25 things you didn't know about the Girl Scouts
When it was founded in 1912, the Girl Scouts consisted of 18 members in a single troop. Today, the youth organization counts millions of girls and women among its ranks and among the most well-known and influential non-profits in the entire world. Some of the most famous and successful women executives, athletes, politicians, artists, academics, and spiritual leaders were Girl Scouts in their youth.
For much of America, January signals the start of the annual ritual of stockpiling the Girl Scouts' famous cookies at the booths that pop up every year at grocery stores, schools, and countless other places. Thin Mints, Samoas, and the rest can be found in tens of millions of households—in fact, Americans buy more Girl Scouts cookies than they do Oreos. Selling cookies, however, is only a means to an end.
The founding principles of the Girl Scouts are not about cookies; they're about girl power. Character, self-reliance, honor, and self-respect are the foundational concepts, and the organization's founder sought to empower, prepare, and educate girls nearly a decade before women were even allowed to vote. The Girl Scouts exposes girls to outdoor activities they likely wouldn't otherwise encounter, as well as to supplementary education in fields like science, technology, engineering, and math. Along the way, Girl Scouts pursue badges and other merit awards, learn critical life skills, participate in civic engagement, meet lifelong friends, and, perhaps most importantly, have lots of fun in a safe place.
March 12 is National Girl Scout Day, which makes this a perfect time to learn more about the Girl Scouts, a group that has endured through the generations and molded tens of millions of American women. Here's a look at one of the most iconic organizations in America, how it got started, what they do, how they learn, who they help, and how they've managed to remain a part of the American consciousness for more than a century.
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The Girl Scouts are not affiliated with the Boy Scouts
It's a common misconception that the Girl Scouts are an offshoot of the Boy Scouts. The two organizations were scouting movement pioneers in the early 20th century, and they have existed side by side through the current day. They are also rooted in similar philosophies and principles, but they are separate organizations and are not affiliated with each other.
The Girl Scouts sued the Boy Scouts
Not only are the Girl Scouts separate from the Boy Scouts, but the two organizations are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute. When the Boy Scouts in 2018 began admitting girls into its previously gender-segregated troops, they dropped the "Boy" and just used "Scouts" for recruiting purposes. The Girl Scouts filed suit alleging that this change dilutes the Girl Scouts brand, creates confusion, and hurts recruiting efforts.
A visionary woman founded the Girl Scouts
Born in 1860, Georgia native Juliette Gordon Low was a trailblazing advocate for the full inclusion of girls and women in a what was then an America run by men. In 1912, Low had a fateful meeting with Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the legendary British military hero and founder of the Boy Scouts. The encounter inspired Low to create the Girl Scouts, an organization that would defy not only gender conventions of the era, but also customs dealing with race, ethnicity, and physical ability.
The founder's legacy lives on
Low remains the grandest figure in Girl Scout history and tradition. The Juliette Low World Friendship Fund finances scouting projects for women and girls across the world. Buildings and schools are named after her, monuments have been erected in commemoration of her work, and in 1948, she got her very own 3-cent stamp.
The famous cookies go back more than a century
It's hard to imagine that anyone who has heard of the Girls Scouts has not also heard of Girl Scout Cookies. The Girl Scouts' most enduring symbol was born in Muskogee, Okla., in 1917 when the Mistletoe Troop baked cookies and sold them in the high school cafeteria to raise money for Girl Scout activities.
Just two bakeries make all the cookies
Every year, more than a million Girl Scouts sell about $800 million worth of their famous cookies; 50 million American homes wind up with at least one box in their kitchens. Every single one of those cookies is made by two baking companies: Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Bakers. In 1948, during a post-war Girl Scouts boom, 20 bakers were licensed to sell Girl Scout Cookies, but the process was slowly streamlined and consolidated.
Cookies vary by region
A Thin Mint always contains 40 calories and always costs 16 cents, but in Minneapolis, they're richer and the coating is smoother than the ones you'd get in Austin. Since the two licensed bakers use different recipes and even packaging, Girl Scout Cookies look and taste different from region to region, and sometimes, even from locality to locality.
There are 12 kinds of Girl Scout Cookies
Today, there are 12 varieties of Girl Scout Cookies. In the 1950s, the Girl Scouts graduated from three cookie options to four. By 1982, the four remaining licensed bakers produced up to seven varieties, with three mandatory and four optional. By the 1990s, low-fat and sugar-free options were counted among the eight cookie types produced by the two remaining licensed bakers.
A single scout sold more than 100,000 boxes of cookies
Americans gobble up 200 million boxes of Girl Scout Cookies a year, and every box sold helps to pay for Girl Scout activities while also giving a hands-on lesson in real-world entrepreneurship to America's next generation of women business owners. Among them all, however, one scout stands tall above the rest. In 2017, Oklahoma City Girl Scout Katie Francis broke the six-figure mark when she brought her career cookie sales to 100,100, earning her the lifetime record in Girl Scout Cookie sales.
More than 50 million American women were Girl Scouts
When it comes to shaping America's girls, few organizations have the reach of the Girl Scouts. A full 50 million American women were Girl Scouts during childhood.