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2012: The Girl Scouts of America turns 100

March 12, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the first organized meeting of the Girl Scouts, hosted in Georgia by founder Juliette Gordon Low.  Several years later, as First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt served as Honorary President of that organization throughout her tenure in the White House.

Eleanor Roosevelt pictured with Girl Scouts in Kentucky. 1934.

Eleanor Roosevelt pictured with Girl Scouts in Kentucky. July 7, 1934.

In the 1930s and 40s individual Scouts sent letters, scrapbooks and gifts to both the President and Mrs. Roosevelt.  Below is one such letter to ER from Scout Julie Ann Dorr, then age 11, sent in August of 1941. She wrote to the First Lady: “I thought you would be interested in hearing Camp Osito news, including word about the horses they have up there.”

Letter from and 11-year-old Girl Scout, August 1941

Page 1 of a letter from an 11-year-old Girl Scout, August 1941.

Click here to Read the entire letter along with Mrs. Roosevelt’s August 21 My Day column that inspired Dorr to write.

We thought this would be a great photo to share in celebration of International Women’s Day:

Eleanor Roosevelt and Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt displays a Spanish language version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Lake Success, NY, November 1949.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948 in the midst of an especially bitter phase of the Cold War. Many people contributed to this remarkable achievement, but most observers believe that the UN Commission on Human Rights, which drafted the declaration, would not have succeeded in reaching agreement without the leadership of the Commission’s chair: Eleanor Roosevelt. ER herself regarded her role in drafting and securing adoption of the Declaration as her greatest achievement.

Read the whole story of Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

August 5, 1939

“HYDE PARK, Friday—The other day, I was sent a most amusing page from a magazine called “Future” “The Magazine For Young Men.” An article by Dr. S. N. Stevens, which contains the following quotation was marked for my attention:

“Women are generally more intuitive than empirical. In other words, they play hunches instead of examining facts in the evaluation of a situation. And I have never yet seen one who, in a tight spot, didn’t try to take advantage of the fact that she was a woman.”

I am willing to agree to the first part of the paragraph. Women have so much intuition and are so much quicker to feel things than men are, that they occasionally count too much on that particular gift. However, the woman who has trained herself has the advantage over a man in that she still has her intuition, but to it she has added his gift of examining facts and evaluating all the factors entering into a situation. As to the second half of his statement, I’ll grant some women do it, but they are never the women who succeed in their jobs. They are the ones who always preyed on men and always will, for that is a job in itself.

The fine women in the home or on the job learn to stand on their own feet. In fact, there are so many occasions when a woman is in a tight spot which only she herself can face, that it is rather rare to find her turning to anyone else and trying to share her burden or ask for assistance on the ground that she is a woman.

What good would it do to try to get someone else to stand by when you are about to have a baby? What good would it do to turn to anyone else if your husband drank and you had to try to collect his wages before they were all spent? A woman may use her womanly wiles to help her in tight spots, but she isn’t trading on being a woman, she is just handling the job which is hers, and frequently it is the job of handling a man and making him think he isn’t being handled. These doctors and editors who write for magazines like this are very clever, but they should know a little more about women and real life before they venture to write about them…”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

July 14, 1939

“NEW YORK, Thursday…A number of letters have come to me complaining bitterly about the fact that I said in an article recently that the repeal of prohibition had been a crusade carried on by women. I know quite well, of course, that the Democratic Party took the stand in its platform that prohibition should be repealed. I have always felt, however, that the women’s organization for repeal, which was a nonpartisan organization, laid the groundwork which finally brought about the vote for repeal.

I was one of those who was very happy when the original prohibition amendment passed. I thought innocently that a law in this country would automatically be complied with, and my own observation led me to feel rather ardently that the less strong liquor anyone consumed the better it was. During prohibition I observed the law meticulously, but I came gradually to see that laws are only observed with the consent of the individuals concerned and a moral change still depends on the individual and not on the passage of any law.

Little by little it dawned upon me that this law was not making people drink any less, but it was making hypocrites and law breakers of a great number of people. It seemed to me best to go back to the old situation in which, if a man or woman drank to excess, they were injuring themselves and their immediate family and friends and the act was a violation against their own sense of morality and no violation against the law of the land.

I could never quite bring myself to work for repeal, but I could not oppose it, for intellectually I had to agree that it was the honest thing to do. My contacts are wide and I see a great many different groups of people, and I cannot say that I find that the change in the law has made any great change in conditions among young or old in the country today.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

April 6, 1962

“ST. LOUIS…On April 9 the Children’s Bureau of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare will celebrate its 50th year of service to the nation’s children.

I can remember well the hard work on the part of many women that went into the establishment of this agency. It was the feeling of these women that our children were entitled to the highest standards of care, and this included consideration of the needs of the mothers of our country as well.

Ours was the first country in the world to establish a Children’s Bureau, and since our pioneer effort more than a score of nations has followed the example. The emphasis in the early days was on the reduction of infant mortality. However, the agency soon realized that much of what it wanted to accomplish would have to be done by the states themselves, and the states were enabled to promote programs with the support of the Federal bureau. Thus, much progress has been achieved in medical, surgical and scientific development in state programs of child care.

It is interesting to note that one of the bureau’s publications, “Infant Care,” is the all-time government best-seller. Four other of its publications have ranked among the first six top-selling government booklets. At the time the bureau was established, authoritative child-care publications were practically nonexistent.

