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Girl Scouts USA Centennial Commemorative Coin Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KINGSTON. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

It is a great honor to be here with Mr. Foster, and I want to thank Mr. Bachus and Mr. Frank and the members of the Financial Services Committee for their support of this commemorative coin bill.

This commemorative coin, like all commemorative coins, will pay for itself. Once it has done that, the additional money that it brings in will benefit the centennial activities of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, as well as helping with some of the repairs of the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace, her childhood home, which is located in Savannah, Georgia.

I think I, like so many people, have great memories of Girl Scouts, even though I wasn't one. My sisters, Betty, Barbara, and Jean, were all Girl Scouts, and they all wore their Brownie uniforms and then their Girl Scout uniforms, and my mother was one of the--I want to say den mother, and, Madam Speaker, I don't know the exact title, but she was a consultant--a leader. A great Girl Scout on the front row, Ms. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, has corrected me. But they had those sashes. And I was a Y-boy and we didn't get sashes.

We didn't get to earn merit badges. But I always thought what a great system of training people. And of course, Girl Scouts got to sell the cookies, of which I not only did not have to sell, but I got to eat. So I got two great benefits from them, and so many other people did the same.

Girl Scout cookies actually started in December 1917, and that was when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, started baking cookies, and they sold them in their high school that year. And then it grew in the 1920s and the 1930s, Girl Scouts followed suit all over the country and started to sell them. They sold them for 25 and 35 cents a dozen and in time had 11 varieties. And can I get a favorite? I think everybody would vote on a bipartisan basis, it is the Thin Mint.

Mr. FOSTER. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. KINGSTON. I will be happy to yield to my friend.

Mr. FOSTER. I very much share your opinion. I have to address the Speaker. I'm sure the Speaker and everyone in this room agrees that Thin Mints are the cookie of choice.

Mr. KINGSTON. See, Madam Speaker, only the Girl Scouts could bring such bipartisan fellowship here so quickly in a bill.

Juliette Gordon Low was an amazing historical figure. She was actually nicknamed Daisy as a child. Her parents were early settlers, on the dad's side from Georgia, and her mother's family came from Chicago. She was born on Halloween in 1860 and grew up during the Civil War in the difficult Reconstruction period in the Deep South. Her father owned a big house, and she developed a fondness as a child for writing poems, sketching, painting. She acted in plays and became a sculptor and a blacksmith.

Her brother, George Arthur Gordon, described her this way: She was deeply religious, quite superstitious, and a confirmed hero worshiper. Underneath her bubbling, irrepressible gaiety, there was a deep, generous, loyal, loving, striving, brave, self-sacrificing personality. She had her full share of slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and she not only met them, as the poet advised, by opposing, but in every crisis of her life she faced fate with a smiling defiance that was simply sublime. And that's from somebody who would know her well.

As a child, she started a group called Helping Hands to help make clothes for the poor. She grew up in Savannah but went to a boarding school in Virginia. She made her debut in Savannah and enjoyed the good life. She married a young man which her parents weren't really crazy about because of their age, but they went ahead and got married and I guess, showing her streak of independence, got married on her parents' 29th wedding anniversary date, December 21, 1886, and got married in Christ Episcopal Church, where she was also christened and later would be buried.

Juliette Gordon Low had a hearing problem, and when she was leaving the church, at her wedding, on her wedding day, rice was being thrown, and one found itself lodged in her ear. It caused a problem which caused her to lose much of her hearing, and she went through life almost deaf, which later served her, though, because, as a fundraiser, she could pretend to not understand when people said ``no'' when she was asking for money for the Girl Scouts, so she would persevere and get more money from them.

But an interesting thing happened to Juliette Gordon Low on the way to a good life. After the Spanish American War, her marriage fell apart, and when it did, she wasn't sure what her sense of direction would be and actually considered being a sculptor. But in 1911, she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell who, as we know, started the Boy Scouts in England, and he told Ms. Low about a sister organization that his own biological sister had started in England called the Girl Guides. He recommended to her that she do the same thing.

