The Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) is a youth organization for girls in the United States and American girls living abroad. It was founded by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912 and was organized after Low met Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, in 1911. Upon returning to Savannah, Georgia, she telephoned a distant cousin, saying, "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!"
GSUSA aims to empower girls and to help teach values such as honesty, fairness, courage, compassion, character, sisterhood, confidence, and citizenship through activities including camping, community service, learning first aid, and earning badges by acquiring other practical skills. Girl Scouts' achievements are recognized through rank advancement and by various special awards such as the bronze award. Girl Scouts welcomed girls with disabilities early in their history, at a time when they were not included in most other activities.
Membership is organized according to grade with activities designed appropriately for each level. The GSUSA is a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), and has an extensive history of accepting girls from any background.
In 1994, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organization popularity and credibility. The study showed that the Girl Scouts was ranked as the 8th "most popular charity/non-profit in America" of over 100 charities researched with 41% of Americans over the age of 12 choosing Love and Like A Lot for the Girl Scouts. It describes itself as "the world's preeminent organization dedicated solely to girls".
Girl Scouting in the United States of America began on March 12, 1912 when Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scout troop meeting of 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia. It has since grown 3.7 million members. Low, who had met Baden-Powell in London while she was living in the United Kingdom, dreamed of giving the United States and the world "something for all the girls." She envisioned an organization that would bring girls out of their sheltered home environments to serve their communities, experience the out-of-doors, and give them the opportunity to develop "self-reliance and resourcefulness." Unlike other organizations, from its inception, Girl Scouts has been organized and run exclusively by women, for girls and women.
The organization's original name was the Girl Guides of America. In 1913, it was changed to the Girl Scouts of the United States and the organization was incorporated in 1915.
The name was finally changed to the Girl Scouts of the United States of America in 1947, and was given a congressional charter on March 16, 1950. The GSUSA started with 18 members — within months, members were hiking through the woods in their knee-length blue uniforms, playing basketball on a curtained-off court, and going on camping trips. By 1920, there were nearly 70,000 members, and by 1930 over 200,000. In 2005 there were over 3.7 million Girl Scouts — 2.8 million girl members and 954,000 adult members — in the United States. More than 50 million American women have participated in the Girl Scouts. Through its membership in the WAGGGS, GSUSA is part of a worldwide Scouting family of over 10 million girls and adults in 145 countries. The names and ages of the levels — and the larger structure of the program — have evolved significantly. Troops were initially fairly independent before joining together into small councils, which have recently merged into larger councils.
The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, located in Savannah, Georgia in the former Gordon family home, became the National Girl Scout program center in 1956. It provides tours to thousands of Girl Scouts yearly. Upon Low's death in 1927, she willed her carriage house, which would eventually become The Girl Scout First Headquarters, to the local Savannah Girl Scouts for continued use. The first National Headquarters was in Washington, D.C., but it was moved to New York City in the spring of 1916 and has remained there ever since.
The aim of the Girl Scouts is that girls will develop to their full potential by pursuing four goals: developing their full potential; relating to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect; developing a meaningful set of values to guide their actions and to provide for sound decision-making; and contributing to the improvement of society.