The following is a guest post by Judy Graves, Digital Project Coordinator, Digital Reference Section and life-long Girl Scout.
On Saturday, June 9th, the Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capitol will host a song fest on the National Mall. With 200,000 girls and adults expected, this will not be an ordinary songfest by any stretch of the imagination. Rock the Mall , as the event is called, is a birthday celebration on behalf of the 100th birthday of the Girl Scouts of America.
The official birth date is March 12, 1912, the date on which Juliette Gordon Low registered 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia into the newly established Girl Scout organization. From that time to this, Girl Scouting has focused on service to others while developing girls’ self-confidence and proficiency in a wide range of skills, such as gardening with the National Emergency War Gardens in 1917, sewing with the Red Cross in 1917, creating a victory garden in World War II, learning to knit in a 1942 farm workers camp in California, picking trash from the Potomac River in 1970, or cleaning up Peachtree Creek, WV in 2000.
Whatever Girl Scouts do; wherever they go, singing has a place. “Girl Scouts have many opportunities for group singing at troop meetings, at rallies, and around the campfire,” declares the Girl Scout Song Book of 1929. “Singing is one of the most important expressions of good fellowship.” I can personally attest to this. While researching for this post, I asked Judith Gray, the head of reference in the American Folklife Center about Girl Scout camp songs held by the Center. We swapped lyrics for “Land of the Silver Birch,” a Canadian canoeing song, from our Girl Scout camp counselor days. (My version reflected a Louisiana twist: “Land of the cypress tree, home of the muskrat…”.) From this one email exchange, we both knew that we could share countless stories and experiences made possible by our membership in the Girl Scouts. And, yes, we both still have our notebooks of the songs we collected and sang back then.
The Library of Congress sheet music collections reflect the personal, yet far-reaching influence that Girl Scouting can have on girls, their communities, and their future families and life’s work. Several pieces are by Brownies and Girl Scouts, such as:
- “Going Camping,” copyright 1963, with words and music by Girl Scout Troop 1377
- “The Happy Brownie Song,” copyright 1960, composed by Joan Giest, age 8, and arranged for piano by Linda Beal, age 10
- “Camping Fun,” copyright 1910, with lyrics by Mary Gross, age 9.
These and others in the Library’s collections express the same sentiment, “Everybody Ought to Be a Scout,” which, coincidentally, is also the title of a song written in 1921 and dedicated to the Girl Scouts of Reading, Massachussetts. Its chorus sums up the reasons why the Mall will rock on June 9th with the voices of 200,000 girls and adults, young and old, singing and sharing what it is to be a Girl Scout.
“If you are a Girl Scout, you feel so happy,
You sing the whole day long.
If you are a Girl Scout, you can’t be snappy,
Each time the world goes wrong.
If you are a Girl Scout,
You learn to do things,
And how to help folks out,
Oh, in all the world, there’s nothing like it,
And ev’ry body ought to be a Scout.”