The early history of Girl Scouting in our country is a thrilling story of how one woman’s tireless energy and boundless enthusiasm conquered discouragement, so that the girls of this country might have the joys and benefits of Girl Scouting.
In 1911, Juliette Gordon Low formed a close friendship with General Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Robert was the founder of Boy Scouts in England where she learned from him about Girl Guides, which was the female counterpart to Boy Scouts. She immediately got excited because she liked the idea of teaching young girls useful, practical skills that were unlike the lessons she learned in finishing school. When she returned to the United States in 1912 she organized the first troops in Savannah. The girls took camping trips, played sports (typically unheard of at this time in our nation’s history), and learned about aviation and how to do first aid. She instilled in each girl a strong sense of pride in herself. In 1913, she traveled to Washington D.C. to set up the national organization.
At first, many of the top men of the Boy Scouts opposed her venture and articulated their dissent. But Juliette did not respond to their complaints. Finally, in 1915, Girl Scouts of the USA was born. As president of the newly formed organization, she dedicated herself to the work of the Girl Scouts. She traveled throughout the country to rally women and girls to this cause, and she inspired them to become leaders. Juliette said her vision for this organization can be summed up in the first Girl Scout Promise: “On my honor, I will try to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people at all times, to obey the Girl Scout Laws.” In the first Girl Scout handbook, entitled “How Girls Can Help Their Country,” she encouraged girls to be doctors or aviators.
Juliette Gordon Low instilled the very basics of feminism into a program that opened new worlds for millions of girls and women, teaching them to have pride in their girlhood. She dedicated her entire life to educating girls and teaching them about all the possibilities within their reach. She stressed the importance of helping those in need and making communities better through group efforts. Above all else, she promoted an environment of girls supporting other girls.
Girl Scouts is impactful in helping girls and women navigate this world because of the foundation Juliette laid. Did you know, in the United States, 90 percent of female astronauts, 80 percent of female tech leaders, 75 percent of current senators, and 50 percent of female business owners are Girl Scout alumnae? We are building a better tomorrow – a more equitable tomorrow where the story of the common woman is as known as that of the common man.
Girl Scouts is the best organization in the country—and arguably the world—for girl leadership development. It is a dynamic organization with a long-term, agile growth strategy to provide girls with what they need more effectively than any other organization in a changing, competitive marketplace. Girl Scouts has been delivering the best in girl leadership and healthy development for more than 100 years.
We understand the impact of our collective past, and we’ve built on that foundation to make it possible for girls and women to dedicate their lives to being accomplished, successful leaders. As we cultivate these female leaders of tomorrow, we ask you to continue to foster and advance the possibilities only Girl Scouting can provide.
Our mission hasn’t changed since 1912. It remains to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. And the vision hasn’t changed. It’s still to be the premier leadership organization for girls and the experts on their growth and development. So let’s stay focused on our mission.
-Loretta Graham, CEO