|Girl Scouts of the United States of America|
|Headquarters||New York, New York|
|Founded||March 12, 1912|
|Founder||Juliette Gordon Low|
896,298 adults (2008)
|Affiliation||World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts|
The Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) is a youth organization for girls in the United States and American girls living abroad. It describes itself as "the world's preeminent organization dedicated solely to girls". The Girl Scout program, which developed from the concerns of the progressive movement in the United States, sought to promote the social welfare of young women and was formed as a counterpart to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). It was founded by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912 and is based on the Scouting principles developed by Robert Baden-Powell.
GSUSA uses the Scout method to build self-esteem and to teach values such as honesty, fairness, courage, compassion, character, sisterhood, confidence, and citizenship through activities including camping, community service, learning first aid, and earning numerous badges by acquiring other practical skills. Girl Scouts' achievements are recognized through rank advancement and by various special awards. GSUSA has programs for girls with special interests, such as water-based activities.
Membership is organized according to age group with activities designed appropriately for each level. The GSUSA is a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), and has a long history of accepting girls from all backgrounds.
In 1994, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organization popularity and credibility conducted by Nye Lavalle & Associates. The study showed that the Girl Scouts was ranked as the 8th "most popular charity/non-profit in America" of over 100 charities researched with 41% of Americans over the age of 12 choosing Love and Like A lot for the Girl Scouts .
Girl Scouting in the United States of America began on 12 March 1912 when Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scout troop meeting of 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia. Low, who had met Baden-Powell in London while she was living in the United Kingdom, dreamed of giving the United States "something for all the girls." She envisioned an organization that would bring girls out of their cloistered home environments to serve in their communities and experience the open air. From its inception, the organization has been controlled by women, unlike the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) or the Camp Fire Girls.
The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, located in Savannah, Georgia in the former Gordon family home, became a national Girl Scout program center in 1956. It provides tours to thousands of Scouts yearly. Upon Low's death in 1927, she willed her carriage house, which would eventually become The Girl Scout First Headquarters, to the local Savannah Girl Scouts for continued use. The first National Headquarters was in Washington, DC but it was moved to New York City in the spring of 1916 and has remained there ever since.
During World War II, many young Japanese girls were confined in internment camps with their families. Girl Scout troops were formed, even in these camps. These girls participated in many activities, including dramatic presentations, such as the one pictured at left, which took place in the Crystal City Internment Camp, located in Crystal City, Texas.
The current Girl Scouts of the USA logo was created in 1978 by Saul Bass, a graphic designer known for his motion picture title sequences.
The organization's original name was the Girl Guides of America, a name taken from the United Kingdom's Girl Guides program. In 1913, it was changed to the Girl Scouts of the United States and the organization was incorporated in 1915. It was again renamed to the Girl Scouts of the United States of America in 1947 and was given a congressional charter on March 16, 1950. The GSUSA started with 18 members — within months, members were hiking through the woods in their knee-length blue uniforms, playing basketball on a curtained-off court, and going on camping trips. By 1920, there were nearly 70,000 members, and by 1930 over 200,000. In 2005 there were over 3.7 million Girl Scouts — 2.8 million girl members and 954,000 adult members — in the United States. More than 50 million American women have participated in the Girl Scouts. Through its membership in the WAGGGS, GSUSA is part of a worldwide scouting family of over 10 million girls and adults in 144 countries.
The names and ages of the levels — and the larger structure of the program — have evolved significantly. Troops were initially fairly independent before joining together into small councils, which have since merged into larger councils.
Most Girl Scout units were originally segregated by race according to state and local laws and customs. The first troop for African American girls was founded in 1917; the first American Indian troop was formed in New York State in 1921; and the first troop for Mexican Americans was formed in Houston, Texas in 1922. In 1933, Josephine Groves Holloway founded unofficial African American troops in Tennessee. She also fully desegregated the Cumberland Valley council in 1962. The first official African American troop in the South was founded in 1932 in Richmond, Virginia by Lena B. Watson and led initially by Lavnia Banks, a teacher from Armstrong High School. It first met in Hartshorn Hall, Virginia Union University.
