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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Girl Scouts

The iconic merit badge sash is worn by Girl Scouts everywhere. This sash is from the mid–1950s and is on display at the Institute of Texan Cultures.Photo by Mark McClendon

Girl Power!

ITC exhibit highlights the history of the Girl Scouts

In 1912, Juliette Gordon Low set forth the founding principles of Girl Scouting: that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually. The program she conceived would help shape the lives of some 59 million young women and influence countless others as Girl Scouting continued into the 21st century.

In February, the Institute of Texan Cultures, in cooperation with Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, opened "Girl Power!" an exhibit that looks back on a century of Girl Scouts and reaffirms its core principles as the program enters its next 100 years of service.

"The values Juliette Gordon Low established have remained consistent for a century," said Angelica Docog, executive director of the Institute of Texan Cultures and a Girl Scout alumna. "She laid the foundation for the nation’s premier leadership program for young women."

At its core are three principles: engage, empower and experience. The exhibit explores and illustrates each of these themes with stories from local Girl Scout pioneers and artifacts from local and national Girl Scout programs.

The first artifact at the exhibit’s entrance is one that many Texas girls and parents recognize–a replica of the Storybook Tree from Camp La Jita. Visitors can share their own stories about the impact Girl Scouts had on their lives by writing their memories on leaves and placing them on the tree.

Just behind the tree is a giant sash, replete with badges that call to mind shared experiences and achievements. The sash was originally created in 1972 for a Girl Scouting 60th anniversary celebration.

Among the other artifacts on display is an early Golden Eaglet award, Girl Scouts’ highest honor, which evolved into the modern Gold Award. Anne Schelpher earned San Antonio’s first Golden Eaglet in 1936.

"The Girl Scout Gold Award gives girls the opportunity to create sustainable change in their communities," said Rose González Pérez, M.A. ’90 and CEO for Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas. "Our council is delighted to highlight this prestigious award in the exhibit and to bring more awareness to the organization’s aim to challenge today’s girls to make the world a better place."

Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas was chartered in 1924 and now serves 21 counties. Notable alumnae include state Senator Leticia Van de Putte, San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley and a diverse roster of public officials, business owners, physicians, lawyers and executives.

"Girl Scouting has impacted so many lives," said Docog. "It is a commonality many cultures share and it is a unique culture unto itself, with its traditions and values passed from generation to generation. This is a wonderful opportunity for Girl Scouts to explore their heritage and for family and friends to learn about the institution that has molded girls of strong moral character for 100 years."

–James Benavides

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