Like most Americans, Ellie Alloway will pause tomorrow to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
But tonight, September 10, Ellie will make an unprecedented contribution to the history of 9/11.
Tonight is the premiere of Ellie’s documentary, “Ripples: 9/11 Reflections from the North Fork, NY.” The film draws from more than 100 interviews that she conducted with survivors over the past two years.
The 9/11 documentary began as her Gold Award project, earning her the highest award available to Girl Scouts. Then it grew and grew. She hopes that one day schools might use her film when teaching about the events of 9/11.
Meet Ellie Alloway: one of the Girls the World Needs.
For more about Ellie and her project, follow these selected links:
Today musicians across the country will play both the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.” Over the years, many people have called for making “God Bless America” our national anthem. Among other arguments, it is a much easier song to sing.
I happen to agree, but I have an ulterior motive. I want the royalties.
Written in 1917, “God Bless America” debuted on Kate Smith’s radio show in 1938. It was an instant hit. Irving Berlin’s lyrics captured his love of the United States, the country that had welcomed his family when they fled Russia in 1893. He decided to use the royalties from this song to invest in the country’s future, especially its youth.
Berlin sat on the board of directors of the Boy Scouts and his wife on the board of the Girl Scouts. The Fund’s trustees explained the selection of beneficiaries: “It was felt that the completely nonsectarian work of the Boy and Girl Scouts was calculated to best promote unity of mind and patriotism, two sentiments that are inherent in the song itself.”
At the time, right-wing fringe groups attacked the Girl Scouts for accepting Berlin’s gift. Noting that the composer was Jewish, they denounced the song as being part of a Jewish conspiracy to replace the “Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem. Historian Sheryl Kaskowitz reprints excerpts from some of these startling letters, including one that claimed the Girl Scouts had accepted $15,000 from Berlin as part of the conspiracy. “Millions of Christian Americans resent certain forces using a great Patriotic organization such as yours to further their own selfish interests, and further the lid is about to be blown right off this slimy trick.”
The Girl Scouts persevered despite its critics, and ten years later, in 1950, Fund president Herbert Bayard Swope cited the movement as “a leading factor in the fight to end race, color, and religious discrimination in the United States.”
Focus on Greater New York City
Originally the royalty funds were distributed to councils across the country, but since the 1990s the fund has focused on the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York and the Greater New York Councils: Boy Scouts of America. Both organizations have used the funds to provide programs in low-income neighborhoods of New York City.
According to the Chicago Tribune (November 7, 2001), the song generated about $200,00 per year, prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Royalties swelled to $800,000 for 2001. By 2011 some $10 million had been distributed to both organizations.
Boy Scout Royalties Withheld
However, Fund trustees became increasingly uncomfortable with the Boy Scouts’ official policy of discrimination against homosexual members. Fund publications began to stress that royalties went to the Greater New York Council, not the national organization. Each year the Greater New York Council had to assure the Fund of its non-discrimination policy. (Boy Scouts ended this restriction in 2015.)
The Fund was not satisfied by the council’s statement in 2012, and it refused to cut a check to the Boy Scouts for several years. However, eventually the Fund was satisfied and donations resumed. I cannot pin-point the resumption date as the council’s website has dead links for all annual reports between 2014 and 2017.
The Fund has never had a problem with the Girl Scouts. For 2020, Girl Scouts of Greater New York reported a donation from the God Bless American Fund of between $50,000 and $99,000, twice the level received in 2015. (See Girl Scouts of Greater New York 2020 Annual Report.)
The Girl Scouts of the USA has long advocated inclusion and maintained a strict policy of “For All Girls.” Period. We know there is always room for one more around the campfire.
Girl Scouts of the USA strives to create conscientious future voters who appreciate the unique qualities of the American political system.
From the founding of Girl Scouts in 1912, girls could earn badges that involved learning about their government, laws, and elections.
After women received the right to vote 100 years ago, Girl Scouts stepped in to help anyway they could. Sometimes an act as simple as holding a baby while mother goes into the voting booth can make a difference in turnout.
