50 Years of Girl Scouting in Webster-Dudley

In 1918, through the efforts of Mrs. Clarence Cleveland, the first commissioner of the Webster-Dudley Council, the local constitution and by-laws were presented to the National Organization in New York for approval. In October of 1918, a charter was issued to Webster and Dudley and the first fifty girls and two captains were enrolled into the Girl Scouts of America.

The scouting movement, started by Robert Baden Powell in 1908, was for boys but in 1909, Sir Robert's sister founded the Girl Guides because "girls wanted a club just like their brothers." When Juliette Gordon married William Low and made her home in England, she became interested in the newly organized Girl Guides. Before coming home to the United States in 1912, she wrote a friend, "I am bringing home the biggest thing yet." On March 12, 1912, the first Girl Guide company was organized and in 1913, the name was changed to Girl Scouts.

List of Original Members and First Scouts -- 1918

Only five years later, in May of 1918, a group of women from Webster and Dudley started making plans to organize Girl Scouting in this area. A meeting was held in the Chamber of Commerce and the public was invited to attend. Thirty-six girls attended that meeting and expressed their willingness to join the organization. Four Girl Scout troops were formed and meeting began immediately: Troop One with Captain Dorothy Moore, Troop Two with Captain Amy Leith, Troop Three with Captain Mae Kerwin and Troop Four with Captain Louise Healy.

Mr. George Thompson, then Commissioner of the Boy Scouts, started to drill the new girl members and the Girl Scout Commissioner from New Bedford offered suggestions for Scout picnics and interesting hikes. The girls held troop meeting that June, marched in the Fourth of July parade and conducted a picnic at Second Island.

The Special Aid Society stated that they would play the expenses of some young woman in the town in a training camp that summer. Miss Dorothy Moore and Muss Amy Leith were chosen to spend three weeks a the Winter School in Boston. They were to learn the art of "handling" Girl Scouts and find out just what was necessary for Captains of the organization to know. Upon their return, at the end of July, they presented a very interesting talk on what a Girl Scout was supposed to do. Some of the girls were disappointed because they had felt that they were already Girl Scouts by found out that they had much work and study before they would become registered members. Work was started the following week on tenderfoot requirements. A Women's Council, of fourteen adults, was organized to promote and held the captains and the scouts in general.

In August of that year tenderfoot examinations were held at Thompson School in the presence of the Women's Council of Girl Scouts. Forty girls took the test and almost all girls passed. Those who didn't pass were given the test later. The "enrollment" or investiture was be held October 3, 1918 but due to the influenza epidemic was postpone until October 30, 1918. All people interested were cordially invited to attend. Each girl to be enrolled recited the Girl Scout Promise and was presented with a certificate, scout pin, tie and hat. Fifty scouts and two captains were enrolled.

During the first six months the girls sewed their own khaki uniforms and again marched during September in the Liberty Loan Parade. They posted advertisements and posters in Webster and Dudley for the Fourth Liberty Loan but because of national regulations, were not allowed to solicit funds.

It was in September of 1918 that plans were first started for a scout camp in Webster. During July of 1919, the first Girl Scout troop went camping at "Pinehurst", a private summer cottage in Jewett City, Connecticut. Also in August of that year, the first Webster-Dudley Girl Scout Camp was held at Smith Cove, Webster Lake for one week with three troops participating. The Camp Director was Mrs. Dorothy Nash and the name given to the camp was "Camp Nipmuck." A regular schedule was maintained which included calisthenics, flag raising ceremony, swimming, scout work, camp craft, drilling, hiking, retreat, campfire and taps. All scouts had "K.P." duty, enjoyed fine meals and were visited by many friends and parents. The girls received help from Mr. George Thompson and Mr. Arthur Healy in erecting tents. Although this camp was very successful it was not repeated the following year, but some troop camping was carried on in the ensuing years. Every summer saw picnics and all day outings at the "Lake" and one outing at Beacon Park included a boatride on the "Empire".

