Golden eagle of merit ???
What's in a name? I've wondered a lot about that as I was researching the Golden Eagle of Merit for the website. We've always read that in the beginning of Girl Scouting, in this case - 1916 - the highest award that could be attained by a Girl Scout was the Golden Eagle of Merit. This lasted until 1919, when a new program with a newly redesigned eagle pin was launched as the Golden Eaglet.
So why is it so hard to find information on the Golden Eagle of Merit? To be sure, the 1918 GS catalog offered an image of the pin - and it's shown here.
But it appears no one called it the Golden Eagle of Merit, but rather used the term Golden Eaglet as early as 1917.
I present here my argument that the title "Golden Eagle of Merit" was never really used by Girl Scouting and that the highest award was simply called the Golden Eaglet from the start. (except for the one instance in the 1918 catalog.)
Argument #1 - I use Newspapers.com as one of my resources for research. When I type in "Golden Eagle of Merit" between 1912 - 1930, all I got back were 2 references to Golden Eagle Merit and they were dated 1922 or later, when the supposed name change had already happened. When I used Google, all I got back were recent entrees about the 100th Anniversary of the Golden Eagle of Merit. I couldn't find any information from the 1916-1919 time period.
In June of 1917, when Eleanor Peyton Putzki was awarded hers, the Washington Post ran an article about her accomplishments. It's listed as the "Golden Eaglet." It is clear in the photo that Eleanor's pin is in the shape of the Golden Eagle of Merit.
This information was carried by many other newspapers.
This news clipping from a March 1918 syndicated article by The International Syndicate. (In this case syndicated means that article ran in several newspapers.) The full page article gave the history of the Girl Scouts (it was all of 6 years old at the time) and the many war-time activities and other adventures that Girl Scouting is known for.
In this clipping they explain that the highest award for Girl Scouting was the Golden Eaglet! It also noted that only four girls had earned it so far;
Delia Damon of MA was first, presented by Agnes Baden-Powell
Eleanor Putzki of D.C. presented by First Lady Mrs. Wilson
Helen McWhinney of MA - listed here as Eleanor
Ruth Coleman of D.C. had earned it but not received it yet. (After this article was published Ruth was presented her Golden Eaglet by First Lady Mrs. Woodrow Wilson on April 8, 1918.)
This huge article that tried to spread the good works and efforts of Girl Scouting called the highest award a Golden Eaglet!
You'd think by now Juliette Low would have insisted that the newspapers get the name of Girl Scouting's highest award right, but as you can see - Miss Ruth Edna Coleman was awarded a "Golden Eaglet."
Yet we can see that it's the design of the Golden Eagle of Merit.
The 1918 launch of the longest Girl Scout movie to date, that even has Juliette Low herself in it, isn't called the Golden Eagle of Merit but The Golden Eaglet.
An argument could be made that the National Headquarters mentioned in the article already knew that the name of the award would be changed in the coming year. Yet Juliette Low is pinning a Golden Eagle of Merit to the actress' uniform.
Screen shot of Juliette Low bestowing Margaret Ferris a Golden Eaglet.
Well, maybe if an adult earns the award, the newspapers might get the name correct?
Nope - Mrs. Charles D Weirick received the Golden Eaglet, just like everyone else.
This January 1919 article notes that Mrs. Daniel Stucki and Octavia F. Sheldon of Buffalo, NY are just two of the six who have earned...(wait for it).... the Golden Eaglet!
Finally, the January 30, 1919 National Headquarters announces that sometime around May 1, 1919 the requirements for Girl Scouting's highest award will change with the publication of the new handbook. In October 1919 they announce the new pin design is ready. What don't they mention here? A name change for the award - changing it from Golden Eaglet of Merit to the Golden Eaglet. Why isn't it mentioned? I think it's because no one ever called it the Golden Eagle of Merit.