Girl Scouts has come upon its 111th birthday—such a symmetrical number! We are indeed #1!!! I am so struck by Juliette Gordon Low’s comments on the phone to her cousin: “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah and all America, and we’re going to start it tonight,” She told her cousin Nina during a telephone call one day in February 1912. “Come right over,” Low insisted. She changed millions of lives with that phone call. She was not content to focus on her community; she was aiming for the whole country and the whole world. This 111th birthday we can certainly say she succeeded.
An admirer of history and the lessons it teaches, I reviewed the history of 1912. It was such a conflict-ridden year with conflicts all over the world, fostering the embers that would soon ignite in 1914 for World War I. The United States even sent US Marines into Nicaragua. How ironic that one of the kindest movements in history started that year. Sadly, the most known event of the year is the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic, which set sail a month after Juliette’s first delightful meeting. While that massive ship did prove sinkable, what we know of our history is this movement is unsinkable. I credit that reality on two undeniable facts—one, Juliette’s vision was straight and true—she had one simple mission—to build Girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. That purity of mission has helped the movement survive the uneven swells in the American historical ocean. Second, it relied on the strength of the American Girl. That strength is clearly seen in any camp setting, any cookie booth, or on a destination trip.
The Titanic had none of these strengths. Its captain’s vision was opaque as the ship traveled thru icefields on the great circle route. It made great haste trying to break a phantom speed record, and the overconfidence of the ship designers left it short of the necessary lifeboats. Juliette as our captain of a ship steered us around the icebergs. She was cautious and navigated the suffrage issue with great aplomb advocating for it but not in a way that key Congressional representatives would oppose a Congressional charter. As the great swells of World War I came and threatened to derail her movement, she jumped into action showing how Girl Scouts could help. Girls all over the country tended to victory gardens, volunteered as ambulance drivers for the Red Cross, relieved overworked nurses during the Spanish Influenza epidemic, sold war bonds, and gathered units at Red Cross sewing rooms. It kept the Girl Scout ship of state moving ahead and expanding across the eastern seaboard. A final point to highlight is Girl Scouts never showed arrogance or conceit. With women not even having the right the vote-- Juliette never conceded, never bowed down, but she took each step carefully, solidifying political support and, at the same, preaching the new good news to all who would listen. She was the best Girl Scout of all because she was humble.
So we are 111 years young because Juliette was an exceptional captain of the ship for us. She navigated the icebergs and never had to issue the call abandon ship. The current captains of our movement remain up to the task to keep us sailing ahead. 1912 had much pain and suffering in it, and the seas remained choppy throughout. There was one big boat, though that navigated the seas without getting wet. The SS Juliette sailed forward, and today our 3,300 Girl Scouts and 1,500 volunteers are the newly designated captains! And we say, “We are Girl Scouts!” We also say, “Full speed ahead!”