Girl Scouts of the United States of America
‘’For Girl Scouts worldwide, see Girl Guide and Girl Scout.’’
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. The Girl Scout program developed from the concerns of the progressive movement in the United States from people who sought to promote the social welfare of young women and as a female 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.
The 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 that can teach lifelong skills. Girl Scouts are recognized for their achievements through rank advancement and various special awards. GSUSA has programs for girls with special interests, such as water-based activities.
Membership is organized according to age levels with activities appropriate to each age group. A member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), the GSUSA has a long history of accepting girls from all backgrounds.
- 1 History
- 2 Program aims
- 3 Organizational structure
- 4 Activities
- 5 Awards and badges
- 6 Impact on American life
- 7 Controversies
- 8 Oldest living Girl Scout
- 9 Similar organizations
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Girl Scouting in the United States began on March 12, 1912 when founder Juliette Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scout troop meeting with eighteen 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. The Juliette 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, eventually The Girl Scout First Headquarters, to 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 since.
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, taken from the United Kingdom's Girl Guides program. In 1913, the name was changed to the Girl Scouts of the United States and was incorporated in 1915. It was again renamed to the Girl Scouts of the United States of America in 1947 and was chartered by the United States Congress on March 16, 1950. The GSUSA started with eighteen 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 members. 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 enjoyed Girl Scouting. Through its membership in the WAGGGS, GSUSA is part of a worldwide family of over ten 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.
By the 1950s, the GSUSA began significant national efforts to desegregate the camps and maintain racial balance. One of the first desegregations was Camp Shantituck in Kentucky, which was accomplished by Murray Walls in 1956. Martin Luther King, Jr. described Girl Scouts as "a force for desegregation" later that year. In 1969, a national Girl Scout initiative to eliminate prejudice called Action 70 was created. Furthermore, Gloria D. Scott, an African American, was elected National President of the Girl Scouts in 1975.
Girl Scout Senior Roundups
International Girl Scout gatherings named Senior Roundups were held every three years from 1956 until 1965.
- Milford, Michigan (1956) attended by 5,000 girls
- Colorado Springs, Colorado (1959) attended by 10,000 girls
- Button Bay, Vermont (1962) attended by 9,000 girls
- Farragut State Park, Idaho, (1965) attended by 12,000 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, twelve 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 twenty-nine 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 provide 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.
- Juliette Gordon Low (1915–1920)
- Anne Hyde Choate (1920–1922)
- Lou Henry Hoover (1922–1925) (1935–1937)
- Sarah Louise Arnold (1925–1926?) (she had previously been first Dean of Simmons College (Massachusetts) (1901-1919))
- Mira Hoffman (1926–1930) (Mrs. William H. Hoffman)
- Birdsall Otis Edey (1930-1935) (Mrs. Frederick Edey) (After ceasing to be President she became National Commissioner for the Girl Scouts until her death in 1940)
- Mrs. Frederick H. Brook (1937-1939)
- Mildred Mudd (1939–1941) (Mrs. Harvey S. Mudd) (She later supported the founding of Harvey Mudd College named after her husband, Harvey Seeley Mudd)
- Mrs. Allen H. Means (1941-1946)
- Harriet Rankin Ferguson (1946-1952) (Mrs. Vaughan C. Ferguson)
- Olivia Cameron Layton (1952-1958) (Mrs. Roy F. Layton)
- Marjorie Mehne Culmer (1958-1964) (Mrs. Charles U. Culmer) (later chair of WAGGGS, died in 1994)
- Gloria Randle Scott (1975–1978)
- Jane C. Freeman (1978–1984)
- Elinor Johnstone Ferdon (1996–1999)
- Connie L. Matsui (1999–2002)
- Cynthia B. Thompson (2002-2005)
The aim of the Girl Scouts is that girls will develop to their full potential by pursuing four goals: (1) developing their full potential; (2) relating to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect; (3) developing a meaningful set of values to guide their actions and to provide for sound decision-making; and (4) contributing to the improvement of society.
Girl Scout Promise and Law
The Girl Scout Promise can be made in English, Spanish, or in American Sign Language with the same meaning.
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-finger salute of the right hand, the Girl Scout sign. Girl Scout policy states that "God" may be interpreted depending on individual spiritual beliefs. When reciting the Girl Scout Promise, the word "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, 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.
Main page: Girl Scout levels (USA)
The program was originally for girls aged ten through seventeen, but it was soon 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 eighteen, or over sixteen if First Class Scouts, became known as Senior Scouts. In 1938 age divisions were Brownies (ages seven through nine), Intermediates (ages ten through thirteen), and Seniors (ages fourteen through seventeen).
In 1963 this was rearranged to Brownies (ages seven through nine, later six through nine), Juniors (ages nine through eleven), Cadettes (ages eleven through fourteen), and Seniors (ages fourteen through seventeen).
