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The History of Girl Scouts

The Girl Scouts organization, best known for its cookie sales, is an organization rooted in character, courage, and confidence to teach young girls leadership skills. Before its creation in 1912, organizations geared towards teaching young girls about anything other than the usual gendered norms was unheard of and discouraged. Juliette Gordon Low, a Savannah, Georgia native, sought to change that.


In 1911, while living in the United Kingdom, Low ran into Sir Robert Baden-Powell, a retired English General, at a party. Baden-Powell had created scouting in the U.K., and his sister, Agnes, headed a counterpart, known as Girl Guides. In meeting Baden-Powell, Low became inspired to establish a girl guides organization of her own back in Georgia. To get a good handle of what the group achieved for young girls, Low volunteered with Baden-Powell’s sister in her Girl Guides group. While volunteering, Low taught them about knot-tying, how to read a map, first aid principles, and the basics of cooking. After her summer with the Girl Guides, Low felt she had a good idea of what her organization would look like.


Once back in Savannah, Low called her cousin, Nina Pape, to announce her grand idea. Pape, a teacher in the Savannah area, was elated with the idea and joined Low in recruiting girls for the first ever Girl Guides troop in the United States. Using her network, Low was able to quickly recruit 18 girls to join the American Girl Guides. After the girls were recruited, she utilized her resources once more and built up a media presence and funds to help the organization.


Unlike other organizations like the Camp Fire Girls, Low promoted gender-neutral activities, as she enjoyed athletics and nature, as well as the arts. In 1912, women still did not have the right to vote, as the 19th Amendment was not ratified until 1920, so the establishment of the American Girl Guides, later renamed as the Girl Scouts of the USA was monumental, as it did not follow the standards of the time.


As the Girl Scouts of the USA grew, service opportunities arose. To raise money, girl scouts began baking cookies and selling them to make money for each troop. The first troop to bake and sell cookies was the Mistletoe Troop in Oklahoma. Girl scouts and their moms baked cookies and set up a booth at the local high school. Following recipes from The American Girl magazine, published by the Girl Scouts of USA, girls made simple sugar cookies, which turned into a nationwide fundraiser for every troop. Cookie sales not only contributed to the size of the organization today but were also implemented to teach the girl scouts five essential skills of goal setting, decision making, money management, business ethics, and people skills.


Not only did Low want to foster healthy relationships among young girls and boys with the creation of the Girl Scouts of the USA, but she also wanted to break barriers with girls of different races and cultures. To date, the Girl Scouts have troops in 92 different countries and have 1.7 million Girl Scouts and 750,000 adults in the organization.


As of today, the Girl Scouts of the USA sell approximately 200 million boxes of cookies every year. Girl scouts sell cookies starting in January and sell through April, depending on when each troop decides to set up shop. With advancements in technology, cookies are available to buy online and ship to individual homes, all while supporting the Girl Scouts of the USA. Even though the organization is responsible for selling 200 million cookies annually, the Girl Scouts only use two commercial bakers, ABC Bakers, and Little Brownie Bakers. This contributes to the difference in names . The “Caramel deLites” cookies from ABC Bakers in Indiana versus the “Samoas” cookies from Little Brownie Bakers in Kentucky are both caramel and coconut cookies with drizzled chocolate, but depending on what troop the cookies are ordered from, the name may be different.

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