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updated: 10/22/2011 2:28 PM

DuPage history museum to open Girl Scout exhibit

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By J. Eakins
Wheaton Park District submission

Jane Doyle and Rosemarie Courtney are historians.

Not your typical, bespeckled historians -- these women manage an ever-growing collection of games, paper dolls, jewelry and camping gear for a parade of young female visitors.

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Once a week, they volunteer to help organize memorabilia for the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Girl Scouts at its Lisle office.

"My current favorite is a tick-tack-toe game that's the size of a big button. It was a prize you got for buying your uniform back in the late '40s," Courtney said. "I just taught my 7-year-old granddaughter to play tick-tack-toe. Time goes by, but we're the same."

Doyle is quick to agree.

"Girls are fascinated by this stuff. Seeing what other girls have done in the past shows our girls today they can do everything and anything they can imagine," she said.

Girl Scouting was founded in Savannah, Ga., in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low, a woman considered quite forward-thinking for her time. She believed girls needed exercise, fresh air and training in practical skills. Those skills became the badges we know today.

"There's a story that Juliette used to hang bed sheets around her yard when the girls came to her house for a meeting," Doyle said, explaining that the sheets gave the girls privacy to play ball without the long, cumbersome skirts they normally wore.

"They ran around in the backyard in special uniform bloomers."

From needlework to website designer badges, the Girl Scouts organization has been helping girls do everything and anything for nearly 100 years.

This fall, the Girl Scouts of the USA begins a yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of an organization that has touched the lives of millions of girls.

To honor the anniversary, DuPage County Historical Museum will display one of the largest and longest-running Girl Scout history exhibits in Illinois. The grand opening is from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, at the museum, 102 E. Wesley St., Wheaton. The exhibit, which runs through April 30, will highlight the last hundred years using uniforms, photos and artifacts.

Opening festivities will include prizes and giveaways, such as a special American Girl Doll and other gift baskets. Cookies will be served.

"It's a feather in our cap to host such a prestigious exhibit," said Sara Buttita, the museum's educator. "Presenting the history of community organizations like the Girl Scouts is a fun part of the museum's mission."

The museum plans to do more than merely present history with this exhibit; historians also will collect oral histories of Girl Scouts and leaders from across DuPage County and offer badge opportunities for current Scouts during the six-month exhibit run.

The "Tell Us Your Girl Scout Stories" questionnaire will be available for visitors at the exhibit, as well as online opportunities for posting memories through the museum's website.

Kellie Borter Donlevy, a current leader for both of her daughters' troops, encouraged her family's company, Borter Heating and Air Conditioning in Wheaton, to provide corporate sponsorship for the exhibit.

"Girl Scouts is a bridge to an outside world," Donlevy said. "We chose to support this exhibit because it recognizes the accomplishments of girls in our community, our nation and the whole world, really. It gives our girls the perspective of history -- that small efforts matter. And, sometimes, they grow into something even bigger and (more) wonderful."

For details, call (630) 510-4941 or visit dupagemuseum.org.

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