Girl Scouting was once segregated African-American Girl Scouts chat at a camp named after Josephine Holloway, who pioneered scouting for girls of color. (Nashville Banner Archives/Nashville Public Library/Photo by Peter Barreras/Invision for Netflix, Girl Scouts of the USA/AP Images)
Girl Scouting was once segregated
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Has a Girl Scout knocked on your door within the last few weeks? With cookie season in full swing, it's not unusual to see scouts on the move in neighborhoods and set up in front of supermarkets plying their delicious wares. But for one group of girls, cookie sales and badges weren't always a possibility.
 
Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts, was raised in Savannah, Georgia, and her father served in the Confederate Army during her childhood. Irritated by her rigid Southern upbringing and the strict expectations of upper-class women in the United States, she started the Girl Scouts in 1912. She had learned about scouting from its British founder.
 
Like today's Girl Scouts, Low's initial organization declared itself a space for all girls. But the reality was different for girls of color.
 
"It is safe to say that in 1912, at a time of virulent racism, neither Daisy Low nor those who authorized the Constitution considered African-American girls to be part of the 'all,'" writes Stacy A. Cordery in her book, "Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts." Low feared that an official position that included African-American girls as scouts would make Southern troops quit. She left the decision up to state and local councils.
 
According to the Girl Scouts' official blog, African-American girls were members of the third U.S. troop formed in New Bedford, Massachusetts. That was in 1913. The first all-African-American Girl Scout troops were established as early as 1917. However, the first African-American troop chartered south of the Mason-Dixon Line didn't occur until 1932. This is according to the National Park Service. That's when a bank president, newspaper editor named Maggie L. Walker, fought to form Girl Scout Bird Troop, Number 34.
 
Walker wasn't the only woman who fought for a space for African-American Girl Scouts in the South. A woman named Josephine Holloway led the effort to make Southern states include African-American scouts. She organized multiple troops without the organization's official sanction. She also fought a long battle with the Girl Scouts to have them recognized. She persisted for years until one of the region's first African-American Girl Scout troops was established in 1942. This is according to the Girl Scouts' official blog. Today, a camp bears her name. She also is recognized as a pioneer within the organization.
 
As D.L. Chandler writes for BlackAmericaWeb, Sarah Randolph Bailey also played an important role in the desegregation of the Girl Scouts. Like Holloway, she created her own alternative organization. It was called the Girl Reserves. They eventually were admitted into the national organization. Bailey also founded the first day camp specifically for black Girl Scouts in 1945. She eventually won the organization's highest honor, the Thanks Badge.
 
By the 1950s, a national effort to desegregate all Girl Scout troops began. As the African American Registry reports, by 1956, Girl Scouts had become part of the early Civil Rights movement, with Martin Luther King Jr. calling the scouts "a force for desegregation."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why did the Girl Scouts adopt cookie selling as a fundraiser?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (5)
  • seyonniek-
    3/10/2017 - 08:40 a.m.

    The girl scouts adopted cookie selling as a fundraiser because they wanted to show other people that just because they were segregated that they could still do things in life and accomplish things.

  • natalies-
    3/10/2017 - 08:43 a.m.

    It would be a popular thing to buy, so a lot of people would buy it, giving them lots of money.

  • saraip-
    3/13/2017 - 08:47 a.m.

    I never knew that girl scouts were segregated too during this dreadful time. This really surprised me a lot Because i really never knew that Girl Scouts was around during this time period.

  • arianam-
    3/16/2017 - 08:42 a.m.

    Possibly because they wanted the girls to have a fun time while making money and earning badges?

  • bolivia-dav
    3/16/2017 - 10:15 p.m.

    In response to "Girl Scouting was once segregated," I agree that girl scouts wasn't always available to everyone. One reason I agree is that girl scouts started in 1912 and there was a lot of segregation during that time. Another reason is that the first African American girl scouts troop wasn't established until 1917. It says in the article that "Low feared that an official position that included African-American girls as scouts would make Southern troops quit." Juliette Gordon Low did not want anyone to quit the girl scout troop because African Americans joined. A third reason is that several people were fighting for an African American troop and there was not one made until 1917, four years after the first girl scout troop. Even though the past can not be changed, I think that this could have been prevented in the past and set a better example for other segregation activities.

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