In 1920, a Girl Scout Campaign was carried on as part of a State drive and 75% of the funds raised went to local troops. The Webster-Dudley Girl Scouts received $165 from the campaign and some of it was used to furnish a room at Rosebrooks and Cummings store. The "scout-room" was used for troop meetings and by the Council Board. Plans were initiated at this time to have a Girl Scout Fife and Drum Corps. The Drum and Bugle Corps was organized in May of 1921 and in November of that year appeared in the Armistice Day parade. Mr. Leith instructed the drummers and Mr. Moir was in charge of the buglers.

Many Girl Scout State events occurred during the 1920's with troops from Webster-Dudley attending "A Day in Camp" at the South Armory in Boston, and later the District Tally in Worcester in which 500 girl Scouts participated. Demonstrations in semaphore, military drill, first-aid, fire-building, signaling and intertroop games were held. Captain Lillian Hawkinson and scouts Margaret Malbeouf and Gladys Holley attended the Fourth Annual Review of the Massachusetts Girl Scouts in Boston on May 17, 1923, which included a "Home Act Demonstration", a "Village May Day Festival" and ended with awards presented by Sir Robert Baden Powell, Lady Baden Powell and Juliette Low.

From 1923 through October, 1925, the Girl Scouts held most of their meeting at the Webster-Dudley Girl's Club and the Secretary of the Girl's Club also served as the troop Captain. The advisory board was the same board for the Girl's Club and the Girl Scouts and the program included class instruction in gym, batique, basketry, polychrome, millinery and hiking. However, in October, 1925, a reorganization meeting was held and an invitation extended to all girls to join -- "the training given girl scouts developed their bodies as well as their minds and during the adolescent age make them physically fit for the strenuous work of after life. Scouting aims to inculcate ideals of service in the minds and hearts of children and to teach then to look out as well as up."

There was only one active troop from 1925 until 1933 when a steady increase in membership necessitated the forming of another troop. Troop One under Mrs. Edgar Craver, Captain, was known as the "Sturdy Oak Troop" and Troop two under Mrs. Horace Trull, Captain, called itself the "Mountain Laurel Troop." Many adults served as program consultants to the troops helping the girls earn their proficiency badges. They were members of the Educational Committee of the Council.

Several joint meeting were held with the Girl Scouts from Thompson, Woodstock and Southbridge in which ideas on scouting were discussed and picnics and parties were enjoyed. Hiking was one of the favorite activities with hikes conducted to nearly every location at Webster Lake, High Pond, the "Indian Woods" and Sugar Loaf Hill. Longer hikes were taken to Roseland Park during 1924, Wilsonville, Conn. in 1926, Purgatory in 1932 and in August of 1933, thirteen girls planned to hike to Camp Green Eyrie, Harvard.

Service projects have always played an important part in the Girl Scout program. Beside helping in the Liberty Loan Drive the first Girl Scouts helped the Red Cross in their yearly drive in mailing out Christmas Seals. At Thanksgiving they prepared and delivered baskets of groceries to needy families, whose names were supplied by the Samaritan Association and for Christmas the Montachusett Council sponsored day camp program is also conducted there. Because of the great enjoyment the scouts have derived from outdoor camping, but due to the lack of qualified camp leaders, a program called "Camping on the Green" was carried on for three years in 1965, 1966 and 1967, under the direction of Miss Florence Penniman.

The growth of Girl Scout Troops in Webster and Dudley started in 1935. During this year an attempt was made to organize a Mariner Troop but it did not materialize. However in 1938. a Mariner troop was started with twenty six girls, who called their ship, the "Richard Wales". A Girl Scout troop was organized in Quinebaug and in 1936, the first Brownie troop under the leadership of Mrs. Carlton Tulloch was sponsored by the Webster-Dudley Council. An interest was again show in forming a Drum and Bugle Corps and Girl Scouts of Troop One started practicing on newly purchased instruments. By 1939, there were eleven registered troops with a membership of 144 Girl Scouts and 20 Brownies.

