From humble beginnings in 1912, Girl Scouts have come a long way and today boast 2.5 million members—1.7 million girl members and 750,000 adult members working primarily as volunteers. Originally founded by Juliette Gordon Low to help prepare young girls for their future, the longevity of the group is often recognized for its ability to modernize and adapt to a rapidly changing society. Now, in 2020, a year that has brought an electoral cycle, a global pandemic and economic upheaval, the group is releasing a new set of badges. the 24 new badges Focused on entrepreneurship, STEM career exploration, automotive engineering and civic education cover everything from running the constituency to writing a business plan from scratch and even the basics of automotive design.
Badges have been a cornerstone of Girl Scouting from the very beginning as a visible signifier of a girl’s understanding of a particular skill. In the very first Girl Scout manual titled, “How girls can help their country”, there were 27 skill badges. The list included a wide variety of skills ranging from knowing how to stop a runaway horse or using a vacuum cleaner to tying various knots and swimming 50 yards “in clothes, a skirt and boots”. In the 1917 version of the manual, Juliette Gordon Low elaborates on the meaning of badges to her. “A girl asked me on what occasions she could wear her badge, thinking it was not for everyday use. The response was, “You can wear your badge any day and any time you do what you think is right. It is only when you make a mistake that you should remove it; because then you would not keep your Scout promises. You must therefore either remove the badge or stop doing what you think is wrong. ”
Over the years, many badges have been added for each of the six Girl Scout age groups. Each time, the badges were a reflection of the moment, aimed at meeting the main challenges of the day. In 1916, after the number of cars and trucks registered in the United States rose from 2.4 million to 3.6 million, a motorist badge was added. After World War I, when the federal government placed emphasis on a number of methods of food preservation, the curator badge has been freed. In 1953, the year Harry Truman became the first President of the United States to broadcast his farewell speech on radio and television, the Girl Scouts presented the radio and television badge.
Girl Scouts USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo believes the new set of badges is also well suited for outfitting young girls of the future. “Now more than ever, it is essential that we have strong leaders who can make informed decisions that will make the world a better, safer and more equitable place. During our current health crisis, the world leaders who have been among the most decisive and effective in tackling the pandemic have been women. With these new badge experiences in STEM, entrepreneurship, and the hugely important topic of civic education, Girl Scouts continue to train transformational women leaders of today and tomorrow and to show girls the power that they have to really change the world, ”Acevedo said in a declaration published by the organization.
Badges have always been more than an extension of the uniform, more than a signifier of individual skill-based achievement. They show where the organization is going and historically serve as a way to capture the challenges facing young girls in America. For the group whose motto is ‘Be Prepared’, 2020 has brought new challenges, but it seems none of them are ready to shy away from it.