is the cradle of careers"
Juliette Gordon Low
Founder (1912) Girl Scouts USA
the Chicago council.
Although the San Jacinto council does
not have a similar program, the local council has a senior aid training program.
Seniors, independent of their troops, contact a council representative about vocations of interest to them. A meeting is arranged where girls visit a veterinarian's office, for example, and then return later to
volunteer, Pirnie said.
Some credit the women's movement
for the Girl Scouts' emphasis on career education. Others, like Knox, said, "Girl
scouting has been innovating since 1912."
Yet Kathleen Smythe, public relations
director for the Chicago council, pointed
out, "The women's movement is difficult
to ignore. It has set up role models for
young girls—now they see women as other
"It's great to learn how to cook and
sew, but there's more to being an adult
woman than that," observed Elizabeth
Zbinden, a campus Girl Scout at Northwestern University. "The women's movement has increased the scope of girl
scouting a lot," she added.
Two troop leaders, however, differ
from their troop members.
"No one in the troop seems too interested in career opportunities. I don't think
they think that they will have to study
how to support themselves-they have the
idea that they will be supported," said
Beverly Rosenthal, leader of Cadette troop
no. 89 in Evanston, Illinois. "At their age,
they're entirely wrapped up with curling
irons, notebooks with stickers and writing
on their hands," she added.
"There's a national awareness of the
women's movement, but not on the troop
level," said Sally Stewart, leader of senior
troop no. 200 of Winnetka, Illinois. "It's
not something that bothers them. They're
not carrying a torch," she added.
Girl Scouts of the USA are involved in
the women's movement to the extent that
the national board endorsed the Equal
Rights Amendment at its national convention in Washington, D.C. in 1975.
"The national decision doesn't represent the views of all the councils," said
Pirnie. "San Jacinto didn't feel it could
take a stand on the issue because of the
diversity of its scouts."
Some councils reacted strongly against
the endorsement. Some burned their uniforms and one troop in Michigan resigned
from the organization because they believed the national board was "using
scouts as political pawns in its push for the
The national office in New York received 6,000 letters, telegrams and phone-
calls, according to Knox. Some Right to
Life groups thought that the Girl Scouts
were approving of abortion, and one
American Legion post even said that the
scouts could no longer use their hall, he
While the national board endorsed the
ERA, they cannot lobby for it. "By then-
bylaws, Girl Scouts have to be non-political," Pirnie said.
The organization's only link with Capitol Hill is through Mary Frances Peters,
who acts as a liaison between the federal
government and national board by attending government meetings and projects that
could affect girls' lives. She also alerts
councils on upcoming legislation that
could affect them.
Religion has been just as controversial
as politics for the Girl Scouts.
In 1975J the Archdiocese of Philadelphia severed relations with the scouts because of a new program called To Be a
Woman. The program included discussions
on rape and sex education. One Catholic
mother called a newspaper to complain
that the Girl Scouts were promoting
abortion. The story received national attention. Things became so delicate that the
Girl Scouts released a statement saying it
had not approved the program.
The issue also brought into focus the
entire question of the role of religion in
the movement. Was the Girl Scouts USA
to be an instrument for educating girls on
morality? What institution in their lives is
responsible for establishing these guidelines? The Catholics finally compromised
in 1975 and formally agreed that the policy of Girl Scouts is "to encourage girls and
help them, through their own programs,
to become better members of their own
religious groups and to respect the varying
opinions and practices of its members in
planning and conducting activities."
Although the focus and emphasis of
girl scouting has shifted from activities in
the home and immediate community to
exploring a wider world, membership has
declined by 500,000 members since 1973
One news account attributes the decline
in membership to increased violence in the
camps, including reported rapes and kidnappings in Oklahoma and Florida, to a
decline among volunteer leaders now that
more women work outside the home and
to the emergence of many co-ed groups
oriented to some of the same things that
Despite the drop in membership the
Girl Scouts organization remains the largest girls organization in the country. Membership is still open only to girls. At the
1975 convention in Washington, the 1,800
delegates voted overwhelmingly not to admit boys into the organization.
Today 2,623,000 girls across the nation
still adhere to the Girl Scout Promise and
Law, recited solemnly while holding up
three fingers on the right hand. The message and motto remain unchanged: Be
Connie Pryzant is a journalism student at
Northwestern University and a former
? **? • M
Theresa Dl Menno
April is national Girl Scout Month. Girl scouting programs are available to four age levels: Brownies (age 6-8), Juniors (age 9-11), Cadettes (age 12-14)
and Seniors (age 15-17). Brownie Troop 1973 (above) are second and third graders in Leider Elementary School in the Cypress-Fairbanks District. Most
of the girls are second generation scouts.