There are clear limits on political involvement. The Blue Book–GSUSA’s collection of bylaws, policies, and the corporate constitution–states the following:
Individual Girl Scouts may engage in partisan political activities, but only as civilians. They cannot appear in uniform, as that would suggest the organization has endorsed a particular candidate or expressed an opinion on a public issue.
A Little Too Active
Sometimes good intentions may get out of hand, as happened during the 1960 Presidential Election.
It seems that Intermediate* Troops 670 and 702 from Bethesda, Maryland, loved to do community service projects. When their leader, Mrs. Smith heard that the Volunteers for Nixon-Lodge headquarters needed help, she immediately signed the girls up. The field trip to 1000 16th Street NW in Washington did not raise any red flags among parents, as most were Republicans themselves.
*In 1963, the Intermediate level was divided in Juniors (grades 4-6) and Cadettes (grades 7-9).
A dozen girls, in their green uniforms, yellow ties, and jaunty berets, had a blast at the campaign office. They stuffed envelopes; assembled press releases; and filled campaign kits with buttons and bumper stickers.
Vice President Nixon’s press secretary, Herbert G. Klein called the Washington Post to suggest that there was a great photo opportunity happening at campaign headquarters. A campaign staffer had tipped off Klein and said the girls might be working at the Kennedy-Johnson office another day.
A witty local reporter asked the girls whether “some people might not regard Nixon’s defeat as a community service,” the girls giggled and confidently stated, “Kennedy isn’t going to be elected.”
The girls had put in about four hours of work when a telephone rang; the caller asked for Mrs. Smith. In fact, the caller was Helaine Todd, executive director of the National* Capital Area Girl Scout Council.
*Also in 1963, the National Capital Girl Scout Council and four other councils combined to form the Nation’s Capital Girl Scout Council.
Todd was a tad upset. She informed Mrs. Smith that “Partisan political activity is absolutely against local and national Girl Scout policy. ” Todd also declared that the girls could not count the day toward service hours. (That seems a bit over the top, in my opinion.)
Mrs. Smith, a relatively new leader, was “flabbergasted and aghast.” She grabbed the girls and swiftly exited. At the next troop meeting, she turned the experience into a learning opportunity, explaining what she had done wrong.
Of course, Nixon lost in 1960. Much could–and has–been said about Richard Nixon. But I must give the Nixon family credit for being strong supporters of Girl Scouts–before and after their White House years.
Both Nixon daughters, Julie and Tricia, were active Girl Scouts and future First Lady Pat Nixon was their co-leader.
Mrs. Nixon greatly enjoyed her time as honorary national president of GSUSA, welcoming girls to the White House and visiting the national headquarters in New York.
The wrenching images of immigrant children separated from their parents reminded me of several articles about Girl Scout outreach programs. The Department of Homeland Security should take note:
Girl Scouts have a long tradition of welcoming newcomers. They have created innovative programs to welcome girls moving across the country or across town; girls moving into overcrowded boom towns, as well as refugees from all corners of the world.
They have established and operated Girl Scout troops in challenging, high-security settings, such as the Japanese internment camps of the early 1940s. Since 1992, the Girl Scouts Beyond Barsprogram has formed troops in women’s prisons so that inmates can participate in troops with their daughters. They even sell cookies to prison staff!
Early in the Cold War, troops were encouraged to seek out Displaced Persons arriving in their communities.
Item from January 1949 issue of Leader magazine.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Girl Scouts in the United States reached out to children in Europe and Korea, sending care packages and school supplies to communities ravaged by war.
Hugh M. Milton, II, Undersecretary of the Army (left) and Frank G. Millard, General Counsel of the Army, are presenting school kits to Vietnamese Girl Scouts on December 3, 1959, at CARE headquarters, Saigon. Thousands of kits donated by GSUSA troops (including 339 from Southern Maryland) were distributed in India, Vietnam, and Hong Kong between December 1959 and February 1960. (GSCNC Archives)
The Girl Scout way of Making New Friends continued in the 1980s. A February/March 1981 article in Leader magazine highlighted programs designed to help newcomers integrate into their new communities.
