Scouts' honor: Exhibit centered around Girl Scout centennial

Sunday , March 04, 2012 - 8:12 AM

The Eccles Community Art Center is the perfect place to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Girl Scouts, because it's where the organization was introduced in this state.

"That's where the first troop meeting was held," said Lucy Smith, director of program for the Girl Scouts of Utah.

The Utah group was started in 1920 by Bertha Eccles and Lilliebell Falck.

Eccles, one of the widows of Utah's first millionaire, David Eccles, raised 12 children in Ogden -- including six girls -- in the grand house that became the Eccles Community Art Center.

Eccles was very involved in the community and in organizations that supported youth, founding the Children's Aid Society, for example, according to a biography in Special Collections at Weber State University's Stewart Library. Her funeral notice indicated she was also instrumental in starting free kindergarten in the Ogden School District.

Falck moved to Ogden in about 1912, according to a 1957 article in the Standard-Examiner. She also served the community, doing everything from planting trees in Snow Basin to helping create the "Place of Remembrance" World War II memorial in the Ogden City Cemetery.

Eccles and Falck were on a train in the spring of 1920, when they started talking about girls' needs. They invited some other female friends to a meeting on May 15 at Eccles' home.

"The purpose, as quoted from the minutes of that first meeting, was to discuss the desirability of organizing the girls of Ogden into some society where they might be instructed along the lines of homemaking, health and recreation," said Barbara Schmidt, who volunteers to preserve the Girl Scouts of Utah's Heritage Collection.



In November, the first Utah Girl Scouts council was organized and Bertha Eccles was named the commissioner.

Many early Girl Scout meetings were held in the Eccles home, including a reception for Lou Henry Hoover, wife of Herbert Hoover and national president of the Girl Scouts.

An exhibit in honor of the centennial of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America opened Friday at the Eccles Community Art Center. The historic home is filled with uniforms, photos, badges and other artifacts, as well as a display of Girl Scout-inspired art created by members of the Palette Club of Ogden.

Centennial

Girl Scouts of the USA was founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low, called "Daisy" by family and friends. Born in 1860, in Savannah, Ga., she loved art, writing, acting and animals, and was quite athletic. According to the Girl Scouts website, she stood on her head every year on her birthday -- even as an adult.

Low was nearly deaf, losing much of the hearing in one ear to repeated ear infections. The hearing in her other ear was lost when a grain of rice tossed at her wedding punctured the eardrum and caused an infection.

She moved to England, and later, as a widow, was looking for something meaningful to do.

In 1911, she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. Returning to Savannah, she started the first troop of American Girl Guides on March 12, 1912. The name was changed to Girl Scouts the next year.

Then and now

Utah's Girl Scout organization has grown from small meetings in the Eccles home, to more than 8,000 girls working with 3,500 adults.

The first Girl Scouts did some of the same things Girl Scouts do today.

"Girl Scouts have always been about helping girls develop leadership, and helping girls develop the skills to be productive citizens and help make the world a better place," said Smith.

Girls in the 1920s, when Utah's first troops were organized, would have participated in athletics and outdoor activities like building fires and learning to cook outdoors.

"They also would have learned about first aid skills, and learned about botany or geology," and civics, said Smith.

Today's Girl Scouts are most famous for selling cookies, but it's not just about fundraising.

"The cookie program focuses on financial literacy, business and money skills," said Smith.

Girls in the modernized program also learn about the environment, healthy living and global citizenship, as well as science, technology, engineering and math. They still do badge work, but also can participate in activities such as the LEGO League Robotic Competition.

On exhibit

Artifacts on display at the Eccles Community Art Center are from the Girls Scouts of Utah's Heritage Museum, which is not regularly open to the public.

"There are vintage uniforms, anywhere from 1928 to contemporary uniforms," said Smith.

There are also photos, dating backto 1928.

"We have some vintage flags from Girl Scouts of Utah, which are pretty cool," said Smith. "There are vintage postage stamps."

Old badges, handbooks, membership cards and dolls are also on display, as well as Brownie Scout artifacts such as a camera, purse and a money bank shaped like the head of a brownie elf.

The Girl Scouts have declared 2012 the "Year of the Girl."

"We're proclaiming our commitment to girls, and women," said Smith.

And maybe they'll celebrate again in another 100 years.

"We're healthy and strong, and still a key part of the community," she said.

WHAT: Girl Scouts centennial exhibit

WHEN: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays, through March

WHERE: Eccles Community Art Center, 2580 Jefferson Ave., Ogden

ADMISSION: Free; 801-392-6935

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