Studio 2B allowed girls to choose whether to call themselves "2Be's," "teen Scouts" or Cadettes and Seniors. Girl Scouts, age eleven through seventeen, could earn both traditional badges and Studio 2B activities, and the Silver Award and Gold Award requirements had been rewritten to require both. Studio 2B activities differed from badges in two ways: each booklet focuses on topics such as environmentalism or self-confidence rather than being as skill-based on a badge; and to earn each Studio 2B charm, the Girl Scout chose activities from the booklet and then meet a goal relevant to the booklet topic. She created her own plan for achieving her goal, following a basic planning procedure called SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely).
Then on August 26, 2006 the GSUSA board approved a national realignment of Girl Scout councils. This realignment created a new class of Girl Scouts called Ambassadors for girls in grades eleven and twelve, moving seniors to ninth and tenth grade. Although, the "ambassador" level is not used nationwide yet.
Although troop membership is still the most common way to participate in Girl Scouting, girls who do not desire troop activities can sign up as an individual Girl Scout, called 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 over the age of eighteen to stay or become active in Girl Scouting while in college. They involve the community, the local council, and the college campus in their events.
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 with a staff of 400. It is headed by a chief executive officer and a forty 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 Patricia Diaz Dennis.
Below the national organization are, as of 2006, 312 regional Girl Scout councils, which own the 236,000 local troops and other groups. On August 26, 2006, the national board of directors decided to reorganize 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 or county.
The basic unit is the troop, which may or may not be sponsored. In contrast to Boy Scout troop sponsors, Girl Scout troop sponsors do not own the troop. Troops range in size from as small as 6 to 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 2 unrelated women serve as leaders to preserve the woman role model vision.
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 visit nursing homes, carry out flag ceremonies, collect food for food drives, or other community service. Troops may also plan and have extended trips such as visiting another part of the United States or even travel to another country. Troops may have 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 events that individual older Girl Scouts from around the United States can participate in. Destinations are held within the United States or in other countries, such as being part of the US delegation to another country's national jamboree, or to visit 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 is selling Girl Scout Cookies 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 by the Girl Scout Handshake.
Thinking Day and Scouts Own are traditions throughout the world of Scouting. Thinking Day has occurred annually on February 22, the birthday of both Robert Baden-Powell and Olave Baden-Powell, since 1926. On Thinking Day, Girl Scouts and Guides around the world think about their sisters in other lands. Many Girl Scouts in America also celebrate Julliette Gordon Low's birthday, which coincides with Halloween. Such parties will have the girls come in Halloween costume, and serve a birthday cake at the same time.
A Scouts Own is an inspirational ceremony built around a central theme such as friendship, using resources wisely, or fairness that is planned and carried out by the girls.
Awards and badges
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 older girls.
The highest achievement in Girl Scouting is the Gold Award, which can only be earned by Senior Scouts. Cadettes and Juniors can earn the Silver Award and Bronze Award respectively. The Gold and Silver 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 wear on their uniform awards from outside organizations, such as the religious emblems that religious organizations offer, 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 position expectations to two or more geographic areas, service units or program delivery audiences in a way that furthers the council's goals.
Impact on American life
Among the many famous American Girl Scouts are 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 of the United States 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 at the allied front by selling defense bonds, growing victory gardens, and collecting waste fat and scrap iron. Girl Scouts are famous for selling their Girl Scout Cookies as their annual fundraiser, which they began in 1917. Many Americans have bought the cookies from Girl Scouts selling them from door to door. Girl Scouts also spread their values into their communities through community service projects such as soup kitchens and food drives.
No official stand on sexuality issues
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 of sexual orientation, and those who question the inclusion of homosexuals.
To Serve God in the Promise
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.
On October 23, 1993, the Girl Scouts of the USA voted to permit individuals to substitute another word or phrase for 'God' in their promise.
"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'."
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. Because of the GSUSA policy adopted in 1993, some, in 1995, formed an alternative organization, the American Heritage Girls (AHG) 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.
Banning prayer at meetings
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 or 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.
Association with Planned Parenthood
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 had endorsed a Planned Parenthood education event (which did not mention abortion) but did not provide money nor send scouts to it. Some pro-life movement supporters and social conservatives criticized this endorsement calling for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies sold by the Bluebonnet Council. Although Waco residents responded to the announced boycott by purchasing a record number of cookies, the Bluebonnet Council removed their endorsement. The pro-life group states that twenty percent of the investigated councils have some connection to Planned Parenthood though that includes councils that have endorsed events that Planned Parenthood also endorsed.
Oldest living Girl Scout
The oldest living Girl Scout is Marianne Elser Crowder, born in Colorado Springs in April 1906. She joined the Wagon Wheel Council Troop 4 in 1918 and got her Golden Eaglet, which was then the GSUSA highest award. 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.   
Campfire Girls was founded 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-ed and soon changed its name to "Camp Fire Boys and Girls" and more recently to Camp Fire USA in 2001. Another parallel group is the American Heritage Girls (AHG), started in 1995 in Westchester, Ohio by a group of parents concerned with available female Scouting organizations. AHG is a Christian organization that claims it is "a Scouting program for girls that supports the traditional values of God, Family and Country."
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