Girl Pioneers of America

 

Legend has it that the muddled beginnings of the Camp Fire Girls came from the mixing pot girls club called the Girl Pioneers of America (GPA), and then further back to a theater summer club in Vermont. The girls of the theater troupe called themselves Camp Fire Girls and they were working on celebrating the 150 anniversary pageant of the village. Now their website takes it back even further, to 1907.

The history has certainly been sanitized through the years.

Lost in all the revisions is that the Gulicks and others didn't like the direction that this new girl group created by bunch of adults in New York City. So they ditched it and retreated to Maine and formally created their own using their beloved term "Camp Fire Girls."

So what happened with this crafted girls club called the Girl Pioneers of America (GPA)? Well, they truly were created from the thoughts, ideas and memberships of three girls groups already going; Girl Guides (Spokane, WA), Girl Scouts of America (Des Moines, IA) - not to be confused with the Girl Scout of the United States of America (GSUSA) that survives today, and Camp Fire Girls, which as stated above, took their "ball" and went home.

The GPA notes in the history of their organization in the 1923 official manual that they got their foundation and plan formed in 1910, and their first meeting was on February 8, 1912 in Flushing, NY.

Who was the "founder" of GPA? Good question. It's tough to decided when something is created by a committee. At first, Mrs. Ernest Thompson Seton looked poised to be remembered as founder, but the official manual lists Lina Beard as the founder. Yet, when Lina's sister Adelia Beard died, she was noted as the founder/co-founder. Murky history at best.


 

The official manual of the Girl Pioneers of America, fourth edition, 1923.

The uniform was khaki, likely twill  - a completely common fabric for outdoorsy girl groups at the time. Even the styling is similar, middy styled blouse with skirt, red triangular tie, felt hat with a red band and bloomers for camp wear.

 

Girl Pioneers of America Merit Badges:

Animals: Mary Allerton Badge

Agriculture: Catherine Carver Badge

Art: Martha Jefferson Badge

Attendance: Priscilla Alden Badge

Birdcraft: Desire Minter Badge

Business: Margaret Brent Badge

Camping: Mary Moore Badge

National Civics: Martha Washington Badge

Civics: Anne Hutchinson Badges

Cooking: Mary Brewster Badge

Entertainment: Anne Bailey Badge

Fish: Polly Crockett Badge

First Aid: Clara Barton Badge

Five Senses (Sight): Mary Bartlett Badge

Five Senses (Hearing): Barbara Fritche Badge

Five Senses (Tasting): Elizabeth Tilley Badge

Five Senses (Smelling): Eliza Wilkinson Badge

Five Senses (Touching): Alice Bradford Badge

Handicraft: Nancy Lincoln Badge

Home Crafts: Elizabeth Kenton Badge

Health: Catherine Sevier Badge

Invalid Nursing: Barbara Standish Badge

Music: Elizabeth Winslow Badge

Pioneering: Mary Chilton Badge

Patriotism: Molly Pitcher Badge

Resourcefulness: Betsy Ross Badge

Sports and Games: Rebecca Boone Badge

Badges were all named after women and were worn on the right sleeve above the elbow.

 

early newspaper header on the youth clubs page

 

 

Although at one point the Girl Pioneers of America claimed 50,000 memberships, it never really gained any traction in the busy "girl club" world. By the 1920's mentions of the GPA are thin, the last one being in 1928.