Upcoming Events


     If you are aware of an event that might be of interest to historians of Guiding/Scouting, please contact us. Upcoming events are listed below:


     The fifth biennial conference of Women and Gender Historians of the Midwest (WGHOM)  will be held October 12-13, 2012, at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in conjunction with the Great Lakes History Conference.

     This conference will bring together scholars, educators, students and the public who will explore current issues in women's and gender history.  The conference showcases the academic work of Midwestern and other scholars who focus on women or gender. 

     One of the panel presentations will be covering Girl Scouting. Below is more information about the panel.

Girl Scouting at 100:  Internationalism and Gender in the Twentieth Century

Panel for WGHOM 2012



Ben Jordan, Christian Brothers University


Brief Panel Description:

As the Girl Scouts of the USA celebrate their hundredth anniversary in 2012, this panel examines some of the global legacies of the most successful girls’ voluntary movement in history.  All the papers take a cross-national look at how and why Girl Scouting appealed to its members, helping to explain both the organization’s longevity and some of the reasons why it remains controversial in today’s world.


Paper Descriptions


“Your camera should be an old friend”: Girl Guides, Girl Scouts and Photography during the Twentieth Century

Kristine Alexander -- Department of History, the University of Western Ontario


In July of 1925, the editors of the Girl Guides’ Gazette sought to demonstrate the appeal of the Guides and Girl Scouts to girls across the British empire and the world with a glossy centre section featuring photographs of uniformed Girl Guides in thirteen different contexts, including Canada, South Africa, India, Australia, and Singapore.  This celebratory pictorial showed girls with very different life experiences and identities participating in the activities that defined Guiding and Girl Scouting during most of the twentieth century: camping, playing games, practicing semaphore, and learning first aid.  Such images of the movements’ global reach, ubiquitous in official sources, emphasized similarities of age and gender while often reinforcing ideas of racial difference. Whereas the existing scholarship on these girls’ organizations has focused primarily on textual sources, I will analyze representations of gender, race, and girlhood in the many photographs of Guides and Girl Scouts that appeared in lantern slides, handbooks, Guide periodicals and annual reports during the first half of the twentieth century.  Drawing on scholarly literatures on childhood, visual culture, colonialism, and consumption, I will also discuss the ways in which the movements encouraged girls to take and preserve their own photographs.



American Girl Abroad: Girl Scouting and Internationalism in the 1930s

Susan Miller -- Rutgers University, Camden


In the decades following the Great War, internationalism became a dirty word for many Americans. Even before American Expeditionary Forces returned to home soil, a substantial portion of the US population, including the leadership of many boys’ organizations, vowed to combat a vision of international cooperation that they viewed as hopelessly na´ve. The Boy Scouts may have created opportunities for young men to participate in world jamborees, but BSA leaders along with supporters in the American Legion and the YMCA found internationalism suspect and equated it with what they thought of as a sentimental and uncritical commitment to pacifism, and a naivetÚ about Real Politique. Suspicious of a wave of internationalism that they perceived not as a harbinger of cooperation but as capitulation to communism, the American Legion, for example, taught boys that “Americanism” was the only path to responsible citizenship in an unpredictable transnational world. Critics of the “feminization of foreign policy” found fault not only with adult groups, such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, they objected to girls’ organizations that adopted an international program and encouraged international cooperation among their members.


In this paper, I examine the international programs of the Girl Scouts, including Troops on Foreign Soil, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, The Juliette Low World Friendship Fund, and Thinking Day, established in 1927 as a way for Scouts and Guides throughout the world to cement ties of affectionate regard for one another.  These programs, I argue, were as popular with rank-and-file young members as they were with the adults who established them. A remarkable number of Scouts traveled internationally to attend programs with girls from other nations; those who were not able to travel participated in pen pal programs, created scrapbook exchange networks, and scripted radio dramas that promoted internationalism. Using institutional records, published sources, and, importantly, girls’ own writings, I argue that Scout leadership promoted – and young girls embraced –  a vision of internationalism that was characterized by both warm, intimate regard and a practical vision of international cooperation. Even as the organization struggled with the solidification of European nationalism and domestic uncertainty in the face of the Great Depression, girls were drawn into a vision of diplomacy that both relied on, and attempted to transcend, personal friendship and international “sisterhood.”


“Friendship” and the Emancipatory Potential of Girl Scouting for Female Leaders

Tammy Proctor -- Wittenberg University


International Girl Scouting became the largest voluntary youth movement in the world for girls by the 1930s, and it did so partly by offering opportunities for friendship, international travel and self-development for girls.  It also gained success because it offered similar opportunities to a generation of women leaders looking for a way to demonstrate their self-sufficiency and to make a difference in the world.  Female leaders had to deal with storms, floods, local hooligans and unruly teenaged girls, but they also had the chance to spend time with other women and girls in a supportive environment.  The freedom of camp was intoxicating for girls and grown women alike.  The same-sex bonding of Guiding, again especially at camp, was an important emotional connection for girls and women, and it helped forge not only close female friendships but also self-reliance in an age when women were taught to depend on men.  Many former Guides and Girl Scouts counted “companionship” and “friendship” among the most valuable aspects of the movement, and girls found themselves remaining in Guiding well into their adult years so as to retain those connections.  Among Guiding’s earliest leaders were several women who remained single, married late in life, were divorced or widowed at a young age, or spent their lives with other women.  For these women, Guiding provided a supportive and meaningful community of women as well as a direction for their energies.   This short paper examines the international dimensions of the friendships and leadership opportunities these women initiated within the Guiding world.  By bridging the gap between nations and creating international retreat centers and regular conferences, the women leaders of Girl Scouting forged a parallel world for themselves that went beyond their commitment to girls’ education.


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