There are certain times and certain situations where it is sensible and realistic for boys and girls to be separated because they were created, male and female, for separate roles in life. Last time we talked about the Boys Club, and then this opportunity came to talk about a Club exclusively for girls. Incidentally there are just two kinds of people created, male and female; and it is quite easy to determine which you are. When one man and one woman come together in holy matrimony, a perplexing, wonderful marriage results that gives God the glory and makes the world a better place.
This week I want to tell you a little bit about the Girl Reserve Club and how people so long ago began such a club to help young girls navigate through life wisely and become contributors to society as successful , happy, productive adults. The Young Women’s Christian Association began in 1881, but expanded by adding Girl Reserve Clubs in 1918.The insignia was a blue triangle with the letters G.R. in the center; the triangle is symbolic of Health, Knowledge, and Spirit, the three identified target areas in the lives of girls. They soon became known as the Blue Triangle Girls. They wore blue skirts or bloomers (for basketball or other sports), white middy blouses and blue silk scarves embroidered with the triangle insignia. Significantly, these ladies pictured dressed in their best for this meeting with President Herbert Hoover.
Looking at the areas of the triangle the Girl Reserve Club in 1918 focused on how young women could organize together and be a part of the patriotic war efforts of this country. These efforts included all races and included: White, Asian, Indian, and Black girls identifying strengths and needs in each specific group. Field trips and programs worked to build on values best taught in the home environment and reinforced by the schools, the churches, and communities. It was a joint effort to prepare young women to develop Christian character standards that would carry over into their young adult lives. The motto for the club is very similar to Girl Scouts, “I will do my best to honor God, my country, and my community to help other girls and be in all ways a loyal, true member of the Girl Reserves.” There was a system of collecting points for community service and a “girly” reward, for the girls with a specified number or points: a Girl Reserve ring offered in several progressive stages of fancy beauty, sometimes a formal dinner or ball at the end of a specified time. The Girl Reserve Club is still an active part of the YWCA in many communities today.
One might wonder how the Girl Reserve Club ever became active in a little mill village town; they might wonder if they know nothing of the Comer family and their civic consciousness and their support of the people in the towns, especially the schools, around their mills. In the Avondale Sun which Sandra Cleveland had saved from long ago, we read that twenty members of the Girl Reserve Club at B.B. Comer School went on a trip to Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1932. Jackie Cleveland’s mother, Mozelle Rape was one of the lovely young women who made that trip.
This was a nine day trip, 2,200 miles, well planned during the months preceding their departure so that points of interest could be visited. The article mentions that Congressman Lamar Jeffers was wired in advance of the trip and assisted the group as they toured the State House and were received by President Hoover. He was a Representative from the Anniston area. The careful planning by the group included not only Mr. and Mrs. Comer, Mr. and Mrs. Dailey, and Miss Kirby, directors, but also the young women and their parents. A farewell party at the Comer house preceded their departure.
Traveling by bus the group stayed in what is reported as comfortable Tourist Camps where they could do their own cooking. That apparently was how they were able to keep costs at a minimum, each member of the party paying about eight dollars apiece which covered gasoline, oil, meals, and lodging. Mr. Gautney, the bus driver, must have been a saint.
The itinerary included the trip through the Shenandoah Valley, Lookout Mountain, Natural Bridge, and Endless Caverns. Arriving in Washington they saw, the Washington Monument, the Congressional Library, the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, the Smithsonian Institute, the Pan American Building, the Capital, and the Lincoln Memorial, and of course the White House. A side trip was made to George Washington’s beautiful Mount Vernon home. As they started for home, two days were spent in Virginia Beach, VA, listed as “one of the most popular playgrounds of the Atlantic coast.” What a trip! How about that for economy travel? . I hope as you read over these names you might find someone you remember, someone who grew to be a contributing community member in Sylacauga. So many things have changed since those days, but some things remain the same. Attention to details like health, knowledge, spirit, the tenets of the Girl Reserve Club are things young people still need a little help with in the formative years of life. Goals are important, and the goal of developing “Christian women” might be offensive to many today, but think how worthy this goal really is, for it is people who respect God, country, and each other who make a society that is productive and peaceful. Providing education and experiences for a group of high school girls from our small town led to a never-to-be forgotten trip to Washington, D.C. and an audience with the President of the United States. It was not so long ago at that.
Special thanks to Tom Bivin via Margaret Leverette, and Sandra Cleveland who provided a beautifully framed picture of this event that now hangs in the Hightower Room at the B.B. Comer Library. As always thanks to Samantha Machen and staff at B.B. Comer Library.