Leaders in the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida … visited Cuban mothers to assist them with grocery shopping, cooking and coping with the trials their new and confusing lives, while the Riverland Girl Scout Council in LaCrosse, WI, held a five-day cross-cultural “get acquainted” day camp with some of their new Cuban neighbors.
When community members in Fort Smith, Arkansas, were less than welcoming toward a group of Cuban refugees, Mount Magazine Council staff greeted the newcomers. The council CEO went on local television to challenge Girl Scouts to be friendly, prompting more residents to come forward with donations.
The article highlighted efforts in my own council, Nation’s Capital, to warmly welcome Vietnamese and Laotian families to the Washington region. Council staff first recruited high-school aged Vietnamese girls into Girl Scouting, then used their language skills to form multi-level troops for each community. The best sign of the program’s success—the girls soon were bringing more friends to the meetings.
The current refugee crisis in the United States, with children desperate for friendship, attention, activities, and caring adults, provides a critical opportunity for the Girl Scouts to put decades of experience to work. We have the skills and a proven track record—if we are allowed to use them.
I was pleased to see this week’s news that the country of Macedonia finally had an official name: Northern Macedonia. Since the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991-1992, the new country had been at odds with Greece, which claimed it had the exclusive right to the name. For over 25 years the former Yugoslav province was saddled with the awkward name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM) whenever it tried to conduct diplomacy or other international business.
Locator Map for Macedonia (World Atlas)
What does this have to do with Girl Scouts? Stick with me, this is one of those examples of the academic world colliding with the Girl Scout world.
Flag of Macedonia (The Flag Shop)
Surprisingly, the experience of Macedonia and all of the new countries created by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia should have been a giant red flag pointing to the possible pitfalls of the Realignment project.
Specifically: Names matter. People form strong emotional attachments to places and placenames. They find redrawing borders and renaming places to be emotionally difficult, almost as an attack on their identity. They will object.
What Was Realignment?
A decade ago, GSUSA redrew the borders of all councils across the country. In just two years 315 councils were redistributed into 112.
Realignment began with a vote by the national Board of Directors on August 26, 2006. The policy was intended to create:
high-performance, community-based councils. The new structure will make the most effective use of resources to better serve local communities across the nation and deliver a superior Girl Scout leadership program to even more girls.
Realignment was almost entirely top-down, based on criteria determined by outside, non-Girl Scout consultants who produced a “GSUSA Demographers’ Map.”
Rather than simply combining two or three existing councils and retaining the overall council shape, Realignment created entirely new entities by grouping together multiple existing councils. The new “high-capacity councils” would have:
a population with at least 100,000 girls between ages 5 and 17,
a combined household income of at least $15 billion, and
at least one city with a population of 50,000 or more.
While 29 current councils met those criteria, 283 faced major changes imposed from above. Not only would they no longer exist as an independent unit, many councils would be chopped up, and their girls, properties, and assets allocated among several new councils.
While councils could offer suggestions, it was clear that the program was going to take place. This “no exceptions” mindset was emphasized in GSUSA’s “Realignment News,” a weekly newsletter created in late 2005 and distributed to every council board chair and CEO. In the first issue, for example:
Q: What if councils don’t want to realign?
A: The future viability of Girl Scouting is tied to this most important nationwide effort. All councils are part of this process and all councils will have multiple opportunities to participate. … This will not be successful as an effort of “some,” it will only be successful as an effort of “all.”
Realignment News (December 5, 2005)
Needless to say, few council staff and volunteers were happy to learn of their impending extinction. Combining coucils would most certainly mean duplicate staff and downsizing.
Members hated to lose the councils they had been part of for decades. They were attached to the old name and found it surprisingly difficult to snip old council ID strips and patches off their sashes and patch jackets.
Many members understood and accepted the rationale for the changes. They agreed that it would be new opportunities for girls. But change, even for the best of intentions, is hard.
