This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts by Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Ga. An organization that began with a mere 18 members and has now grown to include 2.3 million girl members and 880,000 adult members nationwide, the Girl Scouts intend to mark this significant occasion in style, both locally and nationally.
Girl Scouts archivist and lifelong Girl Scouts member with more than 50 years of involvement, Tippy Hawkins wrote a history of the Girl Scouts in Tulsa using notes from previous historians. Hawkins says that the first Girl Scout Troop in Tulsa began only a few years after the organization’s launch.
During the summer of 1917, local teachers at Lincoln School of Tulsa learned of the Girl Scouts from a summer school conference that they attended in Colorado.
“The idea caught fire with the teachers and was approved by Mr. McLeod (Lincoln School principal) when told about it,” Hawkins says.
The first troop, titled Sunflower Troop #1, was led by one of the school’s teachers, Miss Bertha Blades, and by 1923, 190 girls and adult volunteers were involved with the Scouts, Hawkins says.
One of the first major camping excursions for the group was the creation of Camp Scott, when grounds were given to the Girl Scouts in 1928, Hawkins says. This land gave these early Scouts quite an authentic outdoor camping experience.
“No one had ever driven on to the campgrounds before as it was strictly ‘virgin’ territory,” Hawkins says.
Although these girls were truly “roughing it,” having to be able to recognize deadly copperhead snakes, one long-time Girl Scouts member, Helen Hauser “Penny” Day remembers the camp fondly.
Day was director of Camp Scott from 1938-1940 and wrote a piece commemorating the camp in 2011, noting on its title page that she is “100 years old and counting.”
Day was able to meet Mr. and Mrs. Scott, the benefactors who donated the Camp Scott land to the Girl Scouts. Being a Girl Scout since she was 10 years old and later a camp counselor, Day writes that she felt prepared to lead the Girl Scouts as Camp Director.
Day recalls exploring the creek with girls who did not have much experience outdoors and catching crawdads, as well as funny stories such as a counselor accidentally falling while holding a cake but still managing to keep the cake off the ground.
“Camp Scott was a happy camp, with well-fed, healthy and happy campers,” Day writes. “I enjoyed every day of those three years (as Camp Director).”
The doorbell rings, and you idly wonder who it could be as you open the door. Fortunately, you find that it is more than just your average solicitor. It is a cheerful, patch-covered Brownie offering you Thin Mints (which may be thin themselves, but, alas, any word association ends there).
Not many organizations are as successful as the Girl Scouts in their door-to-door marketing. Girl Scout cookies have become a symbol of the organization, a strong fundraising tool and a successful way to get people involved with the Scouts who might not be otherwise.
And it all began right here in Oklahoma.
The earliest Girl Scout cookies were first baked and sold in Muskogee in 1917, the same year that the Scouts first formed in Tulsa. The Mistletoe Troop of Tulsa is responsible for starting this Scout staple by selling cookies in a local high school cafeteria.
In the beginning, cookies were baked at home by members (with some help from adults) but were not sold door-to-door until a few years later. These simple homemade sugar cookies were sold for about 30 cents per dozen.
Today, there are few Americans who can’t tell the difference between Peanut Butter Patties, Samoas and Thin Mints, or who don’t recognize the brightly colored cookie boxes.
Thanks to the humble beginnings of the Mistletoe Troop, now hundreds of millions of cookies are sold every year.
In addition to keeping the cookie tradition alive, Girl Scouts are still involved in outdoor activities such as camping. But the Girl Scouts have also started many very different traditions and activities since the organization’s inception. Among other anniversary events, Scouts in Oklahoma are planning flash mobs, probably something that founder Juliette Gordon Low did not envision in 1912.
In addition to the not-yet-publicized flash mobs, troops all over the country are preparing special events to celebrate the 100th year of the Girl Scouts, and troops in Oklahoma are no different.
Marketing Specialist Beth Turner says that preparation for national events has been taking place since before 2011, and planning with volunteers and managers for local events began early last year.
One such event was the Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma Alumnae Organizational Luncheon, held for former Scouts wishing to be involved in the creation of an Alumnae Association to re-engage Girl Scouts and help events and missions, Turner says.
Turner says that events like this that bring different generations of Girl Scouts together are truly thrilling.
“The stories are beginning to roll in on the positive impact Girl Scouts made when women were girls, and to see how that impact positively affected their futures as well,” Turner says. “Having a successful doctor tell you she credits Girl Scouting for giving her the confidence needed to pursue her medical dreams is priceless.”
Another Oklahoma event is the 100 Hour Fire, a symbol to celebrate 100 years of Girl Scouts. Event Pathway and Community Collaborations manager Celeste Franklin says that different troops and members are currently signing up to have the opportunity to keep the fire going.
“The plan is to conclude the fire on March 12, the actual Girl Scout birthday,” Franklin says. “When we conclude, we will release in fire ‘wish bundles’ submitted by troops.”
These wish bundles are made up of twigs tied with green ribbon, and to make them, members make a wish on each twig that is added to the bundle. The bundle is then tied together, and each troop will also choose a “troop wish,” Franklin says.
“The bundle is then delivered to the 100 Hour Fire so that the wishes can be released in the flames to come true in the year ahead,” Franklin says.
Stacey Schifferdecker, troop leader for six years, says that her troop’s wish bundles will have 15 sticks – one for each of the 13 girl members and two for the adult leaders.
“We will talk about what their wishes are and let any of the girls who want to share their wishes do so. After the fire, we will get some ashes from it so the girls will always remember this anniversary,” Schifferdecker says.
Schifferdecker’s daughter, fifth-grader Jocelyn, says that she thinks it is “very cool” to be a Girl Scout during this centennial year and she is excited about the special events.
Schifferdecker says that her troop is familiar with how the Girl Scouts began with Juliette Gordon Low because they have talked about it in the past and intend to revisit the story so that the girls fully understand the historical significance.
Another Oklahoma troop leader, Sheila Stringer, says that her troop of third-graders has already held an anniversary birthday-like celebration and will be involved in several other events this year as well, including the Girl Scout trip to the State Capitol on March 21.
“I am a member of the Bar as a licensed attorney and I am really excited that the girls get this opportunity to see everything at our state Capitol,” Stringer says.
Stringer and her daughter will attend the Centennial Camporee, she says. This national event will take place in Georgia, the birthplace of the Girl Scouts founder, where Stringer and her daughter and others from their troop will join 5,000 Scouts from all over the United States.
Chief communications officer of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma Ingrid Williams says that several Oklahoma troops plan to attend national anniversary events such as taking action in the Forever Green community service project in April.
During this year, Williams says that she is especially proud to be part of such an organization that gives girls such great opportunities.
“In the case of Girl Scouts, I feel like we are making history with ‘herstory!’ Not many organizations have the strength of 100 years behind them, a continuing legacy that has launched women into prominent places, and a bright future with continued progress and forward thinking,” she says.