To serve God and country

— 'On My Hon­or: 100 years of Girl Scout­ing' is an ex­hib­it at the Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter chron­icles how the Girl Scouts have changed as so­ci­ety has shif­ted over the years.

Erin McLeary, Ex­hib­it De­veloper at the Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter, points out in­ter­est­ing fea­tures of the 100 Years of Girl Scout­ing Ex­hib­it, which will run for the rest of the year, Wed­nes­day, May 30, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


Erin McLeary spent four years in the Girl Scouts while grow­ing up in Michigan, so she had a par­tic­u­lar in­terest in plan­ning the Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter’s latest ex­hib­i­tion.

McLeary is an ex­hib­it de­veloper at the cen­ter, which is hon­or­ing the centen­ni­al an­niversary of the Girl Scouts by host­ing On My Hon­or: 100 Years of Girl Scout­ing through the end of 2012.

The ex­hib­it is part of the Girl Scouts’ na­tion­wide cel­eb­ra­tion of the Year of the Girl and its on­go­ing pro-girl work.

“The Girl Scouts have an in­cred­ibly rich his­tory,” McLeary said. “The Girl Scouts are a really cool or­gan­iz­a­tion. The coun­cils and troops de­cide what they want to do and raise money to do it.”

The ex­hib­it, which opened on May 12, fo­cuses on themes of en­vir­on­ment­al aware­ness, en­tre­pren­eur­ship and civic en­gage­ment.

It fea­tures about 100 ar­ti­facts, in­clud­ing vin­tage badges, patches and cook­ie boxes; icon­ic uni­forms and vests from the past cen­tury; a pair of hand-writ­ten, dec­ades-old di­ar­ies from Scouts chron­ic­ling the quest to earn badges; and an ori­gin­al copy of How Can Girls Help Their Coun­try?, the first Girl Scout hand­book.

Cur­rent Brownie, Ju­ni­or, Ca­dette and Seni­or Girl Scouts who vis­it the ex­hib­it can work to­ward re­quire­ments for the Girl Scout Way Leg­acy Badge.

A grant from Penn Mu­tu­al Life In­sur­ance Com­pany fun­ded the ex­hib­it, which is ad­ja­cent to the cen­ter’s per­man­ent ex­hib­its. The cen­ter worked with the Girl Scouts of East­ern Pennsylvania and the World of Scout­ing Mu­seum, in Val­ley Forge.

The ex­hib­it, which in­cludes wall mur­als, is loc­ated in 1,000 square feet of space.

“We have a lot packed in here,” McLeary said. “But we had to keep a lid on it.”

Nat­a­lye Pa­quin, CEO of the Girl Scouts of East­ern Pennsylvania, ex­plained that the or­gan­iz­a­tion tries to build girls of cour­age, con­fid­ence and char­ac­ter. It in­stills val­ues and pro­motes lead­er­ship skills, in ad­di­tion to of­fer­ing an ex­tens­ive out­door pro­gram. In­deed, the ex­hib­it and short film clips how girls roast­ing meat, row­ing and us­ing bows and ar­rows.

There are 41,000 mem­bers and 15,000 vo­lun­teers in Phil­adelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Mont­gomery and four neigh­bor­ing counties in Pennsylvania.

Pa­quin said she’s re­ceived pos­it­ive feed­back about the ex­hib­it, es­pe­cially from former Girl Scouts.

“It re­minds them of their young Girl Scout ex­per­i­ence,” she said.

Ju­li­ette Gor­don Low, a wid­owed so­cial­ite, foun­ded the Girl Scouts in 1912 to pre­pare girls for pro­fes­sion­al ca­reers and their tra­di­tion­al role as home­makers. The first chapter was in Sa­van­nah, Ga.

In some of the early years, the girls earned badges by learn­ing to keep house and do laun­dry, but it was all meant to teach them to be ef­fi­cient and pur­sue a ca­reer.

Later, the girls watched car­riages out­side polling places as moth­ers ex­er­cised their new right to vote and babys­at for moms who worked as the men headed to fight in World War II.

The young­sters have been iden­ti­fi­able by their uni­forms all these years.

The 1917 Girl Scout Lead­er’s Manu­al men­tions that the uni­form “gives a cer­tain prestige in the com­munity. When a girl is seen in uni­form, people re­cog­nize her as a girl who is cour­teous and ob­li­ging…The uni­form puts every girl on the same foot­ing…(and) makes a use­ful dress for her to work and play in at the meet­ings.”

Today, there are 3.2 mil­lion girls and adult vo­lun­teers. The alumni ranks num­ber 50 mil­lion, in­clud­ing the likes of Hil­lary Clin­ton, Con­doleezza Rice, Mari­ah Carey and Taylor Swift.

The ex­hib­it was de­signed to of­fer a snap­shot of the evol­u­tion of the Girl Scout or­gan­iz­a­tion and how girls have re­acted to so­ci­et­al shifts and changes over the last 100 years.

Ex­hib­it high­lights in­clude a four-per­son tent that is com­ple­men­ted by fire-build­ing and knot-ty­ing manu­als, a grill and nature guides and journ­als. While out­doors, Scouts are chal­lenged to boil wa­ter by be­ing giv­en just one match and a buck­et of wa­ter.

Of course, there’s space ded­ic­ated to Girl Scout cook­ies and how their sales teach girls how to set and meet goals, man­age money, de­vel­op people skills and main­tain busi­ness eth­ics.

In 1922, Amer­ic­an Girl magazine pub­lished a simple sug­ar cook­ie re­cipe to bake at home and sell to neigh­bors.

But it wasn’t un­til 1932 that the Scouts or­gan­ized the first cook­ie sale on a wide scale.

That sale happened in Phil­adelphia, us­ing Phil­adelphia Gas Works ovens to bake large batches. In­di­vidu­als put in their or­ders by call­ing LO­CUST 4-3934.

Today, 198 mil­lion boxes of cook­ies are sold each year.

The Girl Scouts of East­ern Pennsylvania be­lieves the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s his­tory has been well chron­icled.

“We’re very proud of the part­ner­ship and the ex­hib­it,” Pa­quin said. ••


Your hon­or …

The Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter, at 525 Arch St., will host On My Hon­or: 100 Years of Girl Scout­ing through Dec. 31.

The ex­hib­it, in Pos­ter­ity Hall, is free with reg­u­lar mu­seum ad­mis­sion.

To join the Girl Scouts or vo­lun­teer for the or­gan­iz­a­tion, call 215-564-4657 or vis­it 

End­Frag­ment End­Frag­ment

You can reach at

comments powered by Disqus