Leadership training was as important in 1918 as it is today. During the first twenty years, adults had to travel to Boston and Worcester for their training but in April of 1936 a Field Institute for leaders and council members was held in Webster which was also open to adults from Southbridge, Sturbridge and Quinebaug. There were three sessions, which included instruction in games, group singing, camping, outdoor cooking and other fundamentals in Girl Scout work. Today, all leaders are required to take leadership training though the Montachusett Council.

During the Second World War the Scouts made scrap books, and collected books for servicemen. They mailed literature for the United War Fund and rolled bandages for the Red Cross. One Senior Girl Scout Troop, in 1944, decorated and distributed four Christmas Trees to people who lived alone. In 1947, the local Senior Troop completed an afghan which was presented to a hospitalized veteran, and another troop made dolls for Europe. In 1958, a local troop while working on their "Seamstress Bade" sewed a complete layette, made stuffed animal toys and dressed some small dolls which were sent to a city orphanage. Almost every troop in town has made tray favors for the local hospital and the several nursing homes for the past twenty-five years, and at Christmas has visited with the sick and sang carols for them. Senior Girl Scouts have donated their time and skills to troops, serving as Troop Program Aides and during the summer as Camp Aides.

It was in 1945 that the local constitution and by-laws were changed and a new type of organization -- namely an Association was formed. All members registered with "National" were members of the Association. Ours was the first Council to convert to this newer type of organization. This organization remained until 1959 when it was absorbed by the Southern Worcester County Council, now known as the Montachusett Girl Scout Council. a Neighborhood Chairman was elected and she in turn appointed a Service Team, whose members served as consultants to troops, organized new troops and helped find new leaders and sponsors. Almost every "parish" has sponsored a Girl Scout troop during these fifty years and hundreds of persons have offered their assistance in helping the Girl Scout movement. Weekly troop meeting are held in church and school halls and the local paper publishes the "scribe" news.

Although we haven't read much lately about the local Girl Scouts going on hikes, we have read about their many interesting trips. They have traveled to almost every historical landmark in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island and several troops have gone to Washington, D.C. In 1963, a local Senior Girl Scout, Christine Miller, attended the All-States Encampment in Michigan and Edwina Porter attended a regional event in Rhode Island in 1967.

A definite program of "Girl Scouting" continued from 1945 until 1963, with regular Scout work at troop meetings, outdoor activities of hiking and camping, partied, dances and yearly service projects. In 1963, the Golden Anniversary of Girl Scout, the national organization revamped the program. New books were printed, new age groups were initiated with a program of wide opportunities for all Girl Scouts and, of course, a new uniform for each group. Webster-Dudley again showed its eagerness to "progress with the times" and more troops were organized and more leaders recruited. Today (1968), Webster-Dudley has a membership of 462 girls in nineteen troops -- seven Brownie troops, six Junior troops, five Cadette troops and one Senior troop, and 87 active adults. Although the Neighborhood Team does not raise money, Girl Scouting is supported by the United Fund through the Montachusett Council. Troops are allowed to raise money for activities and the Scouts still sell Girl Scout cookies, selling 11,000 boxes in 1968, a part of the proceeds being sent to the Council to maintain the many camps.

Every Girl Scout endeavors to live up to the Girl Scout Promise and the Girl Scout Laws. Each girl hopes to attain the highest rank in scouting, which at present is first class, but in doing so each girl learns many valuable things. In progressing through the ranks, she must show proficiency in badge work, service to others, social dependability and participate in outdoor activities. Over one hundred girls have received the "Joan of Arc" and "Marian" medal from the Roman Catholic Church and the "God and Community" award of the Protestant faith.

As in 1918 it is also true today -- "if the girls of today are to be better citizens and mothers of tomorrow, a worthy organization of this kind should be encouraged by every community." That is why during the past fifty years more than 500 adults have been registered in the Girl Scout program in Webster and Dudley, truly trying to help mold better citizens. Not only the girls but the adults aim to live up to the Scout promise -- "to do my duty to God and My Country, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Girl Scout Laws."



Copyright© OldeWebster 2001
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