The Girl Scouts of the United States of America, which aims to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, has been actively working toward that goal since its 1912 founding. There have been a number of significant milestones and events in its century-long history that have contributed to Girl Scouts' place as a premier organization for girls and women. With more than 2.5 million active members and over 50 million U.S. women who've been involved, the organization has been praised for its efforts to remain inclusive and innovative. The organization's past is not completely devoid of controversy; yet the Girl Scouts have managed not only to endure but, by many definitions, to thrive.
With such a long and established history, Stacker saw it fit to explore some of the major moments in Girl Scout history. So, grab your favorite cookies (Thin Mints are in fact the most popular), and read on to learn when and how cookies came to be part of the Girl Scouts, what connection the Girl Scouts have to s'mores, and what astounding location cookies reached for the first time in 1992.
Inspired by a meeting with Boy Scouts founder Sir Robert Baden-Powell, Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts in Savannah, Ga. Records note that the first troop was comprised of 18 culturally and ethnically diverse girls, and that from early on she had visions of expanding the organization widely.
Some accounts of Girl Scout history note that Low faced conflict from other outdoor education groups and their founders around this time. Ultimately, it was the Girl Scouts that has proven to be the longest lasting and most enduring of these organizations. Also in 1913, a headquarters was established in Washington D.C.
The Girl Scouts' highest award was originally called the Golden Eaglet and currently requires seven steps for completion. It's comparable to the Boy Scout's highest ranking, Eagle Scout.
A troop in Muskogee, Okla., was the first to bake and sell their treats. Early cookies sales followed a traditional bake sale model, as opposed to the wide-scale sales the organization is known for today.
African American scouts were part of troops as early as 1913, but they didn't have a troop of their own until 1917 when the first troops comprised entirely of African American girls were created. Decisions about the inclusion of African American scouts were left up to local organizations, and a national movement for integration didn't start for decades. The first African American American troop in the south wasn't chartered until 1932 (Girl Scout Bird Troop Number 34).
The troop, which was established in New York City, was another step toward inclusion. Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts, became deaf in her 20s, decades before her founding of the Girl Scouts.
The Girl Scouts' early established trend toward inclusion continued into the 1920s. While the troop founded on the Onondaga reservation in New York was the first to be entirely comprised of Native American girls, it was not the first to welcome them individually.
Juliette Low herself established the camp, which was started in order to train Girl Scout leaders and offer outdoor opportunities to younger girls. The camp, which is located in Georgia, became independent in 1930 and still operates today.
After a decade as an established organization, the milestone occurred when Houston Girl Scouts came together. Today in the same region, the Girl Scouts council of San Jacinto County, which includes Houston, has nearly 56,000 members.
Girl Scouts published "The American Girl" (originally called "The Rally") magazine from 1917 until 1979. The cookie recipe published in 1922 was for large batches of six to seven dozen cookies, and was shared with the suggestion for troops to sell them. The recipe is still available, having recently been re-published by the Washington Post.
The U.S. had 48 states in 1923, although territories of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico also had members, too. The same year, first lady Grace Coolidge was also photographed eating Girl Scout cookies.
“Lone Troops on Foreign Soil,” later called USA Girl Scouts Overseas, created a troop of 18 girls in 1925. That's the number of girls as the first troop established back in 1912. The troop was based in Shanghai, China.
Low died of cancer in January of 1927, after a 1923 diagnosis. She's buried in Savannah, Ga., in her Girl Scout uniform.
Originally called a “Some More,” it was a 1927 Girl Scout Guidebook which first published the instructions. The dessert still has a significant following, with lots of recipe collections and even recipe books now available.
Nearly 20 years passed between the introduction of Girl Scout troop bake sales and the commercial preparation of the treats. It was the Girl Scout Federation of Greater New York which was the first to establish the more efficient option.
Josephine Holloway is given much of the credit for the establishment and recognition of official African American Girl Scout troops. Her early efforts included organizing unofficial troops and persisting until the organization gave them official recognition. Her groundbreaking, trailblazing work earned her a Girl Scouts camp bearing her name that still stands today.
The rationing of many prominent cookie ingredients required the Girl Scouts to get creative with their flagship fundraiser in 1944. Calendar sales were just one of many changes made to support war efforts.
The first day camp for black Girl Scouts was founded by Sarah Randolph Bailey, who went on to earn the Girl Scouts highest distinction, the Thanks Badge. A campsite and a Girl Scout service center were both named in her honor.
The milestone was made official on March 16, 1950. Congress issued charters from 1791 through 1992, and while the milestone may be considered largely symbolic, it also still carries prestige. The Boy Scouts of America was also chartered, back in 1916.
Their national effort to desegregate troops earned the Girl Scouts recognition from a variety of sources, including Dr. Martin Luther King, who called the organization "a force for desegregation." Recently, some councils have even developed their own “I have a dream” patches in recognition of Dr. King.
Though a chocolate mint cookie was already part of the Girl Scout cookie repertoire, the name “Thin Mint” was first used in 1959. At the time, it was one of four cookie varieties; now it's one of 12 types of cookies.
Visitors are still able to see Girl Scouts founder Juliette Low's home today, which claims to be one of the most visited sites in Savannah. The mansion operates much like a museum, attracting guests and tour groups, often comprised of Girl Scout troops.
Dr. Gloria Dean Randle Scott had a long history of involvement with the Girl Scouts, starting as a Girl Scout junior and eventually starting her three-year term as president at age 39. She was noted as a respected educator, with an M.A. and Ph.D. in zoology who taught at multiple universities.
Originally called “Pixies,” though eventually renamed in honor of Juliette “Daisy” Low, the level was created for girls in kindergarten. It remains part of the Girl Scout program today as an opportunity for the youngest Girl Scouts (now kindergarten and first grade) to get involved.
Girl Scout alumna and first female NASA space commander, Jan Davis, took a box of cookies with her aboard the shuttle Endeavor. It was one of a number of partnerships with NASA, including space science badges launched in 2018 and an all-girls robotics team, the Space Cookies, in 2006.
Patricia Diaz Dennis's election came shortly after the Girl Scouts hosted the National Conference on Latinas in Girl Scouting in Texas in 2002. Diaz Dennis, a lawyer, also served as assistant secretary of state for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs from 1992 to 1993.
The decision sparked a national debate that even included a boycott of Girl Scout cookies by some opponents. Currently, the organization continues to consider transgender members on a case-by-case basis, while stating that they are a safe setting for youth who are recognized as girls.
President Barack Obama awarded Juliette Low with the posthumous honor of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian award in the U.S. The distinction came the same year that the Girl Scouts celebrated its 100th birthday.
National Girl Scout Cookie Day (not to be confused with other special Girl Scout days) sought to recognize the industrious cookie program and its many accomplishments. In 2019, the occasion was celebrated over the course of an entire weekend in February.
For the first time, Girl Scout Cookies were available for purchase online, thanks to the Digital Cookie program. In 2019, customers must still purchase through an enrolled Girl Scout, though the program is available through more than 100 councils throughout the U.S.