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Statewide Culture 0

The Girl Scouts of Arkansas


For more than 100 years, girls have pledged the Girl Scout Promise to help neighbors, be kind and responsible, and be a sister to other Girl Scouts. It all began with one woman who wanted to create an organization where girls could learn new skills and grow in responsibility and leadership.

Juliette Gordon Low (center) and two Girl Scouts in 1925. Photo via Wikipedia.

Juliette Gordon was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1860. When she was 12, she began attending boarding schools, an experience that may have impressed on her the importance of friends and camaraderie. Her friends and family called her Daisy. She was an active girl who enjoyed music, art and dancing. In 1886, Gordon married William Low, the brother of a friend, and the pair traveled to England. Although the marriage proved to be an unhappy one, Gordon Low was introduced to the aristocratic circles in England and Scotland. She learned to hunt, paint, and even metal and woodworking. She also continued to practice Southern hospitality, learned from her parents and her childhood, visiting sick neighbors and eventually joining the local nursing association.

Girl Scouts camping in 1919. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

William Low died in 1905, ending the rocky marriage and subsequent divorce proceedings. Gordon Low bought a house in London and continued her life in England, learning sculpting, continuing charity work, and keeping in touch with English socialites. One of these was Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell was a recently-retired Lieutenant General with the British Army and founded the Boy Scouts in 1908 after publishing his book “Scouting For Boys.” In a few short years, the organization had gathered a large following, including girls. Baden-Powell’s sister began the Girl Guides in 1910 to create an equivalent group for girls. Juliette Gordon Low knew both Powells and was impressed by the scouting groups. She led a group in Scotland, then joined Baden-Powell on a trip to the Caribbean to promote the Scouts. Gordon Low was also returning to the United States and Baden-Powell encouraged her to start the Girl Guides in the U.S.

Gordon Low arrived back in Savannah in 1912 and gathered 18 girls to begin the first group. She used her connections through Baden-Powell and other British socialites to reach out to people across the country to support the U.S. Girl Guides. Some of these supporters included Louise Carnegie and Susan Ludlow Parish (Eleanor Roosevelt’s godmother). In 1913, Gordon Low changed the name of the group to Girl Scouts to parallel the Boy Scouts of America, although the two organizations were not connected. Gordon Low worked the rest of her life to promote the Girl Scouts within the United States and internationally. She advocated for girls to be outdoors, hike, camp, swim, and earn badges through learning and serving others.

The Girl Scouts arrived in Arkansas by 1927. A troop of girls in White Oak in Pulaski County became the first registered troop of girls in Arkansas. For almost 100 years, the Girl Scouts have gathered across the state. For many years, six regional councils operated separately in Arkansas: Arkansas Post, Conifer, Crowley’s Ridge, Mount Magazine Area, Noark (Northwest Arkansas) and Ouachita Councils. In 2008, these councils combined and joined several from Oklahoma and Texas to create the Girl Scouts – Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas Council. Only Crittenden County in Arkansas is not part of the Diamonds Council. Crittenden County girls can join the Heart of the South Girl Scout troop, which includes girls from north Mississippi and west Tennessee.

The Diamonds Council currently includes over 4,200 girls and 1,900 volunteers. Each Girl Scout still makes the Girl Scout Promise instituted by Gordon Low and does her best to abide by the Girl Scout Law:

I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
    respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

From the very first troop formed in 1927, the Girl Scouts in Arkansas have been committed to allowing girls from all backgrounds to participate. In Arkansas, Girl Scouts can participate in a wide variety of activities “as they discover their strengths and rise to meet new challenges—whether they want to climb to the top of a tree or the top of their class, lace up their boots for a hike or advocate for climate justice, or make their first best friends.” Of course, along the way, they earn those coveted badges for each activity they accomplish.

Some of the most popular activities include horseback riding, archery and hiking, just like the earliest Girl Scout troops. Other more modern activities include a focus on STEAM activities with events like Girl BOTS and Space Explorers. Girl Scouts also participate in the organization’s famous activity: Girl Scout Cookie sales. Each spring, Girl Scouts sell boxes of these famous and delicious treats to raise money for their local Girl Scout troops. Cookies purchased from the Diamonds troop stay within that troop.

Another popular Girl Scout experience is summer camp. Camp Noark in Huntsville offers a full summer camp schedule and includes horseback riding, arts and crafts, and a focus on wildlife and water activities. Girl Scouts can attend age-appropriate camps beginning with rising 2nd graders all the way through rising 12th graders. Registration is open now for four different summer camp sessions, and girls who are not currently a member of the Girl Scouts can still attend camp simply by adding a Girl Scout membership to their camper registration. Rising 1st graders also have the opportunity to attend Daisy Twilight Camp, an overnight experience to allow the youngest Girl Scouts a chance to visit the horses, hike and enjoy campfire songs. Camp Noark summer camp registration closes May 5, and sessions fill up quickly. Be sure to register soon.

Since its inception in 1912, Girl Scouts has allowed thousands of girls to become leaders through outdoor experiences and friendships. Girl Scouts runs each year from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, but girls may join anytime during the year. Visit girlscoutsdiamonds.org for information on how girls can participate and to learn more about their history, cookie sales, or how to become a volunteer for the Girl Scouts in Arkansas.

Photos courtesy of Girl Scouts – Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas and used with permission.

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Kimberly S. Mitchell loves journeys, real or imagined. She has hiked the Inca Trail, walked into Panama on a rickety wooden bridge and once missed the last train of the night in Paris and walked several miles home (with friends). She believes magic can be found in life and books, loves to watch the stars appear, and still dreams of backpacking the world. Now she writes adventures to send her characters on journeys, too. Pen & Quin: International Agents of Intrigue - The Mystery of the Painted Book is her debut novel. Find out more at KSMitchell.com.

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