In a world where nothing lasts a century — not buildings, not businesses and sometimes not even governments — Girl Scouts have not only survived, but they’ve thrived. And they’ve done so by relying on one simple thing: girls.
Over the past 100 years, Girl Scouts has shaped the lives of 50 million women throughout the country, spreading its core values and positive message of leadership with each and every merit badge earned and green-bordered box of cookies sold. A century after the first troop was chartered in Savannah, Ga., and close to 90 years after the first batches of Girl Scout Cookies were delivered to expectant customers, nearly 10,000 girls in the state of Mississippi are proud Girl Scouts.
The Girl Scouts humbly began as the brainchild of Juliette Gordon Low, who took 18 girls under her wing in Georgia during the spring of 1912. Tired of seeing girls relegated to household duties and dresses, Low believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually.
The original Girl Scouts hiked, studied first aid, went on camping trips, learned to tell time by the stars and grew together as a community of strong leaders. Once word of Low’s girl-centered organization reached the ears of likeminded leaders, the core ideals of Girl Scouts spread like wildfire throughout the county. Within just a few years, Troops had sprouted up and were thriving across all of America.
Locally, Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi is one of the most vibrant Girl Scout councils in the nation. The Council, with its headquarters in Jackson, serves Girl Scouts in 45 counties and has local offices in Hattiesburg, Meridian and Laurel and on the Gulf Coast. For girls ages five to 17, the Council is instrumental in making sure all of its scouts grow into strong, confident young women. Operating camp facilities and core programs for its active Troops, the Council is committed to ensuring that every girl within its boundaries who wants to be a Girl Scout has the chance to do so.
Even if you have no direct connection to Girl Scouts, odds are that you’ve purchased the cookies. Started in Oklahoma in 1917 as a simple way to raise funds, the annual cookie sale has become an American touchstone. Each year during the official “selling season,” droves of Girl Scouts head into their communities, manning tables in front of businesses and parading through subdivisions with order forms. The cookie program not only raises crucial funds for troops, but it also teaches Scouts the importance of money management and business planning.
Each year, the Girl Scouts fill orders for approximately 200 million boxes of cookies; so while you’re stocking your cupboards six deep with Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Do-Si-Dos and Caramel DeLights, take heart in the fact that you’re an integral part of the single largest girl-led business in America.
As far as centennial celebrations go, the Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi have quite a few lined up. Girl Scouts from all corners of the state will come together for a celebration on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where participating troops will form a human bridge across the Bay St. Louis Bridge to symbolize the unity of Girl Scouting.
At least one Troop from the council plans to make the trek to Washington, D.C., during the summer months to take part in the national Girl Scout centennial celebration. There, they will join tens of thousands of other Girl Scouts on the National Mall for a rally and sing-a-long.
Although the extracurricular activities that are vying for the free time and attention spans of girls today far outnumber what was offered in 1912, Girl Scouts aren’t worried about their organization’s ability to continue to recruit the best and brightest young women.
Becky Traweek, the CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi, is keenly proud of her organizations malleability.
“We are aware that what it means to be a young woman growing up in America continues to change,” she said. “And we take pride in the fact that we are always offering our Scouts compelling and fully-realized programs that challenge them and allow for their growth into strong community leaders.”
Part of the continual draw of Girl Scouting is the organization’s wonderful ability to evolve with the times. While Scouts still have the option of earning baking and sewing merit badges, today they can also pursue badges that reflect the changing nature of young womanhood, such as the Entertainment Technology badge and the Physics of Roller Coaster badge.
The Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi have joined a nationwide initiative entitled “ToGetHerThere,” the largest, boldest advocacy and fundraising campaign that Girl Scouts have ever undertaken. A major initiative, the program will work to correct a leadership imbalance throughout the nation by exposing girls and young women to leadership positions in all facets.
“We can’t transform American leadership in a year,” Traweek said. “But we can transform awareness in a year. We can transform expectations in a year.”
The overarching goal of “ToGetHerThere” is simple: to arrive at the Girl Scout bicentennial in 2112 in an environment where women and men hold equal footing across the top ranks of business, government, academia and beyond.
So now that Girl Scouts have successfully navigated the changing landscape of America for a century, where does Traweek see the organization 100 years from now, in the year 2112?
“We will be moving,” she said. “Always moving. Moving at the speed of girls.”
For more information about Girl Scouts, from how to get involved to where to buy your next batch of cookies, visit the Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi’s website at gsgms.org.