International Women’s Day and Girl Scout Birthday

By Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital

The Girl Scout Story—

100 years of leadership

A century after the first International Women’s Day, it is fitting that Girl Scouts here and around the world are celebrating not only the centennial of International Women’s Day, but the story of the Girl Scouts who on March 12, 2012 will celebrate their 100th anniversary!

The stories of women’s struggle and achievements are an integral part of our collective history.  When you learn about women’s courage and tenacity throughout the centuries, you realize the strength many had to exhibit in order to create a better world for their families and children.  Women’s stories provide us with essential role models. And role models are genuinely needed to help us face the extraordinary challenges still facing women and girls today.

Did you know that we have the largest generation of young women ever?  There are more than 850 million girls and young women ages 10 -24 alone.  And the Girl Scouts provide an opportunity for a safe place for many of these girls to learn about courage, character and confidence.

The core of everything we do at Girl Scouts is to prepare girls with leadership skills.  We empower our girls to lead at every moment, everywhere.

Today, as we celebrate our 100th Anniversary milestone, I share with you insights from our history as I walk you through the rich legacy of Girl Scouting.

It all began with a phone call from an incredible woman, our founder: Juliette Gordon Low, who after learning about the “guiding movement” in England said, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!”  On March 12, 1912, Juliette Low gathered local girls to register them for the first troop in the United States.

Can you just imagine what life was like for girls 100 years ago?

  • Women were not allowed to vote
  • Women had to submit to laws when they had no voice in their formation
  • Women had no property rights, usually fathers or husbands had these rights
  • Women were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine or law
  • Women had no means to gain an education since most college and university would not accept women students (exceptions being institutions like Sweet Briar College.)

It would take eight more years, until August 1920, before all women in the United States would even have the right to vote. Girl Scouts have played an important role in transforming attitudes towards women, and even the very way girls see themselves!

Juliette Gordon Low believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually. Her goal was to bring girls out of isolated environments and into community service and the open air. Girl Scouts hiked, played basketball, went on camping trips, learned how to tell time by the stars and studied first aid. Unlike other organizations, from its inception, Girl Scouts has been organized and run exclusively by women, for girls and women.

This is our rich legacy, and as we mark our 100th anniversary we respect and continue our proud traditions, committed to building an even better future by facing the challenges and expanding the opportunities for girls today.

Happy Girl Scout Birthday, Happy Women’s History Month, Happy International Women’s Day!