Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America!
I was never a Girl Scout, although I desperately wanted to be one when I was about 10 years old. Back then, however, my only intention was to be the one who controlled the cookies.
Although my cookie fixation has unfortunately remained firmly intact, my preconceived notions about the Girl Scouts and what they represent, have changed considerably.
Until recently, I thought that the Girl Scouts were simply an after-school club for young girls that focused on doing arts and crafts, going camping and selling cookies to raise money for art and camping supplies. Then I became a leader for my daughter’s Brownie troop and I was introduced to a truly incredible woman, Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts. Over the course of the past year, I have learned quite a bit about the great legacy of leadership Ms. Low has passed on to millions of girls all over the world.
Had my 7-year old not specifically asked about joining the Girl Scouts after seeing a group of girls selling cookies outside our local supermarket, I would probably never have considered it as a possible extracurricular activity for her. With computer time, foreign language study, martial arts and piano lessons taking up most of our after school hours, the idea of Girl Scouts seemed to me just a little bit outdated.
But my daughter was insistent, so after initially joining a Daisy troop that didn’t turn out to be a very good fit for us, I took the plunge and committed to starting a troop of my own for my daughter’s first year as a Brownie.
AND WHAT A YEAR IT HAS BEEN!
Not only did my daughter instantly gain 8 more sisters, but each one of the girls is already discovering so much about personal integrity, responsibility and community outreach in a setting where they are supported and encouraged to come up with their own ideas, rather than always being told what to do.
Moreover, the sisterhood that the girls share is not just about the fun of hanging out with their girlfriends. They are understanding what it means to be a part of something greater than themselves, hearing about the amazing courage that so many women and girls before them have exhibited and seeing how focused individual or group efforts can have the enormous impact of changing the world around them for the better.
My mother was born in Savannah, Georgia just a few miles from the birthplace of Juliette Low and I’d like to think that I share at least some of the fearless spirit that both women embodied, and that I can, in turn, pass some of that wondrous energy on to my daughter. If she can harness just a fraction of the talent, insight and fortitude that the Girl Scout founder (and my mom) had, she will be well on her way towards becoming a power to be reckoned with in her own right. It’s the year of the girl indeed – here’s to 100 more!
Some fast facts about the original “J. Lo”:
- Juliette was a talented painter and sculptor who designed several of the furniture pieces in her Savannah mansion.
- Juliette was over the age of 50 when she began her work with the Girl Scouts.
- Juliette was born on Halloween in 1860.
- Juliette had a World War II ship named for her.
- Juliette grew up during the Civil War. Her mother was from the north and her father was an army captain for the south.
- Juliette founded the Girl Scouts because she wanted girls to have more opportunities than were available to them at the time.
- Girl Scouts were originally called Girl Guides and Juliette asked her friends to help start Girl Guide groups in all 48 states. The name changed to Girl Scouts in 1915.
- Girl Scouts first helped with war efforts during World War I and after Juliette wrote a handbook and set up new headquarters, First Ladies Mrs. Coolidge and Mrs. Hoover supported the Girl Scouts.