Originally, 80 mergers were planned, with an ultimate goal of 109 councils. If a council submitted a map that was similar to that proposed by the demographers, the council could be designated an “early adopter” and procede. Central Indiana became the first council to complete Realignment, opening for business in January 2007.
Despite the clear statements about Realignment being mandatory, several councils balked.
Manitou Council, headquartered in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, went to court to resist the proposed changes. National headquarters intended to divide Manitou’s territory and 6,000 girls among three new councils (60% to Northwestern Great Lakes, 35% to Wisconsin Southeast, and 5% to Badgerland). While technically Manitou could continue to exist as a legal entity, without the blessing of GSUSA it would not be able to present itself as a Girl Scout council nor could it use Girl Scout servicemarks and materials. Citing Wisconsin’s Fair Dealership Law, Manitou objected to GSUSA unilaterally seizing its territory without good cause. The council had met all of its charter criteria. Without the exclusive territory, the council argued, it would be unable to sell the cookies that comprised two-thirds of its annual budget. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ultimately agreed. Manitou remained intact.
Farthest North in Alaska and Hornet’s Nest in North Carolina also resisted and followed the Manitou lawsuit carefully. After the Manitou ruling, they were allowed to remain un-realigned. Illinois Crossroads and Prairie Winds initially declined to join the new Greater Chicago and NW Indiana council, but ultimately merged.
farthest north patch
hornets nest patch
New Names, Less Local Flavor
Realignment affected many aspects of council life, but this post only focuses on one: council names. I’ll deal with surplus camps and oversubscribed pension plans another time.
Ironically, a program intended to “better serve local communities” began by stripping away any trace of local character.
New councils voted on their new name, but the candidates had to follow a formula specified by GSUSA. Gone were the colorful, descriptive names that had been used for decades. In were bland names with clear geographical reference.
Vivid names such as Mile Hi, Wagon Wheel, Chipeta, and Mountain Prairie were clumped under the rubric “Colorado.” Efficient, but impersonal.
Some councils largely remaining intact still had their names tweaked. Wilderness Road, for example, was renamed Kentucky’s Wilderness Road.
As far as identity is concerned, these changes were disorienting. A major component of your personal story is gone. It was like discovering that your childhood home had been torn down and your high school renamed.
Organization names and borders are more than just lines and letters on a page. As I’ve written elsewhere, names, symbols, and mythology are vital to creating popular loyalty to a new country. The same is true for new councils, schools, and even churches. Groups cannot be erased from maps without generating complaints and resistance. (article 1) (article 2)
People who objected to Realignment are not ancient relics stuck in the past. They simply are human, an assertion backed by science.
Compared with Macedonia’s name issue and the battles associated with redrawing maps across post-communist Europe, Realignment was (almost) painless.
At least no council has been stuck with a name like FGCCBLC: “Former Girl Scout Council of Beaver and Lawrence Counties.”
Fifty years ago today, the Girl Scouts of the USA released this telegram:
From Leader magazine, October 1968
Copies were also sent to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Judge Otto Kerner, every member of the Kerner Commission, every member of Congress, and every Girl Scout council president.
Two months earlier, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorder released a landmark study on race relations in the United States. President Lyndon B. Johnson had convened the 11-man panel of experts following riots in Newark, NJ, Detroit, MI, and 23 other cities the previous year. The violent uprisings, concentrated in African-American neighborhoods, were responsible for the deaths of 69 people in Newark and Detroit.
Known as the Kerner Report, as Judge Kerner of the US Court of Appeals chaired the panel, the report’s conclusion was concise and alarming: The United States faced such deep social and economic division that
Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.
—Conclusion of the Kerner Commission
The Report called for massive investment in housing and jobs to improve living conditions for African Americans and an end to segregation in urban neighborhoods, among other recommendations.
GSUSA received many responses to the telegram, including one from Judge Kerner:
Your message of the action of the Board of Directors of the Girl Scouts of the United States should be hailed by all throughout the United States. I am a great believer in using existing organizations to work on the greatest social problem the country has ever faced. I am sure that through the Girl Scouts you can reach into the economically deprived areas and give new experience and opportunity there as well as to those people outside the depressed areas by becoming acquainted with the conditions. Please extend my congratulations to the officers and the Board of Directors.
