Josephine Holloway with a young Girl Scout
Girl Scouts: All For One and One For All. Always.
A guest blog from Lynne Lawson Fugate, GSCSA CEO
Most likely you are familiar with the phrase, “All for one and one for all”, made famous by Alexandre Dumas in his 1844 novel The Three Musketeers. This gallant phrase encompasses the idea that each individual should act for the benefit of the group, and the group should act for the benefit of each individual. Who do you consider to be “in your group”? Your immediate family? Your friends? Your neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances? What about total strangers who may be influenced by your actions, or friendless people who don’t have a group of their own? Do you think it true that every member of the human race is in fact in “your group”, and you are a part of the larger group of humanity, too?
Inclusivity is a big part of the Girl Scout DNA. From the very moment founder Juliette Gordon Low first mentioned her plans to start Girl Scouts, it was set to be an organization not only for the girls of Savannah but also for “all of America, and all the world." Throughout its 108 year history, Girl Scouts has viewed itself as being a part of the larger group of humanity, where all girls are for one girl and one girl is for all girls.
Beginning on March 12, 1912, with that first small troop gathering of 18 culturally and ethnically diverse girls, Juliette Low broke the conventions of the time by reaching across class, cultural, and ethnic boundaries to ensure all girls had a place to grow and develop their leadership skills. Girl Scouts has continued blazing trials toward equality throughout its history.
- African American girls became members of the third U.S. troop formed in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1913.
- The first all-African American Girl Scout troops were established as early as 1917.
- Troops for girls with disabilities were also formed in 1917.
- One of the earliest Latina troops was formed in Houston in 1922.
- Girl Scout troops supported Japanese American girls in internment camps in the 1940s.
- And after much perseverance, in 1942, Josephine Holloway established one of the South’s first African American troops in Nashville, Tennessee.
- In 1943, in Atlanta, Georgia, Bazoline Usher led a group of 30 volunteers to start black Girl Scout troops—later known as District V.
- By the 1950s, Girl Scouts was leading the charge to encourage councils to fully integrate all troops.
- In 1951, there were more than 1,500 racially integrated Girl Scout troops and more than 1,800 all-African American troops (mostly located in the South).
- As the 1960s dawned, and the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum, Girl Scouts launched several major initiatives related to racial and ethnic diversity and made a concerted effort to bridge the gap between the principles of equality and the realities of the organization's administration, publications, councils, troops, and leadership.
- In 1969, Girl Scouts launched "Action 70," a nationwide effort to overcome prejudice and build better relationships among persons of all ages, religions, and races.
- From 1969 to 1972, Dr. Dorothy Celeste Boulding Ferebee served as the national fourth vice president of Girl Scouts of the USA.
- In 1975, Dr. Gloria D. Scott began her tenure as the first black National Board president, during which time she was instrumental in increasing the focus on diversity within the Girl Scout Movement.
Dr. Gloria Scott reviews new program resources with a group of Girl Scouts in 1974.
Following on the heels of this historic progress, Girl Scouts continue to this day with their mission of making the world a better place, for all. Encouraging civic engagement among girls of all ages continues to be an area of focus. By completing badges centered on citizenship, girls are given the opportunity to learn about the forces governing their communities, state, and country and empower them to go about making positive change where needed. Girls who complete their Bronze, Silver, or Gold Award bring light to issues they care about and impactful solutions to solving those issues.
The final call to action in the Girl Scout Law is to “be a sister to every Girl Scout”. As Girl Scouts, we will continually strive and commit to do better when it comes to matters of social justice. We will always support girls and are welcoming to all. We are committed to building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make our world a better place, free from racism and injustice.
Wondering where to start when it comes to talking with your kids about racism and social injustice? GSUSA has some resources available for anyone.
Lynne Lawson Fugate is the Chief Executive Officer of the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians. The Council is comprised of 46 counties in eastern Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and northwest Georgia. With nearly 14,000 members, the Council has service centers in Johnson City, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.