The Founding of Girl Scouts in the United States
March 12, 1912 marked the beginning of an organization that for 10 decades has helped girls grow into strong, confident women. Founder Juliette Gordon Low’s vision of bringing something “special to girls of America and the world” culminated in the founding of the Girl Scouts, where girls throughout the nation develop physically, mentally and spiritually. Girl Scouts started with a membership of only 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia. Juliette, referred to as “Daisy,” envisioned an organization that would bring girls out of their cloistered home environments to serve in their communities and experience the open air. Within months, girl members were hiking through the woods in their knee-length blue uniforms, playing basketball in a curtained-off court and going on camping trips. Nurtured by Daisy’s personal funding and enthusiasm, the Girl Scout movement attracted the attention of many talented, educated women and girls. By 1920, Girl Scouts was growing in its independence, with its own uniform, handbook and constitution.
During World War I, Girl Scouts served their country on the home front, working in hospitals, growing vegetables and selling defense bonds. After the war, a feature film about Girl Scouting was shown in theaters across the country, and the American Girl, a popular magazine for young girls was published.
By 1929, membership was over 200,000 and the new green uniform replaced the khaki one. Girl Scout camps were setting national standards for safety and health.
The severe economic hardships of the Great Depression in the 1930s tested the resourcefulness of the organization and its members. Girl Scouts proved worthy of the challenge as they joined the relief effort, collecting clothes, food and toys, volunteered in hospitals and worked on community canning projects.
In 1936, the national Girl Scout organization began the process to license the first commercial baker to produce cookies sold by Girl Scout councils. In the 1940s, Girl Scouts again served on the homefront collecting scrap metal and growing Victory Gardens.
Re-incorporation of Girl Scouts of the USA under a congressional charter began in the 1950s. The Juliette Gordon Low birthplace in Savannah, Ga. was bought in 1953 and later restored. Low’s birthplace was opened as a house museum and national program center for girls in October 1956. In 1963, four program age levels were added - Brownie, Junior, Cadette and Senior Girl Scouts. The National Board went on record as supporting civil rights. Senior Girl Scout Speakout conferences were held around the country and the “ACTION 70” project was launched in 1969, both as nationwide Girl Scout initiatives to overcome prejudice.
“Eco-Action,” a national environmental program, and swearing in of the first African-American National President, Gloria D. Scott, were turning points of the 1970s.
In the 1980s, a new Daisy Girl Scout age level for girls five years old or in kindergarten was introduced and the Edith Macy Conference Center opened. A series of publications dealing with social issues like child abuse, literacy and youth suicide were introduced.
During the 1990s, a renewed emphasis was placed on physical fitness with the inauguration of a health and fitness national service project in 1994 and the GirlSport initiative in 1996.
Throughout its evolution, Girl Scouts has held onto traditional values, while embracing contemporary issues. This year, 2012, Girl Scouts of the USA launched a national campaign “To Get Her There” to help give girls more leadership opportunities in the next generation.