Girl scout
[Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives on Flickr]
Musician Taylor Swift, herself once a Girl Scout, tweeted she was “beyond stoked” when some Girl Scouts came to an event of hers and brought her Girl Scout cookies.

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Other famous former Girl Scouts include Nancy Reagan, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Laura Bush, Katie Couric, Barbara Walters, and Mariah Carey. Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Debbie Reynolds, and Dinah Shore were Girl Scouts, and so was Shirley Temple. Astronaut Sallie Ride was a Girl Scout, as was author/feminist Gloria Steinem.

Martha Stewart was a Girl Scout in her hometown of Nutley, New Jersey, and once said, “I remember getting a lot of badges because of course I was an overachiever.”

It was Juliette “Daisy” Low who started the Girl Guides when she gathered together 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia, in 1912. The name soon changed to Girl Scouts, and ever since, Girl Scouts’ activities have often mirrored what was happening in the nation.

WWI — On the Home Front

During World War I, Girl Scouts sold Liberty bonds, made “trench candles” for soldiers, helped in hospitals, learned to grow and preserve food, and even collected peach pits that were used in gas mask filters (who knew?).

Those Famous Cookies

The Girl Scout cookie tradition started in 1917, when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Okahoma decided to bake cookies and sell them in their school cafeteria as a fundraiser. Ninety years later, in 2007, Girl Scouts sold about 200 million boxes of Thin Mints, Samoas, and other favorites.

The Roaring 20s

By 1920, only eight years after the first troop met, there were almost 70,000 Girl Scouts nationwide, including in the territory of Hawaii (my great-grandmother was the first Girl Scout leader on Hawaii’s Big Island).

Image from 1933 Sears fall catalog (courtersy of Ancestry)
Image from 1933 Sears fall catalog (courtesy of Ancestry)

Doing the Depression

During the Depression, Girl Scouts gathered clothes and food for the poor. They made quilts, carved wooden toys, canned food, and helped in hospitals. If you had the money, you could order your official Girl Scout Handbook or knife from the Sears catalog.

Soldiering on During WWII

Girl Scouts again helped in the war effort during World War II, operating bicycle courier services, planting Victory Gardens, and collecting fat and scrap metal for use here in the U.S. They gathered 1.5 million pieces of clothing that were then sent to overseas war victims.

Japanese-American girls confined to American internment camps during World War II formed Girl Scout troops in the camps.

Modern Times

In the 1970s, when Vietnamese refugee children arrived in the U.S., Girl Scouts helped them adapt to their new homes.

More recently, the Girl Scouts have started programs to teach girls to “just say no to drugs,” “Project Safe Time” for latchkey girls home alone after school, and a “Girl Scouts Beyond Bars” program for mother-daughter prison visits.

So, a Girl Scout today might perform slightly different activities than her Girl Scout grandmother, but both of them lived by the same motto: “Be prepared.”
— Leslie Lang

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