Women’s History & Girl Scouts of America
As a mom, I worry a lot about raising my daughters to be confident young women. As a white mom to girls of color, I worry even more about instilling courage, confidence and character in them so that they can combat society’s gender and racial stereotypes in productive and passionate ways. One of the ways I hope to help my girls is by being involved in an organization that was founded by and for women: Girl Scouts of America.
Girl Scouts celebrated their 100th Anniversary on March 12. Both of my girls are Girl Scouts who have spent the month of March practicing their goal-setting, financial and customer service skills by selling cookies. But they’ve also been working on a badge that is perfect for Women’s History Month — a badge that asks them to learn about the history of women in sports.
DID YOU KNOW?
Here are some “Did You Know” facts we learned while earning our badge:
- Before the 1870s, women were only allowed to play games for recreational purposes, not for competition.
- In the 1920s women got the right to vote. Soon after gaining this first step toward equality, many women entered higher education. They were allowed to play games for fun, but were not allowed to play inter-collegiate sports. College sports were intramural clubs; no competitive inter-college games were allowed.
- War changed things. Women joined the military during WWI and WWII. As a result, they felt more confident about everything from entering the workplace to playing sports. When Major League Baseball was canceled due to male soldiers’ involvement in WWII, the All American Girls Baseball League was started to take its place.
- Social Justice and Civil Rights blossomed in the 50s and 60s, and women became more active–not only in fighting for equal rights, but also in playing sports. By 1972 there were national championships for women in gymnastics, track and field, swimming, badminton, volleyball, and basketball.
- A law called Title IX passed in 1972 and permanently changed women’s athletics. Section 1681 of this law states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Celebrating Women Atheletes
Title IX paved the way for many women athletes. Thanks to the hard work of all the female athletes who came before them, my girls both just finished playing basketball in a local league. We are able to attend NCAA Women’s Basketball games at our local University, and watch the NCAA March Madness Women’s Tournament on TV this week because Title IX made women’s intercollegiate sports possible. Both of my girls dream about growing up to play on a team in a competitive league — something they couldn’t have done if they were born just 60 years earlier.
The work for their Girl Scout badge included learning about women athletes and creating trading cards for them. Here are some examples of amazing women athletes that we learned about:
- Wilma Rudolph — Overcame polio to win an Olympic Gold Medal in 1960. She then became a Civil Rights activist, participating in sit-ins in whites-only restaurants, and starting a foundation that helps mentor kids.
- Althea Gibson — First African-American to win Wimbledon (She did it twice! In 1957 and 1958.)
- Naomi Lang — Five time U.S. National Champion in Ice Dancing and first Native American athlete to participate in the Winter Olympics (2002.)
- Julie Chu — Ice Hockey player extraordinaire: 3-time Olympic Medallist / 4-time World Championships Gold / 3-time World Championships Silver / 2-time Clarkson Cup Champion.
- Kulsoom Abdullah — Muslim-American weightlifter fighting for the rights of Muslim women to wear hijabs in competition.
- Nancy Lopez — The only woman ever to be named LPGA Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, and win a Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average in one season (1978.)
Happy Anniversary to the Girl Scouts who after 100 years are still helping girls become confident and courageous women of character. Happy Women’s History Month to all of the wonderful women in the world who continue to chase their dreams and pave the way for the young women of the future.