—Judge Otto Kerner
President Lyndon B. Johnson ignored the Kerner Report’s advice, mainly due to the cost, but the Girl Scouts paid attention.
Leader (Jan 1969)
At the 1969 National Council Session, GSUSA launched “Action 70,” a program to improve race relations within Girl Scouting. Within Nation’s Capital, the leaders of the Southwest Montgomery County and Mid-Eastern Washington Associations took up the challenge of fostering good relationships within the council. Mary Ann Claxton, of Southwest Montgomery County, invited Field Vice President Ethel Harvey to a discussion on “The Kerner Report and Its Implications for Girl Scouting.”
This discussion evolved into the Inter-Association Friendship Committee, a series of joint events between the Girl Scouts from the urban Mid-Eastern Washington and upper-middle class Southwest Montgomery County Associations spanning more than three decades. The Friendship Committee brought together troops for camping, swapping program ideas, service projects, and fun. One of the Committee’s most popular annual traditions was polishing the brass on the carousel at Glen Echo Park, once a whites-only establishment.
Nation’s Capital troops polishing the brass on the Glen Echo carousel (GSCNC Archives)
A half century later, the United States remains a sharply polarized society. The Girl Scout’s persistent determination to be inclusive is still a model worthy of consideration.
The Boy Scouts plan to admit girls into their ranks. Again.
The national office of the Boy Scouts of America recently announced that girls will be able to join Cub Scout packs this fall. Under a new program category called “Scouts BSA,” girls will be able to rise through the ranks in the coming years, all the way to Eagle (in other words, the Gold Award for boys). The expansion campaign will be known as “Scout Me In.”
scout me in logo scouts sq
But while proclaiming the move as a victory for inclusion, equality, and parental convenience, Cub Scout packs will be single-sex only. This paradox either confirms the value of single-gender group or indicates that Cub Scouts are afraid of girl cooties.
Including Some Girls
This is not the first time that the Boy Scouts have provided a participation option to girls.
On October 17, 1968, the Boy Scout organization launched a new membership initiative called “Boypower 76.” The ambitious program set national goals to be achieved by the US Bicentennial Celebration of 1976. Specifically, (1) Expand membership so that one of every three American boys is enrolled. That would require adding 2 million new Boy Scouts by 1976. (2) Double council budgets to a combined level of $150 million.
New members would be recruited through two efforts: establishing troops in inner cities and retaining older boys by allowing girls to participate in the special-interest, career-focused segment of the Explorers program. In other words, girls and ghettos.
The Girl Scouts outlined this new initiative in the October 1969 Leader magazine. According to the article, potential female Explorer participants must be:
registered Girl Scouts or Camp Fire Girls
invited to join by a post sponsor
in high school, unmarried [!!], and at least 14 years old
Participants will not become members of the Boy Scouts of America and will not pay a membership fee to the Boy Scouts of America. (They may pay post dues and “pay their own way” for activities and events.)
Leader (October 1969): 55.
The national slogan for Boypower 76 was “America’s Manpower Begins with Boypower.” What girl wouldn’t feel welcomed by that greeting?
A key difference between the 1968 announcement and those of 2017 and 2018 is that the earlier expansion news was delivered in a joint statement from the national presidents of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Camp Fire Girls. Furthermore, the cooperation proposal originated with the Girl Scouts.
Cincinnati Enquirer Sun (November 3, 1968)
Not everyone was pleased with including girls in 1968, prompting a Boy Scout spokesman to reassure the faithful, “We are not going to try to build girls. Our business still is boys.” Then why add girls? According to BSA chief executive Alden Barber, it was to improve older boy retention.
Young men are interested in young women.
This statement makes girls sound like recruitment incentives, not a group worthy of program initiatives.
Councils were given strict monthly and annual membership goals to keep them on track to achieve the expansion envisioned in Boypower 76. As the girls were only Explorer “participants,” not members, presumably the main source for new members would be high-poverty pockets in both urban and rural areas.
