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 www.gsep.orgEndFragment EndFragment