A Century of Scouting in Irvington

The first Irvington girl scout troop in 1924. Photo supplied

2024 is an important year for the Irvington Girl Scouts. December marks their 100th anniversary after being founded by Isabel K. Benjamin, known as the “First Lady of Irvington” and the namesake of the community center. To celebrate, the Scouts “painted the town green” during National Girl Scouts Week, which is observed from March 10-16. The Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge, as well as the clock tower at Village Hall, and the tower at the Church of Saint Barnabas, were all lit up green (the official Girl Scout color) to commemorate the occasion. The church is the meeting place for local Troop 1720, and where Benjamin grew up.  

However, the lighting was far from the end of the decorations. The girls also covered the town with lawn signs, flew a flag outside the nature center, and decorated a rock outside the Irvington High School campus, a local tradition reserved for special occasions. The festivities culminated in a photo opportunity at Matthiessen Park that included past and current Girl Scouts, Irvington Mayor Brian Smith, and members of the local Girl Scout Council (Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson Inc.).  

Throughout the celebrations, the Irvington Girl Scouts have still found ways to give back to the community. In February, they prepared snack bags for Feeding Westchester. During March, the girls collected used blankets and towels for the cats and dogs at Paws Crossed Animal Rescue in Elmsford. Benjamin was a dog lover, and an advocate for animal rights, even supporting an Irvington law that would have prevented dogs from being leashed. The scouts’ plans to better their community will continue throughout the year.  

Irvington girl scout founder Isabel Benjamin and her dogs. Photo from the Irvington Historical Society

Benjamin was born in 1870, to the second clergy family of Saint Barnabas Church. She was a devout Christian, and her faith was her motivation for founding the first Irvington troop on Dec. 19, 1924, known as the Oak Troop. The girls were hand-selected from Irvington High School and were held to her high standards and rules, especially when it came to the appearance of their uniforms. Former members recall the whole troop being punished if one girl failed to meet these standards. On top of being a troop leader, Benjamin was an active participant in life at Saint Barnabas, an educator, and a dog lover. Her favorite was the Pekingese breed, the first of which was gifted to her cousin by financier J.P. Morgan. The Benjamin family was associated with many members of the American elite at the time, such as the Goulds and the Schuylers, some of whom personally funded the Irvington Girl Scouts.  

In conjunction with the Irvington Historical Society, Girl Scouts and eighth-graders Suhani Arya, Lily Korb, and Elena Lark did extensive research about their founder, which culminated in a performance at the church that was so important to her. A full recording of the performance is available on the Irvington Historical Society YouTube page. In an interview for the girl’s project, Susan Watson, a scout under Benjamin’s lead, says of the trailblazing woman, “I thought she was a wonderful lady, but I was also scared of her.”  

The current scout troop in front of the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. Photo supplied

The lessons Benjaman taught her scouts have stayed with them throughout their adult lives, but that is not where her influence ends. Even after her passing, Benjamin still benefits the Girl Scout troops she helped found. She left a small trust to the Irvington Girl Scouts in her will, and the Isabel K. Benjamin Fund helps provide funding for the girls’ activities today. 



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About the Author: Charlotte Fuchs