The strategies mentioned in the press reeks of racism and do-goodism. A widely syndicated New York Times article from February 1970 discourages block-by-block recruiting for new Boy Scouts because it might trigger gang conflicts; a new handbook in comic book format appropriate for “youngsters with a minimum of education”; and badges that include treating rat bites.
By April 1971, girls could be full members of Explorer posts, thereby contributing to the overall membership goals.
The Controversial Collapse of Boypower
BSA canceled the Boypower program two years early, amid widespread reports of inflated membership numbers. Articles in the New York Daily News, the Central New Jersey Home News, and many other newspapers enumerated the problems. The Chicago council was accused of selling one-month memberships for ten cents; other councils for inventing names to register. At least 13 major cities were discovered to have falsified records, involving some 30,000-40,000 “phantom” scouts.
Furthermore, only about half of the $65 million fundraising goal was met, and much of that was from long-time donors who directed their gifts to the national organization instead of the local council.
I will be watching the rollout of “Scout Me In” closely. This initiative also comes at a time of falling membership among the Boy Scouts, and I certainly prefer enrolling real children who will actually participate instead of inventing new members.
It is also important to note that the Boy Scouts are enrolling girls, not necessarily Girl Scouts. I have not seen any statement preventing girls from being members of both organizations. There have always been “bi-Scoutal” girls enrolled in both Girl Scouts and Venturing, the current incarnation of the Explorer program.
Personally, I’ll stick with Girl Scouting. I have a hard time seeing myself as a welcome, valued member of any organization whose very name fails to include me. Girls are more than just membership statistics. Girls, and especially Girl Scouts, are great!
Yesterday, the Library of Congress honored country singer Dolly Parton and her Imagination Library project.
Since 1996, Dolly has arranged for new books to be sent to young children every month. She launched the program to honor her father, who never learned to read or write. The event yesterday marked Imagination Library’s 100 millionth book.
To mark the milestone, Dolly read (and sang) from her own book, based on her beloved song, “Coat of Many Colors.”
Nearly 10 years ago, Dolly partnered with the Tanasi Girl Scout Council (now the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians) to create a Coat of Many Colors patch program. The patch, which can be earned by non-Girl Scouts, teaches resilience and self-respect in the face of bullying.
As Dolly said in 2008,
Be proud of who you are, and be kind to everyone you meet. That’s what Girl Scouting is all about.
Today, the need for building such resilience is even greater than when she wrote her song in 1971.
Dolly Parton is a lifetime Girl Scout, and I am proud to be her Girl Scout Sister!
Yesterday, the International Day of the Girl, the Boy Scouts announced that girls will be able to join Cub Scouts, beginning in fall 2018. BSA will introduce a pathway for girls to earn the Eagle Scout award in 2019.
The new policy, first floated in August, is a response to falling numbers of registered Boy Scouts nationwide. Girl Scouts of the USA (note: we are NOT Girl Scouts of America or GSA) President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan weighed in on the proposed co-ed membership in a letter to Boy Scout President Randall Stephenson:
Rather than seeking to fundamentally transform BSA into a co-ed program, we believe strongly that Boy Scouts should instead take steps to ensure that they are expanding the scope of their programming to all boys, including those who BSA has historically underserved and underrepresented, such as African American and Latino boys.
On Monday, October 9, newly elected GSUSA board member Charles Garcia made his objections clear:
The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire,” Garcia wrote. “Instead of addressing systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement and deficient programming, BSA’s senior management wants to add an accelerant to the house fire by recruiting girls.
I’ve just returned from the 54th National Council Session in Columbus, OH, October 4-8, 2017. Every three years the Girl Scouts’ National Council convenes to vote on proposals that affect the entire movement, such as dues and composition of the national board of directors (Garcia was elected to the board in Columbus). While not on the official agenda, the possible Boy Scout change prompted considerable discussion between panels.
Boys have frequently participated in Girl Scout events, especially high-school-age members. Local Senior troops staying at Rockwood National Center might invite boys for an evening of (closely supervised) dancing.