The Children’s Bureau has worked as a partner with both public and voluntary agencies. It has insisted on high standards of care, providing guide lines for child welfare services, and is ever watchful for new scientific developments that might benefit the children of our country. For its work the women of America should be grateful and give the bureau their warm support.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

“WASHINGTON, Wednesday—Last night’s meeting of the National Library for the Blind was quite an inspiring occasion. Miss Helen Keller’s efforts for those who are similarly affected and her willingness to give of herself was a very touching sight.

She spoke of the few books that were available in Braille when she was in college and what it would mean for the blind to have the constantly expanding field of a library of such books.

The National Library for the Blind is a nationwide organization and I hope that it will enlist the interests of the people throughout the country. As I sat on the platform and looked at the people who in spite of their handicap are doing so much, I could not help but to think of what an obligation their example puts on the rest of us…”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

February 25, 1952

“KARACHI, Pakistan, Sunday…The All-Pakistan Women’s Association showed me also a small maternity clinic which they started in a refugee camp under considerable difficulties, since water in the area is only turned on for two hours in the morning and two at night and they have no running water as yet in the clinic. They have no electricity, so that if they have night cases they must use lamps. But the conditions certainly are better than in the refugee huts, for they are clean and sanitary. In this same maternity center, all children of that area of refugees come in with cups every morning and get a spoonful of cod liver oil and a cup of milk.

We visited another camp of refugees a little later where I thought conditions were particularly bad. They had animals right in with them—goats, sheep, chickens and cows, all tied to the door or staked down and scratching around in the sand. The smell in some parts was not very pleasant and the flies were something beyond description. These conditions are what make the health problem so difficult at the present time, but I must say the women are valiantly struggling to do their share in meeting the problems.

Friday afternoon I saw a demonstration of the activities of the Pakistan Women’s National Reserve and National Guard. They paraded for us, did exercises, and demonstrated the work of their various branches in civil defense by simulating an air raid. They are trained in clerical work, nursing, fire fighting and self-defense. While the work seemed to me as yet not very professional, it is of great value to get it started.

I’ve seen schools which the women have started for refugee children, and it seems to me the teachers are doing a wonderful job. I’ve also visited industrial centers and shops were cottage industries sell their products. All this is again the work of women.

In the evening I addressed a group of university students at the YMCA and later attended a dinner given by the Pakistan United Nations Association. It was indeed gratifying to see what an active association there is here and to know that they observe United Nations Day and are actively trying to promote knowledge of the work of the United Nations.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

October 4, 1945

“NEW YORK, Wednesday—For a long time I have wanted to draw attention to the remarkable contribution made by the trained nurses of the United States in this war. Just lately I came across an article that gives some figures and facts which I think should reach as many people as possible. Over 100,000 of the 242,500 active professional nurses volunteered and were certified for the Army and Navy nursing service. There has been a larger number of war service volunteers from the nursing profession than from any other profession. This is not strange, of course, since nursing is naturally the field where trained women would be called upon to a greater extent than from any other field.

I think we should not forget, however, that when this large percentage of our trained nursing force was taken out of civilian life, the burden borne by those left at their usual occupations was increased by almost 50 percent.

* * *

Army and Navy nurses are still on duty in every branch of the service. As of June 30, 1945, 65,216 were still on duty with the services. It is interesting to note the sources from which these nurses were drawn—64 percent of them came from institutions and hospitals, and that is why there has been the great need for volunteers in those same institutions at home during the war. Seventeen percent came from private duty, and anyone who has been forced to have a private nurse in the last few years can readily believe that and perhaps wonder why the percentage is not higher! Five percent came from Public Health; three percent from the comparatively new field of industrial nursing, and the remainder from scattered sources.

Awards and citations have already been bestowed on 964 Army and Navy nurses. I hope that some general recognition can be given to the nurses who served in the war, and that more of those whose jobs were hard and grinding, if not particularly spectacular, will receive some special recognition. For instance, I think of the nurses who moved into the concentration camps of Europe to care for the poor creatures who had spent such long and horrible days under very bad conditions. The working and living conditions must have been horrible for the nurses as well.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

July 24, 1937

“HYDE PARK, Friday—…I received the other day an appeal from an organization which had as its purpose the removal from all employment of any married women whose husbands earned enough to support them. Who is to say when a man earns enough to support his family? Who is to know, except the individuals themselves what they need for daily living or what their responsibilities are, often hidden from the public eye? There are few families indeed who do not have some members outside their own immediately family who need assistance. Added to this, who is to say whether a woman needs to work for the good of her own soul outside her home? Many women can find all the work they need and all the joy they need and all the interest they need in life in their own homes and in the volunteer community activities of their environment. Because of this I have received many critical letters from women complaining that other women were taking paid jobs who did not need them; that they were working for luxuries and not for necessities, that men were being kept out of jobs who had families to support by these selfish and luxury loving creatures. I have investigated a good many cases and find that on the whole, the love of work is not so great, those who are gainfully employed are usually working because of some real need. There are a few, however, who work because something in them craves the particular kind of work which they are doing, or an inner urge drives them to do a job. They are not entirely satisfied with work in the home. This does not mean that they are not good mothers and good housekeepers, but they need some other stimulus in life. Frequently they provide work for other people and if they suddenly ceased their activities, many other people might lose their jobs. As a rule these women belong to the creative type.

It seems to me that the tradition of respect for work is so ingrained in this country that it is not surprising that fathers have handed it down to their daughters as well as to their sons. I wonder if we are not going to feel more respect in the coming years for the women who work and give work to others, than for the women who sit at home with many idle hours on their hands. One fill their time with occupations which may indirectly provide work for others, but which give them none of the satisfaction of real personal achievement.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

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