8 Interesting Things You May Not Have Known About the Girl Scouts

Juliette Gordon Low
Girl Scouting is a century-plus-old movement that began in 1912 through the vision of one woman: Juliette Gordon Low. It began with eighteen girls from Savannah, Georgia gathering on March 12, 1912. This would be the founding meeting that would start a national movement that would eventually include over 50 million girls.

First Donation
Juliette Gordon Low
The first donation for the Girl Scouts came from the founder, Juliette Gordon Low. She had a big idea—a cause she believed in—and she actually sold her pearls in order to keep her club of Girl Guides going.

No Restrictions
The Girl Scouts has been a continually forward-thinking organization. They became one of the first organizations to welcome girls with disabilities. Girl Scouts really is #ForEveryGirl.

Girl Scouts is #ForEveryGirl

Girl Scouts of Western Washington returned a $100,000 donation after hearing the donation came with a caveat: It couldn’t be used to support transgender girls.

“Girl Scouts is for every girl, and that is every girl regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion. Every girl is every girl,” Megan Ferland, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, said in an interview with the SeattleTimes. “It was a sad decision, but it was not a difficult decision. There was no way I would be put in a situation of refusing a girl participating because of a gift. It was really that quick.”

After returning the donation, the Girl Scouts setup a crowdfunding campaign to help make up the money they turned away. It didn’t take them long to make up the difference and then some.

She was a Girl Scout?!
Presidential Candidate and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was in the Girl Scouts, as was her daughter, Chelsea Clinton. Who else? You may ask. The list of Girl Scout alumni goes on to include Senator Patty Murray, Nancy Reagan, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Sandra Day O’Connor, Lucille Ball, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Sally Ride, and Gloria Steinem. The list goes on.

On my honor, I will try: To serve ____ and my country.
No matter your color or creed, you are welcome in the Girl Scouts. In 1992, Scout leaders decided the part of the pledge that asked girls to promise to “serve God” should be replaced with whatever they saw fit. So, girls can pledge to serve Allah, humanity, Zod—whatever religious or non-religious philosophy they believe in.

A Safe Environment for All
Not every troop is the same, and that’s the way it should be, because not every group of girls will be the same—they all have different needs. The Girl Scouts’ mission is to provide a safe environment for all girls to learn and grow. This includes girls whose mothers have been incarcerated. “We create an environment where it’s ok to say to the person sitting next to you, ‘Is your mom in prison too?’” one troop leader told KING 5 news. There are a number of inspirational stories like this one, showing that the troop is meant to cater to the girls within it, and provide those girls with a safe environment to express themselves.

desegregation girl scouts
Because of many state and local laws, early Girl Scout troops had to be segregated. However, the organization did include non-white troops, including a troop for black girls, which was founded in 1917; a troop for Native Americans in 1921; and a troop for Mexican-Americans in 1922.

In the 1950s, the Girl Scouts of the USA had made it a national effort to desegregate camps. Martin Luther King Jr. described the Girl Scouts as “a force for desegregation.”  In 1969, GSUSA launched the “Action 70,” a project aimed at eliminating prejudice and building better relationships between people.

Girl Scouts in Internment Camps
Girl Scouts in Internment Camp
Girl Scouts’dramatic presentation at Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Festival) on the stage of the Crystal City Internment Camp.
During World War II, many Japanese-American citizens were wrongfully confined to internment camps. Within the camps, Girl Scout troops were organized. The girls would organize activities and plays, like the one pictured above.

Know any good Girl Scout history? Have you or your troop been a part of any landmark achievements? We’re always looking to share stories about our girls and what they’re doing in and for their community. Send photos and info to nshoemaker@gsnypenn.org.

2 thoughts on “8 Interesting Things You May Not Have Known About the Girl Scouts

  1. It’s rather American-centric to say that the Girl Scout movement in the USA began thanks to the vision of *one* woman when the Girl Scout/Guide movement was already going strong in other countries. JGL spoke to people already involved in the Guiding movement (e.g. Robert Baden-Powell) and decided to start a chapter of it in Savannah. Surely the people who founded the GG/ GS movement and who drew JGL into the fold deserve some credit too!

    1. Thanks for you feedback. You’re absolutely right! If I’ve read my history right, Robert Baden-Powell was really the spark that led JGL to founding the American movement of Girl Scouting. Without him, who knows if the Girl Scouts would have ever been.

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