By the 1950s, the GSUSA had begun significant national efforts to desegregate the camps and maintain racial balance. One of the first desegregations, accomplished by Murray Walls in 1956, was Camp Shantituck in Kentucky. Later the same year, Martin Luther King, Jr. described Girl Scouts as "a force for desegregation". In 1969, a national Girl Scout initiative called Action 70 was created that aimed to eliminate prejudice. Gloria D. Scott, an African American, was elected National President of the Girl Scouts in 1975.
International Girl Scout gatherings named Senior Roundups were held every three years from 1956 until 1965:
From 1917 until 1979 Girl Scouts published a magazine, originally called "The Rally" (1917-1920) and then "The American Girl" (the 'The' was later dropped), (not to be confused with the currently published American Girl magazine). At one time this magazine had the largest circulation of any magazine aimed at teen-aged girls.
The 20th National Council of the GSUSA launched the Mariner Girl Scout program in October 1934. Similar to the Boy Scouts' Sea Scouts, the program was designed for older Girl Scouts interested in outdoor water-based activities. By the end of 1934, 12 Mariner ships were registered and the first two handbooks, Launching a Girl Scout Mariner Ship and Charting the Course of a Girl Scout Mariner Ship were published. The Mariner Girl Scout program remains active but in a smaller form; most girls have instead joined the Sea Scouts, which has been co-ed since 1971.
The Wing Scout program was a popular older Girl Scout program begun in 1941 and ending in the 1970s for girls interested in flying and wanting to serve their country. Like the Mariner Scout program, the Wing Scout program began as a Senior Girl Scout Mobilist Project with limited expectations, but by July 1942, 29 troop leaders from fifteen states met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to take Wing Scout leadership training. These leaders returned to their councils and began setting up Wing Scout troops.
In 1959, Girl Scout Council in North San Mateo County, California was presented with an offer from United Airlines San Francisco Management Club President J. L. Burnside to start an aviation program for Senior Girl Scouts. One of the highlights of the Wing Scout program was the courtesy flight provided to Senior Girl Scouts using United Airlines' jets. For many of the girls, this was the first time they had flown in a plane.
Wing Scouts took the program seriously and as a result of their proficient training and ability, Senior Girl Scouts who had been in the program for three years were given the opportunity to take over the controls during flight in a small aircraft. The program was discontinued after United Airlines experienced financial setbacks in the 1970s.
The title has changed over the years.
National Executive Directors
Chief Executive Officers
The aim of the Girl Scouts is that girls will develop to their full potential by pursuing four goals: developing their full potential; relating to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect; developing a meaningful set of values to guide their actions and to provide for sound decision-making; and contributing to the improvement of society.
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 Promise is often recited at Girl Scout troop meetings while holding up the three middle fingers of the right hand, which forms the Girl Scout sign. Girl Scout policy states that the word "God" may be interpreted depending on individual spiritual beliefs. When reciting the Girl Scout Promise, "God" may be substituted with the word dictated by those beliefs.
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,
respect myself and others,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.
"Do a Good Turn Daily"
The program was originally for girls aged from 10 to 17, but it was subsequently divided into three levels. Brownies (for younger girls) was based on a program developed in England in 1914 and was officially recognized in the mid-1920s. At the same time, girls over 18, or over 16 if First Class Scouts, became known as Senior Scouts. In 1938, the age divisions were: Brownies (ages seven through nine), Intermediates (ages 10 through 13), and Seniors (ages 14 through 17).
In 1963 the age structure was rearranged to Brownies (ages seven through nine, later six through nine), Juniors (ages nine through 11), Cadettes (ages 11 through 14), and Seniors (ages 14 through 17). In 1984, the Daisy program for kindergarten girls or those aged five was introduced. In 2003, the Studio 2B program for girls aged from 11 up to 17 was introduced though Cadettes and Seniors.
