On March 12, 1912, Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low assembled a group of 18 girls in Savannah, Ga.
"Come right over! I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight!" Low told a cousin. So the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. began.
From the first, Low was determined to include girls from all backgrounds. She recruited the first Girl Scouts from the most influential families in Savannah - and from orphan asylums and synagogues. From the beginning, there was a focus on community service, exercise and practical outdoor knowledge, but some of the most important lessons Girl Scouts have learned were inclusion and diversity.
Within a few years of incorporation in 1915, a troop was founded for girls with physical challenges, and in 1917, the first troop for African-American girls began. Girl Scouts were in the thick of the Women's Suffrage movement, baby-sitting young children as their mothers voted for the first time.
In the 1950s, the Girl Scouts were praised for their efforts in breaking the race barrier, with Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. describing the group as a "force for desegregation."
In the 1970s, they launched a national environmental program. By the 1980s, the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program facilitated incarcerated mothers' visitations with their daughters. Girl Scouts have always been leaders in community service, from selling war bonds in World War I to feeding and clothing children during the Great Depression to a strong public stance on supporting the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. In the 1980s, they introduced programs on drug abuse, child abuse and youth suicide. In the 1990s, the group addressed illiteracy and homelessness.
One hundred years after that first meeting, Girl Scouts numbers have grown from 18 to 3.2 million girls and adult volunteers, with an estimated 40 million Girl Scout alumnae in the U.S. As part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, Girl Scouts share a common bond with 10 million other girls and adults in nearly 150 countries.
The Girl Scouts have declared 2012 "The Year of the Girl" and launched ToGetHer There, designed to encourage girls to pursue education in math and sciences, to reject bullying and unreachable beauty stereotypes and to become leaders.
According to the organization's studies, women make up 17 percent of Congress and 3 percent of top positions at Fortune 500 companies. For the Girl Scouts, those numbers aren't good enough, and the group is leading the charge to make all leadership opportunities open to girls.
We congratulate the Girl Scouts on 100 years of ground-breaking and advocacy for girls and women, and we think they've gotten off to a great start for the next 100 years.