I am a Girl Scout (and a Brownie). I love finding out when other women are Girl Scouts too. I’ve heard the funniest stories about experiences with their troops from selling cookies to the hardest badge they earned. For me, my troop memories revolve around Girl Scout camping and the summer I received the most mosquito bites in the entire world (in our foolish little brains, we thought water REPELLED mosquitoes and our troop leader didn’t realize what we were doing when we constantly douse ourselves from well water until we were covered in bites — my number was 47!*). One of my favorite professional experiences was having a partner meeting at the regional Girl Scouts office and walking into their conference room with STACKS OF GIRL SCOUT COOKIES. Stacks that were taller than me by twice. I honestly can’t remember what we talked about in the meeting – I was way too distracted by the cookies. All this to say, when Juliette Gordon Lowe’s birthday came around this year, I took a few moments to thank this amazing woman for creating Girl Scouts and providing an amazing way to empower girls.
I particularly love Girl Scouts these days. Unlike other similar organizations, Girl Scouts has consistently evolved to reflect contemporary times. Even this past week, I learned about the new “Raise Your Hand” badge. It’s not even the first social justice badge. They’ve welcome transgender girls since 2011 and attended the 54th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. While they haven’t specifically endorsed Planned Parenthood, they allow troop leaders to create badges and curriculum on human sexuality and birth control (with parent permission). All this social justice work is consistent with Juliette Lowe’s original mission of “build ‘girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place’ “. Current Girl Scouts “Chief Girl Expert” Andrea Archibald believes that mission extends to all members, and through [this] program, girls develop the necessary leadership skills to advance diversity and promote tolerance,
Juliette Gordon Lowe was WAY ahead of her time. She started Girl Scouts in 1912 in Savannah, Georgia. If it doesn’t immediately hit you – that was BEFORE women could even vote in the US. Girl Scouts were born from Girl Guides, an offshoot of Boy Scouts. She gathered a small group of girls to hike mountains, learn about the world around them, and camp – not exactly skills that girls were encouraged to learn in that time. The initial Girl Scouts handbook, How Girls Can Help Their Country, was a combination of guide and empowerment book. As the group grew, scout members were active in WW1, growing their own food and learning to can. They also worked closely with the Red Cross to create surgical dressings and knitting clothes for soldiers. Ms. Lowe was consistently adamant that Girl Scouts be led by women and girls and has maintained that primary value.
Even though Lowe retired as the head of the organization fairly early on, she spent the rest of her life fundraising and promoting Girl Scouts. When she died, there was a Girl Scouts honor guide that accompanied her casket.
Selling cookies were introduced in 1917 by Ms. Lowe, initially being cooked in the homes of the girls. The idea behind selling cookies was to provide girls marketing and business skills as well as provide funds for activities and trips for troops. In 1935, the Girl Scout was added to the cookies (hello, Shortbread), creating that iconic brand. While some people like to mock or devalue the selling of cookies by girls, it’s a pretty awesome program that allows girls to own their own entrepreneurship.
There is an effort to rename a bridge in Savannah in honor Ms. Lowe. If you are interested in supporting, you can sign the petition (I totally did). She’s received a ton of honors, both during her lifetime and posthumously. My favorites include the induction to the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
Juliette Gordon Lowe is a hero for girls. She provided a space for girls to explore, learn, and give back before it was popular to do so. She created an organization that allowed girls to become everything they could be and has encouraged generations of girls and women to be leaders and to promote positive change in their communities. I joke about my time with my troop but my involvement began my recognition that girls were badasses and together, we could do anything. So essentially, you can thank my Girl Scouts troop for this blog.
*We also found a brown recluse AND a black widow spider in our tents. You can imagine the calm and collected response of a group of 11-12 year old girls to these spiders. It’s a miracle we survived these trips.