March 22, 2019
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A Sweet Tradition

The Girl Scouts celebrate 100 years of strong girls and community service
The 1940s-era Girl Scout uniform of the late Isabella Fine.

What do Lucy Himstedt, Katie Couric, Jean Brubeck, Hillary Clinton, and the late Isabella Fine all have in common? They are all great women, and they all were Girl Scouts. The organization celebrates 100 years in March, and here in Southwest Indiana, their good works (and delicious cookies) keep going. Founded by Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low in Savannah, Ga., in 1912, the Girl Scouts of the United States reached the Tri-State area in about 1923.

The early history of the local troops is not entirely clear. Lone troops sprung up around the area from 1923 until 1932 when officially recognized troops were recorded — the first in Jasper, Ind. A Brownie troop organized at St. Benedict Cathedral in Evansville that year, and the newspapers reported interest in Girl Scouting had grown so prevalent that more than 250 members were on the rosters by summer. That year, the first rally — held to bring the troops together — took place in Evansville. It drew 285 in attendance at the Agoga Tabernacle (a Bible study congregation located on Fourth Street).

In 1933, the official Girl Scout Committee began supervising the local troops’ activity. The late Evaline Karges, wife of Edwin Karges Sr. (son of Karges Furniture founder Albert Karges) and chair of the committee, began an important tradition that fall: she contacted the Century Biscuit Company in Indianapolis to produce 3,750 dozen cookies to sell as a fundraiser. Her carefully preserved notes following that first sale reported only eight boxes left over.

In early 1937, as flood waters covered much of Evansville, Girl Scouts rallied to the community’s needs and served countless hours in the local Red Cross headquarters making bandages, tending to infants and small children left homeless, and assisting in gathering dry clothes for flood-ravaged citizens citywide. During World War II, local Girl Scouts worked in area hospitals and helped out at the USO stations, serving donuts to soldiers en route to Europe and the Pacific.

Today, no longer just the Raintree Council, the organization is called Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana. CEO Jan Davies says the new name reflects the “geographic anchor” of its territory in the local area. The organization serves almost 10,000 people every day through the work of 5,600 girls and 1,500 adult volunteers. And those cookies? Locally, more than 450,000 boxes were sold in 2011, representing 60 percent of the local council’s budget.

Beginning March 16, an exhibit will be on display at the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science to commemorate the 100th anniversary, and will include the uniform worn by Isabella Fine among other treasures of the Girl Scouts.


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