Girl Scouting was once segregated
Has a Girl Scout knocked on your door within the last few weeks? Cookie season is in full swing. So it's not unusual to see scouts on the move. You may see them in neighborhoods. Often, they will set up in front of supermarkets. They sell their tasty cookies. For one group of girls, cookie sales and badges weren't always an option.
Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts. She was raised in Savannah, Georgia. Her father served in the Confederate Army. She was annoyed by her rigid Southern upbringing. She faced the strict expectations of upper-class women in the United States. She started the Girl Scouts. That was 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...neither Daisy Low nor those who authorized the Constitution considered African-American girls to be part of the 'all.'" So writes Stacy A. Cordery in her book. It is titled, "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 formed as early as 1917.
The first African-American troop founded south of the Mason-Dixon Line didn't occur until 1932. This is according to the National Park Service. Maggie L. Walker was a bank president and newspaper editor. She 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. Another was Josephine Holloway. She led the effort to make Southern states include African-American scouts. She organized multiple troops. But they did not have the organization's official okay. She fought a long battle with the Girl Scouts to have them recognized. She kept up the fight for years. Finally, one of the region's first African-American Girl Scout troops was formed. That was 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 another group. 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. It opened in 1945. She eventually won the organization's highest honor. It is 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. Martin Luther King Jr. called the scouts "a force for desegregation."
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why did the Girl Scouts adopt cookie selling as a fundraiser?
Write your answers in the comments section below