Vintage Girl Scout uniforms set stage for premiere

Gretchen CrawleyDowntown, Our Town Youth

Girl Scouts, which was founded in 1912, started with the belief that girls could do anything. Although women were not able to vote until 1920, that idea inspired girls to get involved in the women’s suffrage movement. More than 100 years later, Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians and the Women’s Suffrage Coalition partnered to present a performance about the historic ratification

An attendee of the “A Vote of Her Own” musical debut stops to speak with Girl Scouts serving as ushers in vintage uniforms. Pictured are: Sumaya Blevins, Georgia Smith and Kyra Wray.

Women’s Suffrage Coalition founder Wanda Sobieski, a Knoxville attorney, collaborated with Candace Corrigan, playwright and creator of “A Vote of Her Own,” to showcase the musical, which celebrates 100 years of voting rights for American women. The premiere was held Aug. 20 at downtown Knoxville’s Bijou Theatre. As Sobieski and Corrigan were planning the premiere, they reached out to Girl Scouts to engage a younger generation in the special event.

Twelve Girl Scouts volunteered to be ushers at the play and registered to complete a workshop to earn their Suffrage Centennial patch before the performance. Most exciting of all, the girls wore authentic, vintage uniforms from the Girl Scout Museum at Daisy’s Place, which is part of the Girl Scout Council of Southern Appalachians.

Joni Morgan, co-director of the museum, scoured the museum’s collection of more than 500 uniforms for pieces dating to 1918.

“I wanted the uniforms they wore to accurately reflect how Girl Scouts looked at the time and to give the girls a unique connection to the organization’s past,” Morgan said.

The girls learned more about women’s suffrage and how Girl Scouts supported voting rights a century ago at the badge workshop. Although the organization did not formally endorse suffrage, seeing it as a political cause, many Girl Scouts leaders participated in the movement.

After the passage of women’s suffrage in 1920, Girl Scouts proudly wore their uniforms and offered to care for children near polling stations so mothers could exercise their new right. At “A Vote of Her Own,” Girl Scouts put their new knowledge to use, sharing stories with attendees about those who helped achieve progress and the uniforms that they wore while doing so.

“That audience saw the value in women’s history, respecting it and telling it to the next generation,” said Madison Williams, program manager for Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians. “Many of them were former Girl Scouts and were impressed that we preserved our organization’s history through the uniforms and other museum collections. As the leading movement for girls in the country, we impart that knowledge to Girl Scouts so they can write the next chapter.”

Candace Corrigan and ushers: Girl Scouts from across the Southern Appalachians region smile with “A Vote of Her Own” playwright Candace Corrigan at the musical premiere inside Knoxville’s Bijou Theatre. Pictured are: Abigail Bennett, Zoe Cristy, Candace Corrigan, Sumaya Blevins, Ruth Shved, Georgia Smith, Arabelle Wray, Kyra Wray, Alyssa McConaha, Ana Berkheimer, Kaelyn Flanagan, Ana Berkheimer and Kylie McConaha.

The Girl Scout Museum at Daisy’s Place, located at 1567 Downtown West Blvd., in Knoxville, is a wellspring for Girls Scouts of all ages and is run by volunteers. Guests can try on uniforms, explore the archival library, interact with hands-on exhibits and more for free. Troops also can access portable programs to bring the museum to their meetings. Call 800-474-1912 for visiting and volunteering information. Girl Scout members are accepted year-round – visit girlscoutcsa.org/join or text JOIN to 59618.

Gretchen Crawley is VP of communications for Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians. 

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