Girl Scouting's centennial illustrates how movement has evolved

Girl Scouts across America are celebrating the organization’s 100th anniversary this year, and La Cañada Flintridge’s Lanterman House is getting in on the festivities.

The museum will be opening an exhibition on the history of the Girl Scouts on Feb.5 and hosting a birthday party for scouting on March 18.

Christie Crahan, a member of the Girl Scouts Greater Los Angeles Council’s Heritage Committee, said the abiding theme of the exhibition and events is the connection between the organization’s past and present.

“The whole exhibit is going to explore how Girl Scouts has evolved and changed, and what it did for the 21st-century woman,” she said.

Crahan said the Heritage Committee pulled from its own collection, as well as from private collections of Girl Scout memorabilia, to put together a group of photographs, videos, uniforms, books and dolls that explains the organization’s growth over the past 100 years — including some wardrobe changes.

“There are [early] uniforms that are not unlike [those of] the Boy Scouts,” she said. “The Boy Scouts have pretty much stayed the same, but girls being girls, the uniforms have changed dramatically over the years,” she said.

As for how the centennial came to La Cañada, Melissa Patton, Lanterman House’s executive director, said that she reached out to the Los Angeles council after a volunteer mentioned the anniversary year.

“We actually instigated it,” she said. “I contacted the Greater Los Angeles Council and … put forth our argument that we were a beautiful historic house and a resource of community, and all about the history of the valley, and how active girls were in Scouts here in the valley.”

Although Patton is a former Girl Scout, she said she was surprised to learn so much about the organization’s history while arranging the displays.

“I’ve learned something that I think is really important, which is that the Girl Scouts is an organization that has evolved and has changed with the changing times in the 20th century,” she said. “I didn’t realize how good they’d been at doing that until we started working on this exhibition.”

While the Girl Scouts have changed over the last century, Crahan said that the Lanterman House, built in 1915 for the pioneer Lanterman family, had the historical character necessary to be the right fit for the centennial events.

“It’s a Craftsman-style home, and it was built at the time scouting started, and so our founder Juliette Low would have been familiar with a lot of the effects in the house,” she said.

She also said that it made sense to celebrate the centennial in La Cañada, which has long been a hotbed of scouting activity.

“It’s a community that’s very involved with Girl Scouting and Boy Scouting; in the whole La Cañada, La Crescenta and Glendale area, we have hundreds of troops,” she said.

Local Junior Girl Scouts troop leader Ellen Portantino, wife of state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, said she was planning to bring most of her troop up to Lanterman House for the March 18 birthday party event.

“We have spent this whole year really emphasizing the 100-year anniversary and how important it is to Girl Scouts,” she said. “I think it’s just great for them to have a chance to take a look back and see what things looked like in the past for Girl Scouts.”

Portantino said that by connecting with the history of scouting, she hoped her girls would appreciate its mission in the present.

“Certainly how they earn badges, what they wear has all changed, but it’s an incredible mission,” she said. “And the fundamental mission is really the same as it was 100 years ago. It’s really about these girls being involved in their communities and doing good for the world, and that’s never really changed.”

For more information on the exhibition and events, visit

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