Friday, March 2, 2012

Celebrating the Girl Scouts

In the 1960s, I was a Girl Scout for about a minute. I had been a proud and true Brownie, but my elevation to the next level, which back then was just called “Girl Scout,” came at the same time I started Hebrew school, and the troop meetings interfered with my classes. I wasn’t a big fan of green, anyway, so I wasn’t that heartbroken about giving up the uniform. I stowed away my logo pins and moved on.

Yet here I am, writing about the Girl Scouts, for a number of reasons. First, it’s Women’s History Month, and what better way to kick off the month than by focusing on a group that has empowered generations of girls? Second, March 12 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the first Girl Scout troop meeting in the U.S., organized by Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Georgia. And third, I’ve had a few interactions with the Girl Scouts in recent months that have reminded me how impressive this organization and its members can be.

I proposed writing a biography about Juliette Gordon Low a while back. The project never went anywhere, but I’m happy to report that a number of books on Juliette and her scouts have been published in recent months, in anticipation of this anniversary year. I managed to find First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low by Ginger Wadsworth (Clarion, 2012) at my local library, and I can’t imagine anyone, myself included, doing a more thorough job of researching this singular woman’s life. Wadsworth tracked Low’s story from Savannah, to New York, to London, and beyond. Her writing is lively and clear, the book is generously illustrated with historic images and reproduced documents, and the back matter is beyond complete. It’s a YA book that's worth reading, whether you’re a Girl Scout or not.

In recent months, the Girl Scouts also have made a literary impact in another way. Last November, in conjunction with the Children's Book Council, they launched The Studio, a Web site that gives authors who write for young people the chance to communicate with Girl Scouts about their work. The lineup has been impressive, with Ann Martin, Jerry Pinkney, Laura Numeroff, and Joseph Bruchac, among others, answering questions about their writing process and sharing behind-the-scenes documents and discussions. I got to have my say the week of January 16.

I was also lucky enough to have up-close-and-personal contact with a number of Girl Scouts when I visited Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC, to speak about Wheels of Change. The girls from the two local troops who attended were curious, confident, and altogether fierce, in a good way. Their arms shot up with questions after just about every sentence I delivered, and they kept me on my toes the whole time. It was one of the most memorable author visits I've had in quite a while. (Thanks to Marty Ittner for the photo.)

So three cheers for the Girl Scouts!

ON A SEPARATE NOTE: March 18 is the deadline for entries into the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League’s Batter Up! Writing Contest for kids in grades 6, 7, and 8. It’s a great way to celebrate Women’s History Month. Check out all the details here.


Linda Salzman said...

OK, Sue. You win for most surprising post of the last four years.

Sue Macy said...

I'm not sure why, but thanks, Linda, I guess!

Ginger Wadsworth said...

Sue-Thanks so much for your positive comments about FIRST GIRL SCOUT. It means a great deal coming from a peer in the writing world! This biography had a very difficult gestation period but I'm really pleased with the result and with the response it is getting from readers, young and old. I'll be in Southern California next week to do a book signing in the town where I grew up. Many of my Brownie and Girl Scout friends from 50 plus years ago will be there and that is one of the strongest influences of the Girl Scout organization-ong lasting friendships.
Ginger Wadsworth

Cheryl Harness said...

oh man, Sue, you had me digging through my bookshelves for my mom's battered Girl Scout Handbook. you reminded me of a long-gone day in Savannah, GA, when I stood admiring Juliette Gordon Low's birthplace. Was I ever a G. S.? Heck no!