Josephine Holloway, is a champion of diversity and was one of the first Black Girl Scout troop leaders in the United States.
Josephine wanted to bring the Girl Scout programming to girls at a local women’s shelter in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1924 she fought for that opportunity. By the end of the year more than 300 girls were participating in Girl Scout-inspired activities.
Almost 10 years later in 1933, when Blacks and other minorities in our country still faced racism and segregation, Josephine first attempted to form an official troop for Black girls. Her request was denied, the local council cited the high cost of maintaining separate facilities for Blacks.
Josephine fought on, and in 1942, after showing much perseverance, the region’s first Black Girl Scout troop was formed. During a time that segregations and oppression was still commonplace.
Learn more about Josephine Holloway and her vision, courage, and passion for bringing Girl Scouting to all girls here.
Girl Scouts is an organization with a rich history of traditions. One of my personal favorites is the tradition of exchanging, “Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere,” also lovingly known as SWAPS. These “Special Whatchamacallits” have been a part of our Girl Scout history since they first appeared in the 1950s and 60s at national Senior Roundup events. These items are small in nature but serve as the perfect reminders of Girl Scout memories and friends. Typically, SWAPS are small enough to pin to a hat or backpack, and have a tag that shares contact information for the troop or girl that is exchanging the SWAPS.
In my experience as a young Girl Scout, I most often saw SWAPS exchanges while at summer camp or large events. Nowadays there are ways to send SWAPS nationwide, similar to a pen pal connection. Back in September of 2020, one of our GSHPA volunteers told me of how her troop had spent all summer exchanging SWAPS with troops not only nationwide, but worldwide! After hearing that, she and I agreed that a SWAPS exchange within GSHPA would be a fun way for girls to connect safely during the pandemic, and thus the GSHPA SWAPS Exchange event was born!
We had 9 Juliettes and 66 troops participate in our first GSHPA SWAPS exchange. Now not only did participants get to connect with troops across our council footprint, they also got to show their creativity in more ways than one! Our girls thought of some very creative SWAPS ideas to fit our winter theme, but they also used their creativity to find a way to make these SWAPS during the pandemic, at a time that in person troop meetings were not allowed. Again and again throughout the pandemic I have been amazed at how well our girls handle the ever-constant change, and adapt to our new virtual way of life. With Zoom meetings happening for school and other extracurricular activities like Girl Scouts, it is so great to see the girls’ creativity continue to shine through! I don’t know about you, but it makes me super proud to be a Girl Scout!
Staying connected with friends and family today can be as easy as pulling out of your cell phone. Many of our relationships are only a click and a Wi-Fi connection away. As the holiday season is approaching in a year as uncertain as 2020, these conveniences are appreciated even more and allow us to connect with our loved ones safely. With so many new and virtual ways to communicate, have you ever stopped to think of other ways to connect? As a fun example, did you know that you can actually mail a single potato with a message written on it to someone? While that’s a pretty silly example, think of all the other options! What about sending messages in a bottle? Morse code? Carrier Pigeons? Yodeling? All of these, at one time or another, were commonly used ways to communicate!
At Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA we wanted to look for ways to keep troops connected outside of their computer screens and app-based communications. In Girl Scouts, we have a well-loved tradition of exchanging SWAPS to stay connected with new friends. GSHPA embraced this tradition and thought this fall was the perfect time to hold a council wide SWAPS event! The tradition of exchanging SWAPS, or “Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere”, first became popular in the 1950s and 1960s at Girl Scout events. SWAPS can be a great way to share contact information to stay connected with new friends after largescale events and activities, like Girl Scout Camp! GSHPA’s council wide SWAPS exchange connected over 75 troops throughout our 30-county footprint who may not have otherwise met! In an age where much of our daily communication can be done virtually, it was such a nice change of pace to get crafty and connect in a different way by mail!
Speaking of mail, did you know that December is “National Letter Writing” Month? While it might be easier to send a quick text, snapchat, or direct message, we want to challenge you to try writing three letters this month! Many readers may remember a time when the only way to connect with friends and family was by sending letters or using the landline phone to call and chat. While we have much faster ways of communicating now, there is something special about taking the time to hand write a letter to a loved one or friend. Unfortunately, due to the current circumstances, many people are unable to visit their loved ones, but there are many ways that you can help! You may consider writing letters to those in nursing homes, overseas or try making cards to send to friends and family over the holiday season.
If you are looking for inspiration, we have included a few ways to get involved by sending letters and cards below. Some of these organizations may have quickly approaching deadlines to ensure everything arrives in time for the holidays, but keep in mind that sending cards and letters is definitely not limited to this time of year!
A Million Thanks: send a letter of appreciation and support for our military (active, reserve and veterans).
Love for Our Elders: send fun and creative cards to those who are in nursing homes away from loved ones.