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Girl Scout History Spotlight: Edith Macy, Founder of Girl Scouts University

January 4, 2016

Edith Macy Girl Scouts

By Meridith Orr, Program Executive

After joining Girl Scouts as an adult, I felt as if I had so much to learn about our Movement.  One time I’d wished out loud that there was such a thing as Girl Scouts University, only to be told that, in fact, there was one!  And a few years later, I’d have the privilege of attending a conference there.

This amazing opportunity was the legacy of one of our most important members, Mrs. Edith Macy, who served as the chair of the Girl Scouts Executive Board from 1919 to 1925. According to Juliette Gordon Low’s biographer, Stacy Cordery, Daisy Low considered her “the pivot that kept our whole organization in harmony.”  Beloved for her “consideration and tactful nature,” Edith Macy dreamed of a national training center for Girl Scout leaders. She passed away unexpectedly in 1925.

As a memorial to his wife, V. Everit Macy donated two hundred acres of land near Westchester, New York for the purpose of fulfilling her vision. Furthermore, he established a generous endowment to build up the camp, a sum which he later doubled.  By 1926, the site was dedicated as Camp Edith Macy, and was the site of the 1926 World Camp.

Preparations for the camp began in earnest while Daisy Low stepped up her efforts to build an international sisterhood of Girl Scouts, traveling to England for the International Council of Girl Guides committee meeting. While she was away “the national staff bent their every effort to making Camp Edith Macy a reality,” Cordery wrote.

Despite Daisy Low’s failing health, she realized her mission of the World Camp, which also resulted in one of our most cherished Girl Scout traditions. The delegates agreed to an international Thinking Day, “on which Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world should remember each other and send messages of friendship and goodwill flashing across the world by the wireless of thought.  They settled on the date of February 22, the shared birthday of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and his wife, Olave Baden-Powell, the founder of Girl Guides. The final day of the World Camp saw Daisy Low presenting the Golden Eaglet to Lady Baden-Powell.

Today the site is called the Edith Macy Conference Center, and it now features accommodations for staff and volunteer training.  It is also open to both nonprofit and for-profit organizations for meetings and training events.  The front entrance to the conference building is built at the same elevation as and facing the Great Hall, the site of the 1926 World Camp. This was done so that all who enter the Macy Center will remember the remarkable history of our Movement and our mission to build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.

Have you ever visited the Macy Center?  How did it help you as a Girl Scout?  Share a memory with us in the comments!

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