Our exhibit exploring one hundred years of Girl Scouts opened on the first of June. Girl Scouts has grown from a handful of girls in Savannah in 1912 to over three million girls and women participating today. The National Museum of American History has numerous employees who have shared in the Girl Scout experience. As part of our ongoing series, Katie Macko, from Stockton, California, reflects on her time as a scout.
It’s About More Than Cookies
Katie Macko, Daily Programs Floor Manager
Being a Girl Scout was awesome. I loved the fact that every spring, my house was inundated with cookie boxes and order forms. I loved every moment of our backyard sleep-outs and the thrill of going to sleep-away camp with my friends. I loved the activities, like riding horses and singing camp songs, and the various projects that earned us the colorful badges we proudly displayed on our uniforms. Girl Scouts was FUN. But it was also more than that. Without ever noticing the subtle lessons I was learning, Girl Scouts taught me and my friends about building character. With the Girl Scouts centennial upon us, I have been thinking a lot about my Girl Scout memories and there is one that really stands out. It is not a memory about learning to be a leader or gaining some new practical skill, rather it is a memory about learning the value of doing things for others.
When I was a Brownie, my troop entered the scarecrow contest at the local pumpkin patch and won. We were so excited, especially because it was a cash prize. It was so much money to our six- and seven-year-old minds that we felt like we had won the lottery.
My mother, the troop leader, very democratically asked us what we wanted to do with our winnings. A pizza party was overwhelmingly gaining favor among the girls in the troop (a la Babysitter’s Club I’m sure), when the image of a little girl I had seen on flyers around town popped into my head. The girl was my age and she had leukemia; the flyers that literally covered our neighborhood were seeking donations from community members to help pay for her treatment. I raised my hand and suggested to the troop that we give the money to her. It sounds like I was a saint; truthfully, I really wanted to have that pizza party. But I also knew that this little girl needed help, and here we were in a position to offer just that. All the girls in my troop had seen the flyers as well, and it wasn’t long before we had all agreed to donate our prize money to her treatment.
I recently asked my mom how much we had won that day and she recalled it was $75. This amount would not even begin to cover what that little girl needed. But it was something. My mom called the girl’s grandparents, whose number was listed on the flyer, and explained to them that we wanted to give the money to their granddaughter. They choked up and told my mom it was the most thoughtful donation they had received. This was about more than being the little Brownies that helped around the house without being asked. This was about being a community Brownie. I look back on this memory as one of the first times I really thought about the people around me and knew that I needed to do the right thing, even if it was not the fun thing.
This is what the Girl Scouts means to me: it was a group of girls who got together to have fun, be active, and to learn the character building lessons that would help my friends and I grow up to become the kind of women who think and care about the people around them. All of these experiences are what make Girl Scouts such an amazing organization. The last 100 years have changed a lot of lives; the next 100 will surely do the same.
Tim Winkle is an associate curator with the Division of Home and Community Life at the National Museum of American History.