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National Maritime Day and Mariner Scouts

Every year on May 22, The United States observes National Maritime Day, a holiday created in 1933 to recognize the maritime industry. It was May 22, 1819 that the American steamship, Savannah, set sail from Savannah, Georgia on the first ever transoceanic voyage under steam power. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Division, “The United States has always been and will always be a great maritime nation. From our origins as 13 British colonies, through every period of peace and conflict since, the Merchant Marine has been a pillar in this country’s foundation of prosperity and security. They power the world’s largest economy and strengthen our ties with trading partners around the world, all while supporting our military forces by shipping troops and supplies wherever they need to go.”

So what exactly is the Merchant Marine? The Merchant Marine is the fleet of ships which carries imports and exports during peacetime and becomes a naval auxiliary during wartime to deliver troops and war material. People who are in the Merchant Marine are referred to as mariners, seamen, seafarers, or sailors, but never Marines. People who are in the Merchant Marine are not military! They are civilians, just like us, and they were crucial to victory in World War II.

Mariner Scout membership pin, 1946-1963, photo courtesy of

Mariner Scout membership pin, 1946-1963, photo courtesy of

The Mariner Girl Scout program was officially launched in 1934, just one year after National Maritime Day was created in the United States. It was created for Senior Girl Scouts who were interested in nautical activities and whose troops had access to a body of water large enough to permit a comprehensive program of Mariner activities. By 1938, only one year before the launch of WWII in Europe when Germany invaded Poland, the Mariner Scout program had swept quickly throughout the country reaching a total registration of 3,484.

1946 Catalina Island Girl Scout Mariner Camp, photo courtesy Girl Scout Collector's Guide, 2nd Edition, 2005

1946 Catalina Island Girl Scout Mariner Camp, photo courtesy of Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, 2nd Edition, 2005

Although the Mariner Scout program was officially discontinued in 1963, today it has been re-instituted in a much smaller form.

Fun fact: Juliette Gordon Low was born and raised in Savannah, Ga., the same place from which the steamship Savannah set sail for the first ever transoceanic voyage. As a child, Juliette Low was sometimes affectionately called “the little ship under full sail” by her family!


The Golden Eaglet

History Presentation at Oconee County Day Camp

Mary Ann Milton in a Mariner uniform

As part of our mission here at the Archives, we make Girl Scout history available and accessible. Many of our volunteers say that going out and speaking to groups is one of their favorite things to do. A long-time volunteer and Girl Scout, Mary Ann Milton, volunteered her time at the 2011 Oconee County Girl Scout Day Camp in Watkinsville, Georgia, on June 8.

The theme this year was “A Walk Down Memory Lane,” which combined women’s and Girl Scout history.  The camp met at the Watkinsville First Christian Church in downtown Watkinsville. The Oconee County Service Unit is located in the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia Council.

Ms. Milton reports:

“The camp only had three units: one Daisy, one Brownie and one Junior unit. They combined the Daisy and Brownie for my first presentation, then I gave a longer presentation for the Juniors. At the camp, I thought it was very interesting that each Program Aide had to pick a famous or important female in history (living or dead) and introduce herself to the group in appropriate costume for her choice. During the opening ceremony, two Program Aides presented themselves to the group and gave a short speech on why they were famous. On the wall in one of the rooms were pictures of each of their choices plus lots more.

Girls looking at the older sash, photographs, and badges

I wore the Mariner uniform, and had an old Brownie uniform and old Intermediate uniform on display. I also had my own badge sash and the badges that went with the older khaki uniform.  I described what I did as a girl and as a leader, as well as why Brownies came to be. The Juniors took the appropriate handbooks and researched what the badges were on the Junior Uniform and on the khaki badge sleeve. The Brownies and Daisies passed the books and badges around and looked at them while asking questions.

Mary Ann Milton speaking with the older girls

I showed the brown uniform shoes and the old camera, and both elicited much amazement. I also had a photo of me from 1950 in my Intermediate Uniform. The unit leaders were using the Paper Doll books for some of their activities. They also made corn husk dolls and homemade soap.”

With the new Girls’ Guide to Girl Scouting coming out in September 2011, there will be legacy badges and opportunities to learn about Girl Scout history and traditions. If your troop or group would like to see the archives, or make an appointment for one of our volunteers to come and discuss Girl Scouting with your troop/group, please contact Margaret Paschal, Archives Liaison at the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta.