, and higher income and socioeconomic status than non-alumnae.
Lindy Beatie was a Girl Scout in Santa Clara and became a troop leader in Folsom while her daughter was a Girl Scout. She attended the event with her husband Gordon, who served as the first and only male board chair of the Tierra del Oro council before it merged with Muir Trails.
“The entire event was fantastic,” she said. “The fashion show was cute, and it gave a visual perspective of how things have evolved, and what an inspiration and true visionary Juliette Gordon Low was.”
“So many people just think of us as an organization of white middle-class girls that sell cookies, but we are so much more than that,” Saltenberger said. “We really are a tremendous organization helping girls. Juliette Gordon Low was absolutely way ahead of her time. We are way ahead of our time, but the core values are still there. We’re there for the girl. The girl is always number one.”
To learn more about the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, to make a financial contribution or to donate supplies, please visit their website.
Editor’s note: An edit has been made to the year the girl scout uniform was first designed.
Disclosure: Allison Joy is proud to be a former member of Troop 344 and a Chalk Hills Girl Scout Camp alum.