For over a century, Girl Scouts of America has given young women a place to come together, learn useful skills, and have fun. While many traditions have been around for decades, no organization can last for too long without changing with the times. Let's take a look at how the Girl Scouts have evolved over the years.

A Timeline of Girl Scout History

Year Event
1912 Juliette Gordon Low organizes the first American Girl Guide troop
1913 The Camp Fire girls refuse to merge with the Girl Guides
1913 The Girl Guides of America change their name to Girl Scouts of the United States
1915 Girl Scouts are incorporated and move their headquarters to New York City
1923 There are Girl Scout troops in every state
1927 Juliette Gordon Low dies
1956 Girl Scouts desegregate their camps
1994 The organization ranks 8th on a list of the most popular charities in America
2012 The Presidential Medal of Freedom is posthumously awarded to Juliette Gordon Low

100 Years of Girl Scout History

More Information

The Girl Scouts of the United States of America or G.S.U.S.A. is a youth organization for American girls. It is a leadership development program dedicated to preparing young women for the challenges they will face in the future.

According to their official website,, the organization identifies the potential of girls, combines it with comprehensive practical skills training, and adds strong female role models and caring adult mentors. This is their formula to empower young women.

Commonly referred to as simply Girl Scouts, it was founded in 1912 by Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low. She was born on October 31, 1860 in Savannah, Georgia. She was the second child of William "Willie" Washington Gordon II, a cotton broker, and Eleanor "Nellie" Lytle Kinzie, a writer whose family played a role in the founding of Chicago.

When she was 20 years old, she met William Mackay Low, the son of a family friend. They began courting in secret and eventually got married on December 21, 1886. The couple lived in Scotland. After 15 years of marriage, they went through a divorce, but before it was finalized, Gordon Low's husband died in 1905.

After her husband's death, Gordon Low traveled and got involved in charity work. She also wanted to start a project that she could focus her time and skills on.

At a party in May 1911, she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting. She instantly took interest in the Boy Scouts, a program that he had organized. She was inspired by the importance of military preparedness and having fun, two values that the organization upheld.

Eventually, Gordon Low became involved with the Girl Guides. It was an affiliate Boy Scouts program for girls. She formed patrols in Scotland and England, teaching young women practical skills, such as reading a map, cooking, knitting, and first aid. Her military friends helped her teach signaling, and camping.

In 1912, Gordon Low and Baden-Powell went to the United States to spread the scouting movement. When she arrived in Savannah, she made a phone call to her cousin Nina Pape, a local educator. "I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight," she told her.

On March 12, 1912, Girl Scouting in the United States of America officially began when Gordon Low formed the first Girl Guides patrol, registering 18 members in Savannah, Georgia.

Due to Gordon Low's extensive social connections, the growth of the Girl Guides increased rapidly. She recruited her family and friends. She even advertised through many platforms, including magazines and newspapers. She also traveled along the east coast to spread the organization to other places.

Although the Girl Guides were growing, there were many competing organizations. The biggest competition was Camp Fire Girls, which was co-founded by James E. West, the Chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America.

Gordon Low proposed that the two organizations merge, but Camp Fire Girls declined in January 1913, as they were the larger group at the time. West believed that the Girl Guides' activities were gender-inappropriate and would jeopardize the masculinity of the Boy Scouts.

Also in 1913, the Girl Guides of America changed its name to Girl Scouts of the United States. Two years later, the organization was incorporated and the national headquarters was moved from Washington D.C. to New York, New York.

From 1920 until 1930, the number of members grew from seventy thousand to over two hundred thousand. Originally, they were segregated by race, such as African American, American Indian, and Mexican American. In the 1950s, G.S.U.S.A. desegregated the camps to eliminate prejudice and maintain racial balance.

In 1947, the name of the organization reached its current form, Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Three years later, they were given a congressional charter, stating their mission, authority, and activities.

Over time, the level names changed significantly. Initially, they were organized into patrols, troops, local councils, and the National Council. Eventually, troops were merged to form larger councils.

The program structure also underwent many changes. In the early 1970s, the age brackets were reorganized to Brownies, ages seven and eight; Juniors, through age eleven; Cadettes, eleven to fourteen; and Seniors, from then until the end of high school. The Daisy program for kindergarten girls was introduced in 1984.

In 2004, Girl Scouts realigned its structure to prepare for the future growth and success of the organization. They developed strategies and set targets to improve the program. As a result, the national board of directors consolidated the 312 councils down to 112.

Members of the G.S.U.S.A. can earn awards appropriate for their age level. They can receive petals, leaves, badges, and journey awards. The highest achievement is the Girl Scout Gold Award for seniors and ambassadors.

Since its formation, the organization has continued to create significant changes in communities around the country, through their advocacy, research, and programming.

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