Studio 2B allowed girls to call themselves by any name of their choosing, including but not limited to "Studio 2Bs," "teen Girl Scouts," or Cadettes and Seniors. Girl Scouts, aged 11 through 17, can earn both traditional badges and undertake Studio 2B activities, and the Silver Award and Gold Award requirements were rewritten to require both. Studio 2B activities differed from badges in two ways: each booklet focused on topics such as environmentalism or self-confidence rather than being; and to earn each Studio 2B charm, the Girl Scout had to choose activities from the booklet and then meet a goal relevant to the booklet topic. She would create her own plan for achieving her goal, following a basic planning procedure called SMART (standing for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely).
Level changes to be put into effect as of October 1, 2008 created a new class of Girl Scouts called Ambassadors for girls in Grades 11 and 12 (around 16 to 18 years old), moving seniors to ninth and tenth grade (around 14 to 16 years old). The new levels were to be trialed in approximately 6 councils in Spring 2008, and begin national use after 1 October 2008.
Although troop membership is still the most common way to participate in Girl Scouting, girls who do not desire to participate in troop activities can sign up as an individual Girl Scout, known as a Juliette. Juliettes attend activities independently and work individually on badges and awards. The Juliette program is descended from the Lone Scout program, in which a girl living in an area without a troop could register directly with the National organization.
The Campus Girl Scouts program allows women(ages 18 and older) to be active in Girl Scouting while in college. Campus Girl Scouting is a organization that helps promote and build student involvement in the community, the local council, and the college campus through service.
There are programs for girls in unusual situations that make it difficult for them to participate in the standard program. The Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program helps daughters of incarcerated mothers to connect with their mothers and to have the mothers participate in Girl Scout activities. Another program, Girl Scouting in Detention Centers, allows girls who are themselves in detention centers to participate in Scouting. Other initiatives try to help girls in rural areas or in public housing. There are also programs for American girls living overseas.
The national organization has its central headquarters in New York City. It has a staff of 400, and is headed by a Chief Executive Officer and a 40 member National Board of Directors. Kathy Cloninger has been the Chief Executive Officer since 2003; the Chair of the National Board of Directors, the highest volunteer position, is Connie L. Lindsey.
Below the national organization were, as of 2006, 312 regional Girl Scout councils, which own the 236,000 local troops and other groups. As part of the August 26, 2006 reorganization, the National Board of Directors decided to restructure the 312 councils into 109 councils. Some Councils own and run camps for the troops within its area of responsibility. Councils are usually subdivided again into areas, called Neighborhoods, Service Units, or Associations (terms vary), these are program delivery areas that consist of troops at all age levels in a smaller area, such as a town.
The basic unit is the troop which may or may not be sponsored. In contrast to Boy Scout troop chartered organizations, Girl Scout troop sponsors do not own the troop. Troops range in size from as small as six to as large as 30 or more girls and may be divided into several patrols of 8 or fewer girls. Each troop must have two unrelated female adults as leaders. Men can be and are troop leaders, but they must also have two unrelated women serve as leaders to preserve the vision of women as a role models.
One of the original and continuing attractions of Girl Scouts is that girls are encouraged to camp and do other outside activities such as canoeing or backpacking with their troops. Troops do service projects such as visiting nursing homes, carrying out flag ceremonies, collecting food for food drives, or other community services. Troops may also plan and take extended trips such as visiting another part of the United States or even travel to another country. Troops may organize cultural or learning events such as first aid training or attending a musical. Many senior Girl Scouts are involved in the Venturing program of the BSA.
Once known as "Wider Opportunities" or "Wider Ops", Destinations are travel opportunities in which individual older Girl Scouts from around the United States can participate. Destinations are held within the United States and in other countries, and may be activities such as forming part of the US delegation to another country's national jamboree, or a visit to one of the international Girl Scouting centers. Destinations might be outdoor oriented, such as kayaking in Alaska, or career oriented such as learning about working for NASA.
