Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Girl Scouts Turn 100

Imagine if you will, these lovely ladies (and others) shouting the following cheer at the Girl Scout Day Camp morning flag ceremony. 

Yes, it was epic. And for some reason, not embarrassing. It was the feeling of acceptance, of kindness, and of being around one's own. How often have you felt like that in your life? In my experience, it’s a rarity.

A lot of people think being a Girl Scout means that you’re a sugar hawker of the highest grade. I'm here to tell you that it’s not just about cookies, although that part was a big learning experience, too. Thin Mints don’t just taste like God’s answer to cookies to me; they taste like “character-building” sales pitches to reluctant neighbors in the dead of winter. They taste like pavement-pounding work. They taste like accomplishment, rewards, and friendship. Also mint. And chocolate.

March 12th, 2012 marked the centennial anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America. One hundred years ago Juliet Gordon Low founded an organization that has grown to over 3.2 million members, bringing together women in 90 different countries. I count myself among the 60 million living alumnae in the U.S.

The focus of the organization 100 years ago was the same as it is today: To give girls an opportunity to grow as individuals, to make a difference in their community through volunteerism, and to value the world around them. Early girl scouts hiked, played sports, and camped. They could tell time by the stars and they knew first aid.

Modern girl scouts learn those things, too, but the organization has changed with the cultural and societal needs of today’s young women. The Girl Scouts of today research and educate on political involvement, eating disorders, societal pressures, and more. It’s a female-centric organization that gives voice to women everywhere. A hundred years ago, girls were disenfranchised second-class citizens relegated to their designated social sphere. A hundred years later, girls have a lot more power and many more opportunities, but an organization that promotes their education and social, physical, and mental well-being is more important than ever.

As my friends and I grew into full-fledged teenagers, things changed a bit. It wasn’t cool to be a Girl Scout, and that mattered more than before. We had different groups and different interests, but secret codes (meetings were referred to as O.G.i.G.S for Oh God it’s Girl Scouts), and shared values and experiences held us together.

We also had the most amazing leadership *. Adolescence is a time when it’s beyond normal for children to scorn every move their parents make, every thought. But the women who mentored us were leaders in the community, or going to school to give their families more opportunities, or such incredibly devoted parents that they would spend their weekends camping in the rain trying to salvage the Bunsen burner dinner. 

I had so many opportunities through Girl Scouts. I traveled internationally, met several local and state dignitaries, earned awards, and learned things that are still with me today.

I can’t tell the time by the stars like those early Girl Scouts, but I can always find north and I know how to stay un-lost and alive in the woods. I don’t volunteer as much as I used to, but the importance of being an asset to my community is still deeply ingrained. I still love to camp, and I make every effort to be responsible to the earth and the world around me.

When I was 11 years old, I took my first long trip with the Girl Scouts for the 75th anniversary celebration in Washington D.C. At the time, I wondered how I would celebrate the 100th. Knowing I would be an old lady of 36, I wondered if I would be taking a little troop of me-like people to a Centennial Jubilee. I didn’t do that, but twenty-five years later, I’m a proud alumna, and I still live by the Girl Scout law.

The Girl Scout Promise
On my honor, I will try:
 To serve God and my country,
 To help people at all times,
 And to live by the Girl Scout Law.
The Girl Scout Law
I will do my best to be 
honest and fair, friendly and helpful, 
considerate and caring,
 courageous and strong, and 
responsible for what I say and do,
 and to 
respect myself and others, 
respect authority,
 use resources wisely, 
make the world a better place, and 
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

Check out the Girl Scouts of America here.

*I’m not sucking up, Mom and Bev, although you are pretty great.


  1. What a wonderful tribute to Girl Scouting! I loved that you all still came to the meetings, even in secret, and by the time you were seniors, it wasn't even quite as embarrassing to have a 1/2 page picture of the "troop" posted in the yearbook. I loved watching all of you grow into strong young women and I continue to love the postings now of your families, political tirades, community activism, and worldwide adventures and secretly feel proud that perhaps I played some small part in that. However, there is another side to this story. There is the story of a young mom who decided to become a involved because she wanted her daughters to have the experience of Girl Scouting; who took a chance that maybe she could help someone else run a troop. Low and behold - it was fun, rewarding - it was my first instant love with TEACHING. I learned so much from being a leader, helping other leaders, being a counselor at camp (Proudly: Mother Goose) and yes, even being "cookie chair" (god help us all) and running the fireworks booth for 2 years. The point is, Girl Scouting is where I found my own confidence - I truly feel that I wouldn't be where I am today without those experiences. I will always remember being in Washington D.C. for the 75th - such heady stuff! Happy 100th Birthday Girl Scouts - you've made girls AND women better citizens of the world and I am so proud to have played a part!

  2. You inspired me as a young lady and you continue to do so now, Emily. And it's easy to see where it came from. Ditto for you, Lorraine.

    And sorry about the Grandma Bev thing. It's my omnipresent Google signature.