Girl Scouts mark centennial

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The first day I wore a Girl Scout uniform to school was a big event in my life. I was in second grade and proudly plopped the beanie on my head ready for my first Brownie Scout meeting. Unfortunately, I got sick midway through the day, threw up all over my beautifully starched uniform, and with tears and a great deal of disappointment went home early.

Luckily, I recovered quickly, joined the troop the next week and started what turned out to be years of being a Girl Scout and later a Girl Scout leader. When I read about this being the 100th anniversary of the organization, I thought about all I experienced and learned from those years.

At the start of our scout membership, we heard the story of how Juliette Gordon-Low founded Girl Scouts, but I didn’t realize until recently that she was a real trailblazer. There is a biography by Stacey Cordery, “Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts,” that shares the story of this amazing ahead-of-her-time woman.

She never planned to be more than a wife but circumstances, which included her husband’s neglect and adultery, lead Gordon-Low to file for a divorce, something unheard of in her day. Before her divorce became final, her husband died prematurely, but taking the steps to end her unhappy marriage apparently encouraged her to move beyond the expectations for women in her time.

This led her to a friendship with Boy Scout and Girl Guides British founder Sir Robert Baden-Power. From this experience, Gordon-Low decided to start an organization for girls in the United States, but from the beginning, her girls learned skills associated more with Boy Scouts, like camping and athletics.

(Oh camping, I recall that with a smile. Learning to build fires, put up tents, and if the fire didn’t get going — drinking what were supposed to be scrambled eggs.)

I was pleased to learn that early on Girls Scouts opened its doors to poorer girls and those from ethnic backgrounds, girls often ignored by other organizations. And, even more recently, Girl Scouts stood strong for tolerance for its atheist and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) members, even though it caused a conservative backlash.

As long as I live, I will never forget how a local Girl Scout troop welcomed my daughter who has autism and made her feel a part of that wonderful group of girls, making me proud once more of this organization that was so much a part of my early years.

No, on that first day as I wore my new uniform I didn’t know how this organization would help shape my life. Now on the 100th anniversary, the Girl Scout promise and law shared by members throughout the world offer as good a guide for how to act toward one another as they did when an unconventional woman founded the group.

The Girl Scout Promise

On my honor, I will try:

To serve God and my country,

To help people at all times,

And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

The Girl Scout Law

I will do my best to be

honest and fair,

friendly and helpful,

considerate and caring,

courageous and strong, and

responsible for what I say and do,

and to

respect myself and others,

respect authority,

use resources wisely,

make the world a better place, and

be a sister to every Girl Scout.