Skip to main content

Reveille On East 75th Street Or Roughing It With The Girl Scouts Of 1918 In A Manhattan Mansion

July 2024
1min read

If there is any axiom about pioneering, it is this: the further back one goes in history, the tougher it was. Where Grandpa hacked his way through the wilderness, we ride the throughway. Father, he is happy to tell the world, worked harder than you. Before you new recruits joined up, one learns in any organization, life in this outfit was infinitely more rugged. We trust that this point is abundantly clear because, in honor of its forthcoming fiftieth anniversary, we publish herewith a possibly confusing glimpse of Girl Scouting back in the pioneer clays.

The time was October, 1918, when America faced not only imperial Germany but a style in women’s dress which, had it continued, might have depopulated the land in a generation. The place was not a comfortable modern forest but a huge city mansion at ^ East 75th Street, New York, it was empty of furniture and its owner, Mrs. V. Everit Mary, had loaned it to the Scouts as »campsite. The girls in the pictures, which were made on glass plates, were among twenty-seven student leaders taking part in one of the organization’s first national training courses in Scouting and youthful war work.

According to an official journal kept by one “Marion C. Moreland, Scribe,” the girls had a lovely time, struggling from reveille at .yqo to taps at 9:30 to overcome their embarrassingly urban environment. They slept on army cots and drilled in the empty ballroom, and their cooking—which ran heavily to beans, bacon, and llapjacks—took place over the open fire, leaving Mrs. Macy’s elaborate ovens cold and untouched. There were drills, calisthenics, trips to the Natural History Museum and a deer park in White Plains, marching in Central Park, and let turcs and singing at night.

Girl Scouting has grown tremendously—there is one potential cookie merchant among every seven American girls today—since its founding in iyis. The entrepreneur was the remarkable Juliette Gordon Low, a friend and admirer of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of Boy Scouting and, with his sister, of England’s Girl Guides. As they celebrate Mrs. Low’s recent centenary, and her achievements in turning girls into healthy young women, modern Scouts can find, perhaps, one extra satisfaction in these pictures: Grandma had better not say too much about the hardships of being a Girl Scout in her day.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.