Girl Scouts and the Women’s Movement

In celebration of the last week of Women’s History Month, I would like to share with you the subtle ways Girl Scouts of the USA has tied to the Women’s Movement in the early 20th century.

Even before women achieved suffrage in 1920, the Girl Scout program taught girls to be good citizens by emphasizing patriotism and knowledge of government. In the 1917 handbook How Girls Can Help Their Country, Girl Scouts had the opportunity to earn the Civics badge, which required them to know the preamble of the Constitution, state the requirements of citizenship of a voter, discuss naturalization laws, and know how the President and Vice-President are elected, among other requirements.

In the 1920 handbook,¬†Scouting for Girls, after the requirements for earning the Citizen’s Badge are references to publications such as “The Woman Movement in America” by McClurg and Co., “The Woman Voter’s Manual,” by Forman and Shuler,1918, and “Your Vote and How to Use It,” by Mrs. Raymond Brown.

In the 1940¬†Girl Scout Handbook, in order to earn the Junior Citizen Badge, Girl Scouts could choose to go to a local branch of the League of Women Voters to learn the election process or learn about the women’s suffrage movement and the 19th amendment.

Throughout the decades following the adoption of the 19th amendment, Girl Scouts aided women by taking care of their children while they went to vote, as shown in this photograph from the National Historic Preservation Center archives:

A Girl Scout cares for a baby outside a Manhattan barbershop as a mother votes, one year after women got the right to vote.

A Girl Scout cares for a baby outside a Manhattan barbershop as a mother votes, one year after women got the right to vote.

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