Awards and badges
A Girl Scout working on her Gold Award project.Members can earn
awards appropriate for their age level. Originally called badges,
the terminology has changed to Learning Petals for Daisies, Try-Its
for Brownies, Badges for Juniors, and Charms and Interest Project
awards for Cadettes,Seniors,and Ambassadors (older girls).
The highest achievement in Girl Scouting is the Girl Scout Gold
Award, which can only be earned by Seniors and Ambassadors. Cadettes
and Juniors can earn the Silver Award and Bronze Award,
respectively. These awards require large-scale service projects
showing leadership along with service hours. The service projects
must improve a current situation, such as restoring the eroded banks
of a stream.
Girls can also earn and display on their uniform awards from outside
organizations, such as the religious emblems from religious
organizations, or the President's Volunteer Service Award. Scouts
can also receive awards for lifesaving and leadership. The Honor Pin
recognizes an adult member who has delivered exceptional service
beyond expectations to two or more geographic areas, service units
or program delivery audiences in a way that furthers the council's
Impact on American life
Among the many famous American Girl Scouts are Lucille Ball, Katie
Couric, Dakota Fanning, and Elizabeth Dole. Many Girl Scouts have
become successful leaders in numerous professional fields such as
law, medicine, politics, journalism, and science. Beginning with Lou
Henry Hoover, the incumbent First Lady has served as the Honorary
President of GSUSA. Lou Henry Hoover was also the actual President
of the Girl Scouts from 1922–1925 and Chairman of the National Board
of Directors from 1925–1928.
During World War I and World War II, Scouts helped the Allied forces
by selling defense bonds, growing victory gardens, and collecting
waste fat and scrap iron. Girl Scouts also spread their values into
their communities through community service projects such as soup
kitchens and food drives.
ControversiesNo official stand on sexuality issues
Girl Scouts of the USA stated in an October 1991 letter:
As a private organization, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. respects the
values and beliefs of each of its members and does not intrude into
personal matters. Therefore, there are no membership policies on
sexual preference. However, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. has firm
standards relating to the appropriate conduct of adult volunteers
and staff. The Girl Scout organization does not condone or permit
sexual displays of any sort by its members during Girl Scout
activities, nor does it permit the advocacy or promotion of a
personal lifestyle or sexual preference. These are private matters
for girls and their families to address.
GSUSA upholds a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on sexuality. The
debate over this issue is split between those who feel that the
policy is insufficient in preventing discrimination on the grounds
of sexual orientation, and those who question the inclusion of
To Serve God in the Promise
In early 1992, the Totem Girl Scout Council suggested changing the
promise to make it possible for girls who did not believe in a
monotheistic god to join. In November 1992, the parents of Nitzya
Cuevas-Macias sued for their daughter to be permitted to participate
even though she refused to promise to serve God.
On October 23, 1993, the Girl Scouts of the USA voted 1,560-375
to permit individuals to substitute another word or phrase for "God"
in their promise.
"THAT, since the Girl Scout organization makes no attempt to
interpret or define the word 'God' but encourages members to
establish for themselves the nature of their spiritual beliefs, it
is the policy of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. that individuals when
making the Girl Scout Promise may substitute wording appropriate to
their own spiritual beliefs for the word 'God'."
with the explanation that
"For some individuals, the word 'God', no matter how broadly
interpreted, does not appropriately reflect their spiritual beliefs.
Since the belief in a spiritual principle is fundamental to Girl
Scouting, not the word used to define that belief, it is important
that individuals have the opportunity to express that belief in
wording meaningful to them. It is essential to maintain the
spiritual foundation of Girl Scouting, yet be inclusive of the full
range of spiritual beliefs. This [policy change] does not take the
word 'God' out of the Girl Scout Promise. It gives those individuals
who wish to do so the option to state their commitment to the
spiritual concepts fundamental to the Movement with a word or words
more appropriate to their own beliefs. For instance, an individual
may say 'my faith' or 'Allah' or 'the Creator'."
Girl Scout President B. LaRae Orullian made an official statement
that the change is "a very strong statement that Girl Scouts
continue to be on the cutting edge, and this is a continuing effort
to show that we have strength in diversity and that we are an
Some groups consider that the Girl Scouts of the USA have not gone
far enough in making Scouting open to non-theists; others that they
have gone too far in removing God or that they are violating the
constitution of the WAGGGS. The WAGGGS constitution requires member
societies to maintain membership standards to include a promise
similar to the one established by Baden-Powell, which includes the
concept of duty to God. The GSUSA policy adopted in 1993 led to the
1995 formation of an alternative organization, the American Heritage
Girls (AHG) that accepts only leaders and chartering organizations
that agree with a specific Christian statement of faith. As of 2006,
it had about 5,000 members.
Banning prayer at meetings
An Associated Press article states that Girl Scouts ban prayer at
meetings. The official Girl Scout policy does not ban nor require
The Girl Scout organization does not endorse or promote any
particular philosophy or religious belief. Our movement is secular
and is founded on American democratic principles, one of which is
freedom of religion. Although Girl Scouts has policies supporting
religious diversity, there is no policy by Girl Scouts of the USA
that prohibits or requires the saying or singing of a grace,
blessing, or invocation before meals by Girl Scout members in a
troop/group setting, in a resident or day camp, or at meetings,
conferences, and other large events. The decision to say a grace,
blessing, or invocation is made locally at the troop or group level,
and should be sensitive to the spiritual beliefs of all
Association with Planned Parenthood
Although GSUSA is not nationally aligned with the reproductive
health organization Planned Parenthood, Girl Scout councils may
choose to have connections to the organization. In 2004, in Waco,
Texas, the Bluebonnet Council endorsed a Planned Parenthood
education event (which did not mention abortion) but did not provide
money nor send Scouts to it. This was criticized by some pro-life
movement supporters and social conservatives, resulting in a boycott
of Girl Scout cookies sold by the Bluebonnet Council. Although Waco
residents responded to the announced boycott by purchasing a record
amount of cookies, the Bluebonnet Council removed their endorsement.
The pro-life group states that 20% of the investigated councils have
some connection to Planned Parenthood though that includes councils
that have endorsed events that Planned Parenthood also endorsed.
Oldest living GSUSA Girl Scout
The oldest living Girl Scout is 102-year-old Marianne Elser Crowder,
born in Colorado Springs in April 1906. She joined the Wagon Wheel
Council Troop 4 in 1918 and earned her Golden Eaglet, the GSUSA's
highest award at the time. She later operated her own dance studio
in Colorado Springs and headed the dance department at Colorado
College before moving to Menlo Park, California in 1939 where she
taught dance in the community recreation program from 1949 until her
retirement at the age of 97. The Wagon Wheel Council named Crowder
the nation's oldest Girl Scout after it conducted a nationwide
search and sifted through council archives.
Camp Fire Girls was founded in 1910, around the same time as the
Girl Scouts, by some of the creators of the Boy Scouts of America.
In 1975, the group became co-educational and soon afterwards changed
its name to "Camp Fire Boys and Girls". The name was changed to Camp
Fire USA in 2001. As of 2009, the group has a membership of about
Another parallel group is the American Heritage Girls (AHG), started
in 1995 in West Chester, Ohio, by a group of parents upset with
available female Scouting organizations.AHG is a Christian
organization that states that it is "a Scouting program for girls
that supports the traditional values of God, Family and Country." It
has a membership of about 6,000.
Various religions have their own youth clubs such as Missionettes
for the Assemblies of God.