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Looking back at the history of Girl Scout bridging

Hello from the Girl Scouts of Colorado History Center in Loveland! As you probably already know, we are a Girl Scout history museum and archival center run by volunteers (see previous GSCO Blog ).

The months of May and June in Girl Scouts tend to focus on bridging and preparing for camp. Our next blog will address Girl Scout camping over the years.

Brownie level Girl Scouts began in England in 1914 and the name is based on Julia H. Ewing’s book, The Brownies. In English folklore Brownies were gentle, clever, helping fairies who came into people’s homes and discretely did good turns. The toadstool was the Brownie Scouts’ totem and the girls danced, had ceremonies and powwows around it.  The leader was called Brown Owl, and led the girls in games, dues collection (one penny) and activities toward earning their Golden Bar or Golden Hand. Brownie program spread to the United States in 1916 and were called Packs, broken down into groups of six called “sixes”. They were unofficial until about 1918 when they were recognized as “Junior Scouts” or “Brownies” if between the ages of 6 and 10. From 1923 to 2009, Girl Scouts of the USA published The Girl Scout Leader magazine. While it focused on all things Girl Scouts; organization, conventions, training and guidance for troop leaders, it wasn’t until 1930 that a column was added concerning Brownies called “Around the Toadstool.”

To view vintage Leader Magazine archives visit http://gsleader.online/ hosted by the Girl Scout History Project.

A Leader Magazine article in July ’31 addressed the importance of Brownies “flying up” at age 10 or before the summer that they may turn 10 years old. A ceremony in the Brown Book for Brown Owls, a 1926 early Brownie program guide, is referenced.


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So why are there wings for bridging from Brownies and why was it called flying up? As said above, Brownie leaders used to be called Brown Owls. When Brownie Girl Scouts moved up to a Girl Scout troop, their Brown Owl would give them one of her feathers so they could “fly” up. Brownie Wings were first used as a symbol of bridging in 1927 and they are still a sign of bridging to this day.

Today, bridging (crossing over the bridge to the next level of Girl Scouting) occurs at all levels.  Grade 1 Daisies bridge to Brownies, Grade 3 Brownies bridge to Juniors, Grade 5 Juniors bridge to Cadettes, Grade 8 Cadettes bridge to Seniors, Grade 10 Seniors bridge to Ambassadors, Grade 12 Ambassadors bridge to adults. It is a traditional opportunity for the girls to meet girls at the next level, try some activities at that new level and honor their achievements from the past year. The culminating ceremony is a special way for girls and their families to share these accomplishments. The bridge they “crossover “can be as simple as a piece of cloth to as extreme as crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. And, in 2020 many girls bridged virtually!

Bridging awards and patches for having completed requirements encouraging girls to learn about the next level of Scouts have changed a lot since 1935! Below are some that have been retired.


Today we have

Girl Scout traditions are treasured activities and ceremonies passed down through generations and years (109!) of Scouting. Bridging/Flying up is one of those events that shares the old and the new, through songs, a flag ceremony, a friendship circle, lighting candles, reciting the Promise and Law and the Girl Scout salute and handshake.

Perhaps you might want to wear vintage uniforms and/or have a “fashion show” at your next Bridging? The CSGO History Center has a variety of vintage uniforms to lend out.

You may also have Girl Scout items to donate to our collection or would like as a troop or individual to learn more about the history of Girl Scouts? Contact the GSCO History Center at: gscohistory@gmail.com

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