The Girl Scouts of the USA have customs and traditions and perhaps the best known of these is the sale of Girl Scout Cookies, an annual fundraiser started in 1917 as a money earning opportunity for the local council and troop. Other customs are the Girl Scout Handshake and the Girl Scout signal for silence, two of the signs shared by WAGGGS member organizations.
Bridging is the process of going from one level to another. Bridging is usually done at the troop level, although area bridgings are also done. Most notable is the bridging ceremony held in San Francisco as Juniors bridge to Cadettes over the Golden Gate Bridge. The girls bridging walk across a bridge (sometimes literally or symbolically) to their new level and are greeted with the Girl Scout Handshake.
Thinking Day and Scouts' Own are traditions throughout the world of Girl Scouting. Thinking Day has occurred annually since 1926 on February 22, the birthday of both Robert Baden-Powell and Olave Baden-Powell. On Thinking Day, Girl Scouts and Guides around the world think about their sisters in other lands. Most troops will pick a certain country were Girl Scouting is participated in and share with fellow troops about the customs and differences of the country. Many Girl Scouts in America also celebrate Juliette Gordon Low's birthday, which coincides with Halloween. Such parties involve the girls dressing in Halloween costume, and serving a birthday cake.
A Scouts' Own is a ceremony planned and carried out by the girls that is built around a central theme such as friendship, using resources wisely, or fairness. It is an opportunity for many older girls to bond with the girls of their troop or many troops together.
Members can earn awards appropriate for their age level. Originally called badges, the terminology has changed to Learning Petals for Daisies, Try-Its for Brownies, Badges for Juniors, and Charms and Interest Project awards for Cadettes,Seniors,and Ambassadors (older girls).
The highest achievement in Girl Scouting is the Girl Scout Gold Award, which can only be earned by Seniors and Ambassadors. Cadettes and Juniors can earn the Silver Award and Bronze Award, respectively. These awards require large-scale service projects showing leadership along with service hours. The service projects must improve a current situation, such as restoring the eroded banks of a stream.
Girls can also earn and display on their uniform awards from outside organizations, such as the religious emblems from religious organizations, or the President's Volunteer Service Award. Scouts can also receive awards for lifesaving and leadership. The Honor Pin recognizes an adult member who has delivered exceptional service beyond expectations to two or more geographic areas, service units or program delivery audiences in a way that furthers the council's goals.
Among the many famous American Girl Scouts are Dakota Fanning, Lucille Ball, Katie Couric, and Elizabeth Dole. Many Girl Scouts have become successful leaders in numerous professional fields such as law, medicine, politics, journalism, and science. Beginning with Lou Henry Hoover, the incumbent First Lady has served as the Honorary President of GSUSA. Lou Henry Hoover was also the actual President of the Girl Scouts from 1922–1925 and Chairman of the National Board of Directors from 1925–1928.
During World War I and World War II, Scouts helped the Allied forces by selling defense bonds, growing victory gardens, and collecting waste fat and scrap iron. Girl Scouts also spread their values into their communities through community service projects such as soup kitchens and food drives.
Girl Scouts of the USA stated in an October 1991 letter:
As a private organization, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. respects the values and beliefs of each of its members and does not intrude into personal matters. Therefore, there are no membership policies on sexual preference. However, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. has firm standards relating to the appropriate conduct of adult volunteers and staff. The Girl Scout organization does not condone or permit sexual displays of any sort by its members during Girl Scout activities, nor does it permit the advocacy or promotion of a personal lifestyle or sexual preference. These are private matters for girls and their families to address.
GSUSA upholds a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on sexuality. The debate over this issue is split between those who feel that the policy is insufficient in preventing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and those who question the inclusion of homosexuals.
In early 1992, the Totem Girl Scout Council suggested changing the promise to make it possible for girls who did not believe in a monotheistic god to join. In November 1992, the parents of Nitzya Cuevas-Macias sued for their daughter to be permitted to participate even though she refused to promise to serve God.
