Blazing trails and redefining what’s possible for girls everywhere? Girl Scouts have been true to this since 1912.
Juliette Gordon Low—also known widely by her nickname, “Daisy”—started Girl Scouts in 1912 in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia. The first troop was made up of 18 girls who all shared a sense of curiosity and a belief that they could do anything.
At a time when women in the United States couldn’t yet vote and were expected to stick to strict social norms, encouraging girls to embrace their unique strengths and create their own opportunities was game-changing. That small gathering of girls over 100 years ago ignited a movement across America where every girl could unlock her full potential, find lifelong friends, and make the world a better place.
Learn more about Girl Scouts’ trailblazing founder and explore Girl Scouts’ impact throughout American history.
A meeting in 1911 with Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts, inspired Juliette Gordon Low to establish Girl Scouts the following year. In a time of cultural change—but before women had the right to vote—Girl Scouts emphasized inclusiveness, the outdoors, self-reliance, and service.
Throughout the Great Depression, Girl Scouts participated in relief efforts by collecting clothing and food for those in need. To meet the needs of the waves of new immigrants, Girl Scouts began printing its "Who Are the Girl Scouts?" promotional booklet in Yiddish, Italian, and Polish.
Girl Scouts responded to the Korean War by assembling “Kits for Korea,” pouches of items needed by Korean citizens. They also continued to push for inclusiveness and equality, with Ebony magazine reporting in 1952 that even in the South, ". . . Scouts were making slow and steady progress toward surmounting the racial barriers of the region."
Girl Scouts elected its first African American national board president, Gloria D. Scott; stood up for environmental issues by launching the national "Eco-Action" program; and helped Vietnamese refugee children adapt to their new homes in America.
As the use of personal computers grew, Girl Scouts introduced the Technology badge for Girl Scout Juniors, while also tackling illiteracy with the Right to Read service project, which nearly 4 million Girl Scouts and leaders participated in.
Girl Scouts turned 100, celebrating its centennial on March 12, 2011. In 2014, Girl Scouts launched Digital Cookie, through which Girl Scout Cookies were sold online by girls for the first time in the history of the iconic cookie program. Girl Scout programming also expands to include more STEM subjects, including robotics and space science badges.
The first Girl Scout troops were launched outside the United States in China, Syria, and Mexico. Additionally, one of the earliest Native American Girl Scout troops formed on the Onondaga Reservation in New York State in 1921, and Mexican American girls formed a Girl Scout troop in Houston, Texas, in 1922. Lone Troops on Foreign Soil (later called USA Girl Scouts Overseas) registered its first Girl Scout troop in Shanghai, China, with 18 girls in 1925.
During World War II, Girl Scout troops operated bicycle courier services, ran Farm Aide projects, collected fat and scrap metal, and grew Victory Gardens, as well as sponsored Defense Institutes that taught women survival skills and techniques for comforting children during air raids. Japanese American girls, confined to internment camps in Utah and California, also established troops.
Girl Scouts held Speak Out conferences around the country to lend their voices to the fight for racial equality; launched the "ACTION 70" project to help overcome prejudice and build better relationships between people; and viewed the Apollo 12 moon landing at Cape Kennedy, Florida, as guests of NASA.
Interest in Girl Scouting expanded, and Girl Scouts established the Daisy level for kindergarten-aged girls. The highest award a Senior or Ambassador Girl Scout can earn was renamed the Gold Award in 1980. Troops also distributed The Contemporary Issues series that addressed some of the most serious issues teen girls of the day were confronting, including drug use, child abuse, and teen pregnancy.
Girl Scouts entered the first decade of the new millennium focused on the healthy development of girls, establishing the Girl Scout Research Institute to conduct studies and report findings. We also continued to emphasize inclusiveness by hosting a National Conference on Latinas in Girl Scouting and, in 2005, electing the first Hispanic as chair of the National Board, Patricia Diaz Dennis.
Even as technology plays a larger and larger role in Americans’ lives, Girl Scouts also stay connected to nature and the great outdoors. So while Girl Scouts introduced new badges to promote outdoor activities, we’ve also partnered with Google for “Made with Code,” a program encouraging girls to get an early start in computer science.