Thursday, March 30, 2017

#WomensHistoryMonth: The History of Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council

March 1987, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month as Women's History Month. It was a proud day for women everywhere, including Girl Scouts whose history was one that made these kinds of advancements possible. 

The women and girls of Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council have come a long way in history. Today, as with yesterday, we are proud to be a part of the movement to build girls of courage confidence and character, who make the world a better place.

Here are some special moments in our Council history to demonstrate how far we have come in our efforts. Our founder Juliette Gordon Low was one woman, and her courage and vision inspired a movement that today stands 2.7 million women strong.

Humble Beginnings

Though the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council was officially founded in 1922, the first known Girl Scout troop in Houston organized in 1918 as Daisy Troop #1. Leaders back then were called Captain. The 12 members and their Captain, Erlene Tysinger reportedly had a lot of fun together, especially cooking and camping outdoors. 

Left: Early Girl Scout. Taken from How Girls Can Help Their Country (1916).
Right: Houston's first troop, Daisy Troop #1 (1918).
Similar to today, Daisy Troop #1 raised money by selling cookies, but ones they had to bake themselves. Captain Tysinger taught the girls to bake the cookies, package them in bags, secure them with string and sell them on the banks of White Oak Bayou on the weekends. We know that with some of their funds they purchased a brass bugle, a basketball and a tent. 

The girls practiced marching like the WW1 Soldiers they watched in parades. When other girls heard about the fun, they wanted to become Girl Scouts too. So Captain Tysinger and the girls of Troop #1 traveled around Houston, often by trolley, to help other groups of girls learn how to become Girl Scouts.

A Place to Call Home

By 1921, there were three Girl Scout troops with 35 girls in Houston. Corrine Fonde and Frances Mann Law, our “founding mothers,” organized these troops and a group of interested adults into a Council and applied for a charter. Girl Scouts of the USA granted the charter in April of 1922. 

Left: "The Little House" (1926). Right: Corrine Fonde and Frances Mann Law. 
By that time there were 16 troops! It is exciting to think that Mrs. Law, who was on the National Girl Scout Board of Directors, knew Juliette Gordon Low personally. Perhaps Mrs. Law was at the meeting when Juliette Low reportedly stood on her head to show off the latest Girl Scout shoes to the national board!

The first permanent headquarters for Girl Scouts in Houston was given by the Elks Club in 1926. It was located on city property along White Oak Bayou and called “The Little House.” 

The building contained office space as well as rooms for girl activities. Community merchants, members of the Council, and girls provided the furnishings.

Camp Life

Houston Girl Scouts held their first summer camp in 1922. A different campsite was used every year until 1929. That year Jim West, a well known Houston realtor, offered land on his ranch near Clear Lake. It was named Camp Tejas. Girls camped there for 30 years. 

Left: Campers at Camp Morse (1923). Right: Houston Girl Scouts proudly stand by the banner given for perfect inspection. Frances Foster, second from the left, later earned the Golden Eaglet (1924).
Generous donations form Houston citizens made a permanent camp possible for Girl Scouts. It was located on leased land near Clear Lake. Girls learned to swim in the bayou before it became polluted. Camp Tejas was used for 30 years by happy girls, counselors, and leaders. Some of today’s troop leaders remember camping there as a girl.

Lasting Values

Girl Scouts was never just about fun and games, of course. One of Houston's first Hispanic troops was photographed in the February 1925 issue of American Girl magazine, clearing an alley so they could plant flowers for a community. 

American Girl (1925)

Girl Scouts were instructed in values such as leadership, friendship, equality, service to others, and were also encouraged to be active members in their communities. These are still things strongly encouraged today through Girl Scout service projects, the Bronze Award, Silver Award and Gold Award, Journeys and the My Promise My Faith program.
Pilgrim Congregational Church, Brownie Troop (1940)

Where it matters, the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council is still the same today--better! At Girl Scouts, girls may be having tons of fun, making new friends and going to camp, but our goal is to give every girl their chance to shine with new experiences that show them they’re capable of more than they ever imagined. They’ll each find their inner G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader)™. 

For more about the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council and our programs, visit