Saturday, September 20, 2014


Last spring, someone asked me to attend what I thought would be a committee meeting about an event at Camp as part of the local Girl Scout council's 100th anniversary celebrations. It turned out to be the whole 100th anniversary committee sitting around the conference table. I did not feel I had much to contribute, until someone said, What's going on with the highway markers? Some personnel had changed and some things were unclear. The project to nominate two state highway markers in honor of local Girl Scouting seemed likely to be let go, so I spoke up perhaps for the first time: Oh, that shouldn't be too hard; I can do that for you.

Well, collecting the appropriate 19-teens documents for troop 1, Highland Springs, Va., did not go well, but by the time a faculty member moved from Chicago to Richmond in the 1930s and asked to keep her daughter's Girl Scout experience going in their new town, bureaucracy existed. And that was a good thing: we could mark the first African American Girl Scout troop in the South. I found minutes and other useful things on file in the Council's archive at Virginia Commonwealth University, and so today at Virginia Union University, we unveiled a marker celebrating troop 34.

The celebration went like many a formal Girl Scout program: welcoming remarks, flag ceremony, the national anthem (sung beautifully by a young man in his first year at Virginia Union), Girl Scout promise, and various speakers. Two animated Ambassador Girl Scouts served as mistresses of ceremonies. A VUU vice president spoke not only of his Boy Scout and Girl Scout family members, but also noted the coincidence of troop 34 and a 1960s VUU group arrested for "disturbing the peace" at a sit-in downtown: they were the Richmond 34. The daughter-in-law of one of the adult founders of the troop remembered her mother-in-law, a tireless community activist. A surprise speaker was Gloria Scott, GSUSA's national president in the 1970s, the first African-American to hold that job. She talked about being a newly-appointed dean at a college in Texas and having someone -- from the local council? GSUSA? -- say, Look,we're starting this Campus Girl Scout thing and we need you to get that going on your campus. It echoed Juliette Gordon Low's oft-described tact of just telling people what they could do rather than asking "could you maybe help with this?" I appreciated seeing another pattern of history. Many of the phrases in the 1930s council minutes sounded familiar, such as wishing National would let the local council take care of things in its own way.  However tricky the road, we got there, and because of Girl Scouts, I have all kinds of women as my sisters.

I must also pause to remember my brother Girl Scout (as it were), the late Reggie Tupponce, who led me to my first marker project.