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Emma Hall

Girl Scout Museum at Cedar Hill

Emma Hall (1865?-1949) started the first Girl Scout troop in eastern Massachusetts in New Bedford in 1913, called the “Red Rose Troop.” It was the first troop nationally to welcome African American girls and the third official Girl Scout troop in the U.S. Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts gives the Red Rose Award to volunteers who demonstrate the values of Emma Hall: diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Emma Hall (1865?-1949) of New Bedford was a woman of “good works” in every sense of the word. She is recognized for starting the first Girl Scout troop in eastern Massachusetts in the fall of 1913. Called the “Red Rose Troop,” it was the first troop nationally to welcome African American girls and the third official Girl Scout troop in the United States. Emma devoted her life to service and was a tireless advocate for the welfare of old and young, and for those who were at a disadvantage in the community. She used her resources and influence to make the world a better place and was also a hands-on leader and mentor throughout her life.

In New Bedford, Emma was also instrumental in starting the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Children’s Aid Society, and the Red Cross. Working with her friends, she helped establish programs for Sol e Mar Hospital for Crippled Children in South Dartmouth, realizing that patients needed fresh air, special diets and physical therapy.

Under Emma’s leadership, Girl Scouts in southeastern Massachusetts was inclusive from the very start. During the 1920s, the New Bedford Girl Scout Chorus and New Bedford Drum & Bugle Corps included girls from various racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. An ongoing troop was sponsored for girls at the Sassaquin Sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, with membership fees covered by donations. The Board of Directors of the council came from diverse religious backgrounds, including, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish.

Emma became active in Massachusetts Girl Scouts as Commissioner in 1916, serving until 1919. She became a member of the Executive Board of the National Girl Scouts from 1919 to 1922. In the early days of Girl Scouting, she travelled with Juliette Gordon Low forming troops and stimulating interest in many localities. She was a personal friend of Girl Scout National President Lou Henry Hoover, wife of former President Hoover. Following her retirement, she was made honorary commissioner of the Girl Scouts of Massachusetts until her death at age 84 in 1949.

In 1914, thanks to Emma’s vision, the first Girl Scout camp of its kind started in South Dartmouth, moved to Marion in 1920, and in 1924 was named Camp Hall in honor of Emma. She was dedicated to giving girls access to outdoor programming, an essential part of the early Girl Scout experience, which continues to this day. The Red Rose Award, given by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, invokes the memory of the Red Rose Troop, the troop that demonstrates that from the beginning eastern Massachusetts Girl Scouts has been deeply committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity for all girls.

Compiled by the research team at the Girl Scout Museum at Cedar Hill
Reprinted with permission of the Girl Scout Museum at Cedar Hill, Waltham, MA

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