So, as Mr. Foster has said, when she came back to America on March 12, 1912, she started the Girl Scouts of America, and actually wrote a friend a note and said, come right over; I have something for all the girls of Savannah and all America and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight. And they did start it. And by the time she died, there were 168,000 members of the Girl Scouts from that first 18.

The impact that they had has been national and international. Girl Scouts have been all over the map, and their history has followed the history of the United States. They collected clothes during the Depression. They made quilts. They carved wood toys. They gathered food for the poor. They assisted in hospitals. They participated in food drives and canning programs, provided meals to undernourished program, and in World War II, they operated a bicycle courier service and invested more than 48,000 hours in farm aid projects, collected fat and scrap metal, and grew victory gardens. They also collected 1 1/2 million articles of clothing that were shipped overseas to children and adult victims of the war.

Nearly 100 years ago this happened, and yet Juliette Gordon Low's legacy of friendship, education and ideals is today shared by 3.8 million girls and women. We should be very proud to live in a country where such an organization exists, and I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation.

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I rise to honor the Girl Scouts of the United States and their founder, Juliette Gordon Low. H.R. 621 would create a Girl Scouts Commemorative Coin in celebration of their 100th Birthday. Proceeds of this coin will benefit Centennial activities and the Birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low.

Today, the Girl Scouts are known for their cookies--of course--and their blue, green, or brown scouting uniforms, but most importantly, the Girl Scouts are known for their dedication in growing and nurturing life skills of young women around the globe. Scouts can earn over 300 badges and awards throughout their journey as a Scout for completing tasks which expand areas of knowledge and experience. These badges vary from Computer Smarts, to Money Sense, to First Aid, to Sports and Games, and Heritage. Girl Scouts number nearly 3.8 million--2.8 million girl members and 963,000 adult members.

Although cookie sales are the most recognized Girl Scouting Activity, they started on a much smaller scale. Girl Scout Cookies had their earliest beginnings in the kitchens of Scouts themselves--with their mothers' assistance. The earliest mention of a cookie sale found to date was by the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, which baked cookies and sold them in its high school cafeteria as a service project in December 1917. In the 1920s and 1930s, Girl Scouts in different parts of the country continued to bake their own simple sugar cookies with their mothers. These cookies were packaged in wax paper bags, sealed with a sticker, and sold door to door for 25 to 35 cents per dozen. This project has now expanded to 11 varieties of cookies, with Thin Mints as the annual favorite.

Selling cookies began just five years after Juliette Gordon Low started Girl Scouts in the United States in 1912. The Founder, Juliet Gordon, was born in Savannah, Georgia on Halloween 1860. Affectionately called ``Daisy'' (which is now the name of the youngest troop designation) by family and close friends, Juliette's paternal family were early settlers in Georgia and her mother's family played an important role in the founding of Chicago. She was the second of 6 children and grew up during the difficult era of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Daisy spent her early years in Wayne-Gordon House in Savannah, Georgia. In 1818, Savannah Mayor James Moore Wayne, later a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, purchased a double house lot on the northeast corner of Bull and South Broad streets. The house constructed for Wayne at a cost of $6,500, consisted of a two-story, double town house over a raised basement. In 1831, James Moore Wayne sold the house to his niece, Sarah Stites Anderson Gordon, and her husband, William Washington Gordon I, Daisy's parents. Today, this is the location of the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace and Girl Scout museum.

In this house, young Daisy developed a lifetime interest in the arts--wrote poems, sketched, wrote and acted in plays, and later became a skilled painter, sculptor, and blacksmith. She had many pets throughout her life and was particularly fond of exotic birds, Georgia mockingbirds, and dogs. Daisy was also known for her great sense of humor. Her brother, George Arthur Gordon, described her this way, ``She was deeply religious, quite superstitious and a confirmed hero worshiper. Underneath her bubbling, irrepressible gaiety, there was a deep, generous, loyal, loving, striving, brave, self-sacrificing personality. She had her full share of slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and she not only met them as the poet advised, by opposing, but in every crisis of her life she faced fate with a smiling defiance that was simply sublime.''

