March 6, 2010

It's Not About the Cookies

It’s Not About the Cookies

March 12, 1911, Juliette Gordon Low, known as Daisy to her friends registered the first 18 girls into the first Girl Guides troop. Since that time more than 50,000,000 have been given an opportunity to learn and grow as capable women in the single largest female empowerment program in the world, the Girl Scouts. Such an organization needed some way to fund its activities, and the Mistletoe Troop of Muskogee OK held the first cookie sale in December of 1917.

In July 1922, The American Girl magazine, published by Girl Scout national headquarters, featured an article by Florence E. Neil, a local director in Chicago, Illinois. Miss Neil provided a cookie recipe that was given to the council's 2,000 Girl Scouts. She estimated the approximate cost of ingredients for six- to seven-dozen cookies to be 26 to 36 cents. The cookies, she suggested, could be sold by troops for 25 or 30 cents per dozen.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Girl Scouts in different parts of the country continued to bake their own simple sugar cookies with their mothers. These cookies were packaged in wax paper bags, sealed with a sticker, and sold door to door for 25 to 35 cents per dozen.

An Early Girl Scout Cookie® Recipe

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar plus additional amount for topping (optional)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
Cream butter and the cup of sugar; add well-beaten eggs, then milk, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking powder. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Roll dough, cut into trefoil shapes, and sprinkle sugar on top, if desired. Bake in a quick oven (375°) for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Makes six- to seven-dozen cookies.

Thus began a common effort to raise funds for the Girl Scouts by selling cookies door to door. In a time far more innocent than today, it was expected that with the robins of spring the little girls in green, and their Brownie sisters, would knock on one’s door and ask if you would like to buy some cookies. The rise of the suburbs created the ideal environment for the various girls to manage some prodigious sales within a half mile of home. Even the dads of the 60’s were known to have shown up at the office with the tri-fold cardboard order forms to hit up the guys and gals for a box or two for little Becky or Susie. This created the dilemma of determining how many boxes to order from your boss knowing that Alice from the steno pool was going to asking for a box or two for her little girl.

It became impractical for the mothers and daughters to continue to bake the cookies at home and the districts began contracting the cookies out to the large industrial cookie manufacturers. In the 60’s, this created some odd bedfellows. The cookies we ate in Darien, CT were made by FFV Foods in Richmond, VA and the Richmond, VA cookies were made by the Little Debbie Bakers in Gentry, AK. The choice of baker was determined by each local district and being the local didn’t always guarantee the contract. Now, they’re down to 2 large contractors nationwide so that the peanut butter cookie in Muncie, IN tastes just like the one in Ms. Low’s home town of Savannah, Ga.

I never sold a cookie, not one……… I was never permitted to be a Girl Scout; instead, I was support staff. You see, my mother was a district cookie sales manager. That means that once the girls finished with the orders, the boxes and boxes and boxes of cookies would arrive in our garage, the car would be displaced and mountains of brown cardboard boxes each holding 12 boxes of cookies would rule the roost. As a support staff-person my job was to sort out the cookies, put them in boxes corresponding to the troops orders, 325 Thin Mints, 278 Butter Trefoils [Which had pictures of the merit badges on them], and hundreds of boxes of the others. New varieties would appear such as Samoas- we believed they’d never sell, and we lamented the departure of the Vanilla and Chocolate Cream Sandwiches.

Staff support persons also stayed home and sorted out the money that arrived while watching TV in the kitchen. Enormous piles of quarters, dimes, nickel and pennies which had to be separated counted and rolled. When done the hoard was taken to the district where they were deposited for the benefit of the thousands of smiling faces that had stood on countless front stoops and asked if we wanted “just one box”. The district cookie manager’s husband got the garage back and we collapsed after a hectic week of distribution and delivery. Her comment afterwards was always the same, “If I never see another box of cookies again it will be too soon.”

It was one of the first times in my life where I was to experience service work, to do something for others that supported a far larger common good. It felt wonderful back then as a kid to be able to be part of this tremendously exciting epochal event. For the girls, it was no mean feat to sell millions of boxes of a totally unnecessary product and have the full support and backing of their community.

It is a tradition spanning 90+ years now that has provided funds for the girls to go camping, education, training for role models, leaders and other expenses necessary to help the leaders do one simple thing, help turn little girls into empowered women. Whether that girl is struggling to find lunch in the inner city, earning a merit badge in computers, or getting her first up close and personal experience with a real live deer, the pathway to that adventure is strewn with cookie crumbs, purchased by her family, friends and neighbors.

It’s not about the cookies…………it’s about the girls; the women, mothers, leaders and role models that they become.

So go out, buy a box or 10, and let the girls know they matter.

Recipe courtesy

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