March is Women’s History Month and, this year, March 12 also marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts of America. Curiously, women and girls are under attack at the very same time we should be celebrating women’s progress in this country.
In Fairfax County, the Commission for Women sponsored a “Personal Sheroes” (say it out loud – SHE-roes, or women role models) essay contest for high school girls, and the winners were feted at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting last week. First prize winner was Brianna Neuberger from Chantilly High School, whose essay featured her 5th grade teacher who was a special help in a time of personal need. Her former teacher, who now lives in North Carolina, drove all the way to Fairfax to be with Brianna for the board presentation. Students at two schools in Mason District were selected for second prize and honorable mention. Tien Ngoc Bien, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, won second prize for her wise and witty essay about her mother and self-acceptance. Annandale High’s Lena Nour won honorable mention for her essay about the courage of a local homeless youth. Mason District’s representative on the Commission for Women, Lee Helfrich, was chairman of the Women’s History Month Committee.
On March 12, 1912, Juliette Gordon Low called a friend and announced she had something for the girls of Savannah and all the girls of America and they were starting “tonight.” With that simple message, the Girl Scouts of America was formed, now serving millions of girls across the nation. As a lifelong Girl Scout and former leader and Service Unit Manager, I am proud of my association with the values-based organization that opened up many opportunities for me. In fact, the very first time I got my name and picture in the newspaper was for a Brownie troop birthday celebration when I was in the second grade.
I’ve posted the Girl Scout Law on the wall above my office computer because it contains all the tenets I use nearly every day as an elected official – do your best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring…responsible for what I say and do…use resources wisely, and make the world a better place. Is it any wonder I was confounded when, a few weeks ago, the Girl Scouts were targeted and smeared in the blogosphere for supposedly supporting abortion, homosexuality, and even paganism? Some pastors told Girl Scout troops they could no longer use church facilities for their meetings, and others suggested boycotting cookie sales. The Girl Scout program encourages girls to explore new concepts, learn about the world around them, and develop critical thinking to become strong, assured, and adept young women. That was Juliette Low’s dream, which quickly became a reality, and will last more than the hundred years we celebrate this month. Would it be too cheeky to suggest that the blogosphere should develop some critical thinking, too?
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]