Revisiting Boypower 76

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.”

 

 

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

In addition,

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.

 

The_Cincinnati_Enquirer_Sun__Nov_3__1968_

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.

–Alden Barber

This statement makes girls sound like recruitment incentives, not a group worthy of program initiatives.

Membership Quotas

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.

Looking Ahead

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!

Girls Great

© 2018, Ann Robertson

 

 

We Are Girl Scouts of the USA!

Juliette Gordon Low in 1923.

Juliette Gordon Low in 1923.


Today Girl Scouts celebrate their 102nd birthday. As a gift to our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, let’s resolve to call our movement by its correct name: Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

Because the Boy Scouts, a slightly older organization, are the “Boy Scouts of America” people assume that the Girl Scouts dutifully followed down the same footpath. If the boys are the BSA, then the girls must be GSA. Right? Wrong!

What’s in a Name?

Juliette Gordon Low fought hard for the right to use the name “Girl Scouts.” Lord Baden Powell, who founded the Boy Scouts, insisted the “scout” label was for boys only. He decreed that their sisters would be known as Girl Guides. Low called her first troops in the United States Girl Guides as well, but the girls declared that they wanted to be Scouts. She followed their lead and defended their choice.

Other groups staked claim to the scout name. Clara A. Lisetor-Lane organized a group called Girl Scouts of America in 1910, but it failed to gain a national following. That didn’t stop Lisetor-Lane from accusing Low of stealing her idea.

Rival claim from the Girl Scouts of America

Rival claim from the Girl Scouts of America

The biggest objection came from the Boy Scouts. BSA Chief James E. West was openly hostile to the notion of girls calling themselves Scouts, saying they “trivialized” and “sissified” the term. He helped launch the Camp Fire Girls as an alternative organization and threatened to sue Low for using the name “Scouts.”

Girl Scout leaders argued that they had an equal right to the name, especially after women won the right to vote in 1920. As national board member Caroline Slade explained,

Now that full citizenship has been extended to the women of this state, it seems to me essential that as girls they should learn that their responsibility for their country is equally as great as, if somewhat different from, that of the boys, and I believe there is no better way for them to learn to become good citizens than to learn to become the best kind of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Remember US

The difference between GSUSA and BSA is easy to remember: US.

The Boy Scouts have a long history of fighting to keep specific groups of people out of Scouting. At one time, that included girls and women—us.

Juliette Gordon Low and the other women who established Girl Scouting fought to give us an equal role as citizens of the United States, an equal responsibility to shape our futures, an equal opportunity to be self-sufficient, and an equal dose of “wholesome pleasures” such as camping, singing, and public service.

On this Girl Scout birthday, don’t forget to put the US in GSUSA to thank our past leaders for give US a place in Scouting.