Lou Hoover and ‘The American Girl’

1936 Lou Hoover, president of the Girl Scouts, giving a national speech over the radio on "What does the future hold in store for our daughters."
Lou Hoover, president of the Girl Scouts, giving a national speech over the radio on “What does the future hold in store for our daughters.” ca 1936

Lou Hoover was in the midst of her second tenure as President of the Girl Scouts in October 1936 when she received a letter from Jean Magee.  Magee was a high school junior tasked with writing a term paper on ‘The American Girl.’  She judged Lou Hoover to be the best authority on the subject. Unable to ‘sit beside you while you tell me what qualities you would like to see in a real American girl,’ Magee posed eight questions in her letter, among them:

What are your ideas of the true American girl?
Do you think the girl of today is a true American?
Do you believe that her interest in outdoor life and various sports has had a tendency to spoil her womanhood or develop it?

Lou Hoover received so many letters of this type that she could not possibly reply to all.  Lou read this letter with interest and had her secretary Edith Harcourt respond by citing relevant passages from an address Mrs. Hoover gave at a Girl Scout convention.

‘The Old Scouts, the old pioneers were, were pushing ahead to better lands, better conditions, better ways of living….  Is the American girl not doing this very thing with her frontiers today? Is she not searching for new and better ways, not for herself but also for helping others?’  For Lou Hoover, the answer to this question was obviously yes.  The modern American girl, especially one involved in scouting or girls’ athletics, was every inch equal to her fore-mothers.

Lou Hoover concluded: ‘A mind, an eye, a hand accustomed to coordinate successfully in one or more handicrafts or skills will do good teamwork in anything new they undertake together.  A person accustomed in the small affairs of youth to recognize the factors of a situation, to estimate the needs, and to do what is within the owner’s power to improve things, is ready at maturity to recognize and assume adequate responsibility in the larger problems that come before her.’

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