Lou Henry Hoover and the Girl Scouts

by Spencer Howard

Yesterday, March 29 was Lou Henry Hoover’s birthday. Lou spent many years of her life involved with the Girl Scout movement. Here is an excerpt from a tribute written in late 1945 by Dare Stark McMullin, a friend and former secretary of Mrs. Hoover:

“Mrs. Hoover first became associated with the Girl Scout movement in 1917. Her interest in it arose from her own and her husband’s concern for the well-being of the American child. He was at that time Food Commissioner, and both he and his wife realized so keenly how the sad lack of proper food, housing, and recreational facilities had warped the lives of the war-abnormal little Europeans.

“But Lou Henry Hoover was a Girl Scout in spirit all of her life. She herself once said, ‘I was a Scout years ago, before the movement ever started, when my father took me hunting, fishing and hiking in the mountains. Then I was sorry that more girls could not have what I had. When I learned of the movement I thought, here is what I always wanted other girls to have.’

“From 1917 to the very end of her life, Girl Scouting was one of her great enthusiasms and she devoted herself to it heart and soul. During those years she served in many and varied official capacities – deputy commissioner in Washington, council member in Palo Alto, and in the national organization, vice-president, member-at-large, and chairman of the board of directors, president, honorary president and honorary vice-president. She was also a leader of her own Girl Scout troop in Washington for ten years…

“The influence of Lou Henry Hoover in Girl Scouting is difficult to evaluate. She was but one of many able women devoting themselves to the movement during its critical formative years. But her enthusiasm, indefatigable labor and prestige, certainly played an important role in developing it from a small group of about 15,000 in 1917, with troops in only a few cities, to a well established, nationwide organization at the end of 1945, with a membership of more than 840,000.”

1925-33 Lou Henry Hoover with Girl Scouts, ca. 1925.

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