Growing Girls: The Natural Origins of Girls' Organizations in America

By Susan A. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

“A Splendid Army of Women”:
MOBILIZING GIRL SOLDIERS

Everyone of you has shown by joining the Girl Scouts,
that you are ready and eager to be as near the home
firing line as possible in this world-wide war.
Rally, January 1918

Women and girls who devote their thought and their energy to
the Minute Girls will be serving the country and conducting the
fight for peace and freedom just as truly and just as effectively as
the men on the battlefield or in the trenches.
—Luther Gulick, War Call to the Girls of America/Book
of the Camp Fire Girls, 1917

Why were Scout and Camp Fire leaders so insistent that thirteen-year-old schoolgirls could be effectively mobilized for a war being fought thousands of miles from their homes? And given the absurdity of their claims—Girl Scouts on the home firing line! Minute Girls on battlefields and in trenches!—why did the general public take their proclamations so seriously? The Great War had such a galvanizing effect on the development of girls’ organizations because it occurred at precisely the right historical moment. From their inception just a few years before, girls’ groups—especially the Scouts, whose handbook was titled How Girls Can Help Their Country—had placed citizenship training at the core of their character-building program. Before the war, girls took pledges to serve their country, but once the United States was mobilized, even adolescent girls gained access to a home front battlefield, in which they could enact their pledges.

If girls’ organizations seemed to perceive civic duty everywhere they looked before the war—mending tea towels, fixing gas lamps, and trapping rodents all counted—during mobilization they became positively obsessed.

-48-

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