"THAT, since the Girl Scout organization makes no attempt to interpret or define the word 'God' but encourages members to establish for themselves the nature of their spiritual beliefs, it is the policy of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. that individuals when making the Girl Scout Promise may substitute wording appropriate to their own spiritual beliefs for the word 'God'."
with the explanation that
"For some individuals, the word 'God', no matter how broadly interpreted, does not appropriately reflect their spiritual beliefs. Since the belief in a spiritual principle is fundamental to Girl Scouting, not the word used to define that belief, it is important that individuals have the opportunity to express that belief in wording meaningful to them. It is essential to maintain the spiritual foundation of Girl Scouting, yet be inclusive of the full range of spiritual beliefs. This [policy change] does not take the word 'God' out of the Girl Scout Promise. It gives those individuals who wish to do so the option to state their commitment to the spiritual concepts fundamental to the Movement with a word or words more appropriate to their own beliefs. For instance, an individual may say 'my faith' or 'Allah' or 'the Creator'."
Girl Scout President B. LaRae Orullian made an official statement that the change is "a very strong statement that Girl Scouts continue to be on the cutting edge, and this is a continuing effort to show that we have strength in diversity and that we are an inclusive organization."
Some groups consider that the Girl Scouts of the USA have not gone far enough in making Scouting open to non-theists; others that they have gone too far in removing God or that they are violating the constitution of the WAGGGS. The WAGGGS constitution requires member societies to maintain membership standards to include a promise similar to the one established by Baden-Powell, which includes the concept of duty to God. The GSUSA policy adopted in 1993 led to the 1995 formation of an alternative organization, the American Heritage Girls that accepts only leaders and chartering organizations that agree with a specific Christian statement of faith. As of 2006, it had about 5,000 members.
The Girl Scout organization does not endorse or promote any particular philosophy or religious belief. Our movement is secular and is founded on American democratic principles, one of which is freedom of religion. Although Girl Scouts has policies supporting religious diversity, there is no policy by Girl Scouts of the USA that prohibits or requires the saying or singing of a grace, blessing, or invocation before meals by Girl Scout members in a troop/group setting, in a resident or day camp, or at meetings, conferences, and other large events. The decision to say a grace, blessing, or invocation is made locally at the troop or group level, and should be sensitive to the spiritual beliefs of all participants.
Although GSUSA is not nationally aligned with the reproductive health organization Planned Parenthood, Girl Scout councils may choose to have connections to the organization. In 2004, in Waco, Texas, the Bluebonnet Council endorsed a Planned Parenthood education event (which did not mention abortion) but did not provide money nor send Scouts to it. This was criticized by some pro-life movement supporters and social conservatives, resulting in a boycott of Girl Scout cookies sold by the Bluebonnet Council. Although Waco residents responded to the announced boycott by purchasing a record amount of cookies, the Bluebonnet Council removed their endorsement. The pro-life group states that 20% of the investigated councils have some connection to Planned Parenthood though that includes councils that have endorsed events that Planned Parenthood also endorsed.
The oldest living Girl Scout is 103-year-old Marianne Elser Crowder, born in Colorado Springs in April 1906. She joined the Wagon Wheel Council Troop 4 in 1918 and earned her Golden Eaglet, the GSUSA's highest award at the time. She later operated her own dance studio in Colorado Springs and headed the dance department at Colorado College before moving to Menlo Park, California in 1939 where she taught dance in the community recreation program from 1949 until her retirement at the age of 97. The Wagon Wheel Council named Crowder the nation's oldest Girl Scout after it conducted a nationwide search and sifted through council archives.
Camp Fire Girls was founded in 1910, around the same time as the Girl Scouts, by some of the creators of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1975, the group became co-educational and soon afterwards changed its name to "Camp Fire Boys and Girls". The name was changed to Camp Fire USA in 2001. As of 2009, the group has a membership of about 750,000.
Another parallel group is the American Heritage Girls (AHG), started in 1995 in West Chester, Ohio, by a group of parents upset with available female Scouting organizations. AHG is a Christian organization that states that it is "a Scouting program for girls that supports the traditional values of God, Family and Country." It has a membership of about 6,000.