Her dedication to the community started at a young age. As a teenager, Juliette formed her first organization, the ``Helping Hands'', whose activities included making clothes for the poor. Juliette was a great organizer of people and situations, though not particularly organized herself.

Juliette attended school in Savannah, and moved to a boarding school at Virginia Female Institute (now Stuart Hall School) during her teens. She later attended Mlles Charbonniers, a French finishing school in New York City and traveled extensively in the United States and Europe after schooling. After her debut in Savannah, Daisy met the handsome and charming William Mackay Low--nicknamed Billow. Billow's father was an associate of Daisy's father and a prosperous British shipping tycoon with Savannah ties. Although her parents would never approve of a relationship between them, Daisy became convinced if she did not marry him, she would not marry at all. She characteristically continued to conceal her feelings from her family and friends; only revealing her innermost thoughts to her diary.

A year later, she became secretly engaged to Billow in January of 1886. When the engagement was revealed, her parents expectedly opposed the relationship as they felt that Billow was too spoiled and irresponsible to care for a wife and family. However, Daisy and Billow were both of age and Billow was bestowed with his father's fortune. On December 21, 1886--on her parents' 29th wedding anniversary--Juliette married Low at Christ Episcopal Church in Savannah, Georgia. She believed that, since her parents' marriage had been an idyllic one, the date would be lucky for her as well. During her wedding exit, a grain of good-luck rice became lodged in Daisy's ear. When trying to remove the rice, the doctor punctured the eardrum and damaged the nerve-endings resulting in a total loss of hearing in that ear at the age of 26. Her other ear had previously lost hearing because of an improperly treated abscess in 1885.

Juliette would later use her hearing impediment to her benefit. When asking for donations, she would purposely play deaf to not hear the word ``no.'' Instead, she would respond with the date she would come by to pick up the donation. However, her deafness did have an effect in certain social situations--during dinner function, a speaker rose to acknowledge Juliette. She became upset when the audience was not clapping at every pause, so she began clapping--unaware that the speaker was talking about her own accomplishments. A fellow diner had to stop her, as it is not proper to clap for yourself.

Putting difficulty aside, Juliette Low continued the luxurious life of a young Victorian lady during her married years in both England and Savannah. During the Spanish-American War, however, Juliette came back to America to aid in the war effort. She helped her mother organize a recovery hospital for wounded soldiers returning from Cuba. Her father (who had been a captain in the Confederate Army) was commissioned as a general in the U.S. Army and served on the Puerto Rican Peace Commission. At the end of the war, Juliette returned to England to a disintegrating marriage. The Lows were separated at the time of her husband's death in 1905.

Daisy considered herself to be a failure. She had no children, a failed marriage, and was left with little money from her husband. She was looking for something useful to do with her life and was considering becoming a professional sculptor when, in 1911, she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Sir Robert, a military hero with a keen interest in young people, was also a painter and sculptor, an interest he shared with Daisy.

He had begun a successful group in England known as the Boy Scouts. He was shocked to discover that 6,000 girls had joined the Boy Scouts, and urged his sister ``do something'' with the girls--so she began a parallel organization called Girl Guides. Sir Robert told Daisy about the two groups; she wrote in her diary after meeting him, ``He has ideas, which if I followed them, a more useful sphere of work might open before me in the
future.'' In 1912, Juliette returned to Savannah and called her cousin, principal of a local girl's school, and told her to ``Come right over! I have something for all the girls of Savannah, and all America, and all the world and we're going to start it tonight!''

That was the beginning of the Girl Scouts USA.

