The Girl in Green.
Yesterday, March 12th, marked the 96th anniversary of the first meeting of the Girl Scouts in the United States. Since Juliette Gordon Low's first gathering of "girls in green" in Savannah, Georgia, in 1912, Girl Scouts have been doing good deeds and learning in both the "outdoor laboratory of the camp" as well as the "indoor laboratory of homemaking" (as these two realms were called in the 1937 publication, Twenty-Five Years of Girl Scouting).
Girl Scouting always sought to offer girls more than just lessons in bee keeping and first aid. Low, who based her American Girl Scouts on the British Girl Guides (whose existence grew out of the British Boy Scouts organization), wanted to offer girls the chance to develop their individual "aptitudes through recreation," and the opportunities have grown over the decades. Although homemaking and pioneering were considered to be worthy skills to master, Girl Scouts were soon encouraged to embark on--among dozens of activities--nature study, handicrafts, rifle shooting, birding, dancing, and ambulance driving as well. For instance, the 1923 Scouting for Girls handbook outlined how Girl Scouts could earn proficiency badges in everything from electrician to dressmaker, from dairy maid to handy-woman. And in the realm of handicrafts, Arts & Crafts with Inexpensive Materials opens a particularly wonderful window to Girl Scouts' crafts aesthetic of the 1940s.
And, as revealed in Brave Girls by Harriett Philmus, Girl Scouts and Girl Guides heroically set aside their block printing and pottery (skills once needed to earn a proficiency badge as craftsman) during World War II. These women were saboteurs, secret couriers, nurses, barricade builders, fighters, wire tappers, and supply distributors. And they risked, and sometimes lost, their lives through this work.
Today's Girl Scouts continue to look beyond their own circles of friends. As Trefoil Round the World explains, recent Girl Scout projects have included supporting education and health efforts in foreign countries, embarking on tree planting, and starting recycling programs. To learn more about the Girl Scouts today, a visit their site is a great place to start. And among the many histories of this movement available at the Library, Susan Miller's Growing Girls: The Natural Origins of Girls' Organizations in America provides a satisfying critical look.