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Girl Scouts celebrate a milestone: Happy 100th anniversary!

March 12, 2012|By Rene Lynch | This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
  • Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada flocked to the Hoover Dam to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts of the USA.
Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada flocked to the Hoover Dam to celebrate the… (Girl Scouts of Southern…)

Girl Scouts of the USA, you're aging exceptionally well. Happy 100th anniversary!

The organization for girls was started 100 years ago today by Juliette Gordon Low of Savannah, Ga. Impressed by the fledgling scouting movement at that time -- aimed at boys -- Low decided to launch an organization that focused on girls.

Girl Scouts have been celebrating in all kinds of ways. On Saturday, groups from Florida and Houston walked across the Talmadge Bridge in Georgia, symbolizing the organization's step into a new century. Others created a sea of emerald green across the Hoover Dam in Nevada. And still other Girl Scouts formed a friendship circle at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Ore.

The Girl Scouts were born March 12, 1912, and the organization's cultural impact goes far beyond its members -- and selling cookies.

Slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called Girl Scouts "a force for desegregation," according to scouting history.

That's because the organization had a rich history of cutting across racial and socioeconomic barriers. Low's very first meeting had 18 girls in attendance. Several were from well-to-do Savannah families, and several were from the Female Orphan Asylum and Congregation Mickve Israel, according to the organization.

The first African American Girl Scout troops were established in 1917, along with troops for disabled girls. Latina troops were formed in Houston in 1922. The Girl Scout troops supported Japanese American girls in internment camps in the 1940s. And by the 1950s, the scouting organization says it had taken the initiative to "fully integrate" all of its troops.

Today, the scouting organization says it is dedicated to developing girls in the 3 C's -- courage, confidence and character.

In honor of the 100th anniversary, the U.S. Postal Service will unveil a Girl Scouts stamp later this year.

The organization is also launching ToGetHerThere, which it calls the "largest, boldest advocacy and fundraising cause dedicated to girls' leadership in the nation's history." The goal is extraordinary: to achieve "balanced leadership," or "the equal representation of women in leadership positions in all sectors and levels of society" within one generation.

It also aims to help encourage girls to fill "critical talent gaps" in areas such as finance, science, technology, the environment, and other global leadership arenas.

"Our 100th anniversary is our moment in time to bring the nation together to make a difference in the lives of girls," Girl Scouts chief executive Anna Maria Chávez said in a statement released to the media Monday. "Girls represent an incredible resource for our country and Girl Scouts has always provided them a platform for success, and during our centennial we want everyone — men and women alike — to join us in making sure that every girl achieves her full leadership potential."

Today, Girl Scouts of the USA has a membership of more than 3.2 million girls and adults, spanning 90 countries. Nearly 60 million living women in the U.S. today are Girl Scout alumnae, the organization says.

The road to this anniversary celebration has not been without controversy. An Indiana lawmaker, Bob Morris, earlier this year balked at signing a resolution honoring the scouting organization on its 100th anniversary. He accused the organization of promoting feminism, homosexuality, abortion and Communism. He also said the organization was aligned with Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood and Girl Scouts of the USA swiftly issued statements insisting that one had nothing to do with the other. Morris has since apologized for his "inflammatory" statements -- but said he continues to believe the two organization are "partners."

[For the Record, March 12: An earlier version of this story misspelled Juliette Gordon Low’s name as Lowe.]

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