A co-ed event at Rockwood National Center in the 1950s (GSCNC Archives).
In the earliest years of Scouting in Washington, DC, troops frequently held joint meetings and events. Perhaps the first assembly of all of the Girl Scout troops in Washington was on May 23, 1914, when troops from both movements held an all-day picnic at Wildwood Boy Scout Camp in Takoma Park, MD.
wp 1914 may 24 bsa
wp 1914 may 24
Forty-two years ago, co-ed membership was the main issue at the Girl Scouts’ 1975 National Council Session, held in Washington, DC. The proposal came at a time of dropping membership levels across all youth organizations. Camp Fire Girls had responded by admitting boys aged 14-18 and the Boy Scouts opened Explorers (Venturing) to girls aged 14 to 21 in 1974.
Backers of co-ed membership argued that the presence of boys would help girls develop social skills that would prepare them for the workplace. Critics cited the confidence girls develop in a single-sex environment and pointed out that boys mature more slowly than girls and could not be grouped with same-age girls.
Ultimately, after two hours’ of debate, a voice vote overwhelmingly defeated the motion to admit boys. The issue has not come up for a vote since.
First Lady Betty Ford helped open the 1975 convention in Washington, DC.
The 1975 convention is also notable for having First Lady Betty Ford participate in the opening ceremony. Since Edith Wilson in 1917, every first lady has been honorary president of the Girl Scouts. While few can appear in person at a convention, they typically send video greetings for the opening session. Melania Trump was conspicuously absent from Columbus. Instead, former first daughters Barbara Pierce Bush and Chelsea Clinton chaired panel discussions.
Chelsea Clinton fields questions from the National Young Women of Distinction, Columbus OH
The insightful Brenda Akers (AP Photo)
Researching the debate on boy membership, I was struck by how many press reports quoted Brenda Akers, a 17-year-old Senior Girl Scout from Indiana: “If we need boys to sell the Girl Scouts, we need to re-evaluate our program.”
The Boy Scouts should take Miss Akers’ suggestion to heart.
Hooray to our confident young women who braved the insults and haters and stood tall and proud yesterday during the 2017 Inaugural Parade.
The issue of whether or not the Girl Scouts should have participated in the events surrounding the swearing-in of a new president generated considerable discussion.
Girl Scouts marching in the 2017 Inaugural parade (photo by Julie Lineberry)
Some commentators dismissed the uproar as the work of “childish feminists.” (Their argument might have been more convincing if they used our real name, Girl Scouts of the USA, not Girl Scouts of America.)
Today GSUSA, the national headquarters, released their own follow-up statement, which reads in part:
Being a leader means having a seat at the leadership table no matter what. It means being willing to work with whomever happens to hold political power. It means not running from the face of adversity but, rather, standing tall and proud and announcing to the world and the powers that be that SHE is a force to be reckoned with—and that girls’ viewpoints and needs must be taken seriously. This is what we model at Girl Scouts, as to do otherwise would be to tell girls to sit down and be quiet—and that they don’t count.
Now there is a movement afoot to not ask Melania Trump to serve as honorary president of the Girl Scouts, another 100-year old tradition dating back to Edith Wilson. (Edith was Woodrow Wilson’s second wife and second First Lady; his first wife, Ellen had declined the invitation and then promptly died.)
First Lady Grace Coolidge in her beloved Girl Scout uniform (GSCNC archives)
Again, I disagree. We are non-partisan, we can’t pick and choose who we’ll take and who we want. That’s the first lesson in troop management. Would we reject the Trump granddaughters if they wanted to join?
In fact, I hope Mrs. Trump becomes deeply involved in Girl Scouting. It would be an excellent way for her to be a voice for women in the United States, a voice that quite literally has the president’s ear.
So, Mrs. Trump, after you drop your son at school Monday, why don’t you take a stroll down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. GSUSA headquarters is only a few blocks south of Trump Tower. You can pick up your membership pin and a beautiful official scarf in the GS Shop—and we’ll help you to begin learning what it means to be strong, confident, and independent.