The first Girl Guide meeting in the U.S. was held March 12, 1912. The first two patrols (today known as troops) consisted of 18 girls. They wore the blue uniform of the British Girl Guides and used the same handbook as the British Guides. Juliette, an inveterate fund raiser, would use all sort of baited props to gain donations including a tomato tin with assorted Girl Scouts badges and awards to ``pin'' donors, and a hat decorated with root vegetables. When asked the purpose of her hat, she simply replied that she could not afford to properly decorate her hat as she donated most of her money to the Girl Scouts and then of course asked for an additional donation for the cause.

In 1913, the American girls decided they wanted their own identity and the name was changed to Girl Scouts and Juliette published the first handbook, ``How Girls Can Help Their Country; A Handbook for Girl Scouts.'' In her handbook, Daisy encouraged girls to participate in competitive sports and to develop career skills in short to BE PREPARED for life--still a guiding principle today. Juliette was also known for humorous antics such as standing on her head in a board meeting to show off the new Girl Scout shoes--a move usually saved for an ill niece or nephew.

During the mid-1920s, Juliette Low developed cancer, characteristically, she kept her illness hidden from family and friends. She served as President from 1915 until 1920 then she stepped

down and assumed the role of the ``Founder'' of the Girl Scouts. In the 15 years that she worked with the organization, Girl Scouts grew from 18 members in Savannah to 168,000 members nationally.

Juliette Low was honored for her contributions on Georgia Day, February 12, 1926 by the city of Savannah and the state of Georgia in a large celebration held in Forsythe Park. She was able to attend the World Conference of Girl Guide and Girl Scouts in 1926 held at Edith Macy Girl Scout National Center just outside of New York City. Following the conference, she took a trip back to England to say good-bye to her friends. She died at her home on Lafayette Square on January 17, 1927 at the age of 66. Her funeral was held at Christ Church--the same in which she was married and christened--and was attended by hundreds of community members and her beloved Girl Scouts. She is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery in the Gordon Family plot.

Throughout America's history, the Girl Scouts have reacted to many differing needs During World War I, girls learned about food production and conservation, sold war bonds, worked in hospitals, and collected peach pits for use in gas mask filters. By 1920, there were nearly 70,000 Girl Scouts nationwide, including the territory of Hawaii and new Girl Scout badges included Economist and Interpreter, and revisions already were being made to the Journalist and Motorist badges. Girl Scouts led community relief efforts during the Great Depression by collecting clothing, making quilts, carving wood toys, gathering food for the poor, assisting in hospitals, participating in food drives and canning programs, and providing meals to undernourished children. During WWII, Girl Scouts operated bicycle courier services, invested more than 48,000 hours in Farm Aide projects, collected fat and scrap metal, and grew Victory Gardens. They also collected 1.5 million articles of clothing that were then shipped overseas to children and adult victims of war.

Today, nearly 100 years later, Juliet Gordon Low's legacy of friendship, education, and ideals is shared and perpetuated by over 3.8 million currently registered Girl Scouts and, through USA Girl Scouts Overseas, her influence extends around the world. Every day, the Girl Scouts help mold young women and girls throughout our Nation by empowering them with knowledge and experience. This organization allows girls from all backgrounds to benefit from enriching experiences such as field trips, sporting activities, cultural exchanges, and volunteer work. In its near 100 years, more than 50+ million American women befitted from Girl Scouting in their childhood.

In addition to their National and global success, many former members carry the Girl Scouts legacy. One-third of female elected officials and almost 80% of female CEOs were Girl Scouts, in addition to sports stars, astronauts, presidential families, cartoonists, singers, actresses, Olympic medalists, and even a Supreme Court Justice.

I am honored to support the Girl Scouts 100 years, their dedicated Founder Juliette Gordon Low, and the crucial principles which they instill in each and every Girl Scout member. I wish them another 100 years of success.

Below I have listed some of the more famous Girl Scouts. But most of all I want to give special thanks to Allison Thigpen who helped with the passage of this legislation and without it would not be possible to bring H.R. 621 to the floor.


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