Josephine Groves Holloway
From Savannah to Nashville: A Local History
With determination, Juliette Gordon Low telephoned a cousin in 1912 and exclaimed, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah and all America and all the world!” On March 12 of that year, the wealthy widow founded her first Girl Scout troop with just 18 girls. Today, the organization enjoys a membership of nearly 4 million members in the U.S. and around the world.
The first Girl Scout troops began to meet in Nashville in 1917 as a result of the United States’ entry into World War I, which spurred many girls to express an interest in patriotism and serving their community. By 1926, the Nashville Girl Scout Council received its charter.
Then, as today, Girl Scouts enjoyed outdoor activities such as camping and hiking. They also learned how to communicate in Morse Code and studied crime detection!
In 1938, the Council invited first lady and National Honorary Girl Scout President Eleanor Roosevelt to speak at a Council fundraiser. In 1958, Girl Scout troops in 20 counties in Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky joined forces to become the Cumberland Valley Girl Scout Council. At that time, the Council served just over 8,000 girls.
In 2006, GSUSA unveiled a plan to realign the 310 councils in the United States into 109 high-capacity councils. As part of this realignment the Girl Scout Council of Cumberland Valley’s jurisdiction was changed 39 counties in Middle Tennessee. The name was subsequently changed to the Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee to reflect the new geographic distribution. Today, the Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee serves more than 17,500 girls and 7,000 volunteers.
Josephine Holloway: Cumberland Valley’s “Hidden Heroine”
In 1923, Josephine Groves (later Holloway) began working at Nashville’s Bethlehem Center, a shelter for at-risk women and children in the African-American community. She was attracted to the work the Girl Scouts were doing and wanted to bring Girl Scouting to the center. In 1924, Josephine had the honor of attending training for Girl Scout leaders conducted by Juliette Gordon Low in Nashville. By the end of the year, there were more than 300 girls engaged in Girl Scouting at the Bethlehem Center.
She attempted to form an official Girl Scout troop for African-American girls in 1933, but the Nashville Girl Scout Council denied her request. In fact, there was only one such troop in the entire South at that time.
Finally, in 1942, Mrs. Holloway’s dream came true and the first African-American Girl Scout troop was established. Josephine had become such a well-respected member of the community and an expert on girls’ issues, that she was hired by the Girl Scouts as a field advisor for black troops. She remained in that position until her retirement in 1963 at which time she reportedly supervised over 2,000 African-American girls and adults.
During the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976, Girl Scouts of the USA urged local councils to choose a “Hidden Heroine” to honor. Josephine Groves Holloway was selected and praised for her determination and endless dedication to Girl Scouting.
At one time, Camp Holloway was just a simple plot of Holloway family land that gave African-American children a rare opportunity to camp. Today, girls of all races, religions and backgrounds gather at this historic camp in Millersville, Tennessee, to discover the fun, friendship and power of girls together.