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But that was Daisy — quirky, a bit ?countercultural and fierce in her belief that girls could do anything. Two of the first badges introduced were electrician and aviator, a reflection of Low’s affinity for flight. She also loved new technology and was one of the first women in Savannah to purchase a car, although history holds that she was a lousy driver.

Faithful to the spirit of its leader, the Girl Scouts program — which is unaffiliated with the Boy Scouts of America — has a history of shaking things up and getting things done. During World War I, Scouts sold war bonds and gathered peach pits to be used as filters in gas masks. During World War II, they operated bicycle courier services and sponsored Defense Institutes, which trained 10,000 women in survival skills and techniques for comforting children during blackouts and air raids. Martin Luther King Jr. called the Girls Scouts a “force for desegregation” during the Civil Rights movement and, in the 1990s, the organization created the first program for girls whose mothers are incarcerated, conducting troop meetings behind bars. Recently, the Girl Scouts of Colorado allowed a transgender girl (a biologically male child with a female gender identity) to join a troop, a move in step with the Girl Scouts’ practice of inclusion.

“It’s almost impossible to encapsulate the effect Girl Scouts has had on this country because it has affected every aspect of American life,” Cordery says. “You can see the impact in large ways — almost every female American astronaut was a Girl Scout — but what you don’t see is how young women grow into themselves because they get challenged and supported simultaneously in the very best Girl Scout troops.” 
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Jan Davis eating a Girl Scout cookie on the Endeavour Space Shuttle in 1992
NASA/Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS


The Flying Monkeys is a good example of that ethos. Last year, the team of six Girl Scouts in sixth and seventh grades from Ames, Iowa, developed a prosthetic hand ?device to help a 3-year-old girl without fingers write. Their device won the For ?Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology (FIRST) LEGO League Global Innovation Award, which comes with $20,000 in prize money to put toward a patent application. (They are currently awaiting approval.) According to Kate Murray,? a 14-year-old troop member, the team worked on the project for more than a year, made multiple field trips to visit prosthetists and occupational therapists, and met with researchers at Iowa State University. “The finished device is a platform attached to a cylinder,” says Murray, who aspires to become an engineer. “We eventually found a stress point and were able to adjust it for a more natural writing angle.”

The team was invited to the 2012 White House Science Fair and presented at the International Conference on Science and Technology in Brazil as part of the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development. “The public-speaking skills and confidence these girls have gained is amazing,” says Kate’s mom, Melissa, a co-coach of the team. “When I was their age, I couldn’t have gotten up in front of 10 people, let alone 600.” 

As the United States faces stiff competition from other countries in science, technology, engineering and math (collectively referred to as STEM), cultivating a passion for these subjects in girls — and exposing them to new opportunities — is essential for providing a skilled workforce and expanding the economy, Chavez says.

So, too, is addressing the shortage of women in leadership roles. Although women represent about half the U.S. population, fewer than 5 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs are women and a mere 17 percent of Congress is made up of women. Chavez points out that nearly 68 percent of female members in the House of Representatives and the Senate were Girl Scouts.