Three Jewish Women Participate in Forming of First Girl Scout Troops

March 12, 1912
by Rachel Wall

On March 12, 1912, the first meeting of what would become Girl Scouts of the USA convened at the home of Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Georgia. Low, who was not Jewish, is widely considered the founder of American Girl Scouting, but three of the four women she tapped to lead the first Girl Scout troops were Jewish: Leonora Amram, Mildred Guckenheimer, and Henrietta Falk. All three women were members of Savannah’s Reform Congregation Mickve Israel, which was founded in 1733. After their initial service as founding troop leaders, Amram went on to serve on the first Girl Scout Council, and Guckenheimer became the secretary of the Council later on.

But the Jewish relationship to early Girl Scouting goes even deeper than the contributions of these three particular women. Most notably, the first commercially-produced Girl Scout cookies were manufactured at the kosher Gottlieb’s Bakery in Savannah in 1936.

Not only have Jews made their mark on Girl Scouts of the USA, but they have continued to support Jewish girls involved in scouting. In 1972, the National Jewish Committee on Girl Scouting (NJCGS) opened with the aim of advocating for Jewish content in Girl Scouting and promoting cultural exchanges with the Israel Boy and Girl Scouts Federation. To this day, the NJCGS offers Girl Scouts the opportunity to earn special badges related to Judaism and scouting.

Not only have Jews made their mark on Girl Scouts of the USA, but they have continued to support Jewish girls involved in scouting. In 1972, the National Jewish Committee on Girl Scouting (NJCGS) opened with the aim of advocating for Jewish content in Girl Scouting and promoting cultural exchanges with the Israel Boy and Girl Scouts Federation. To this day, the NJCGS offers Girl Scouts the opportunity to earn special badges related to Judaism and scouting.

While Girl Scouts of the USA has generally welcomed Jewish girls into their existing troops, the Chabad-Lubavitch of the West Side in New York City formed the first all-Jewish Girl Scout troop in 2010, furthering the relationship between scouting and Judaism.

When Girl Scouts of the USA celebrated its centennial in 2012, Congregation Mickve Israel in Savannah, the spiritual home of those three original Girl Scout leaders, honored the Jewish roots of scouting with a year-long exhibition about Judaism and its intersections with and contributions to Girl Scouts.

This entry was created for This Week in History as part of a course on the history of American Jewish women taught by Karla Goldman at the University of Michigan, Winter 2019.

Sources:Jewish Girl Scout Troop Blazes New Path,” Chabad.org, 2015; “100 years of Inclusion,” Connect Savannah, 2012; “106 Years and Counting,” Girl Scout History Project, 2018. “The Jewish Week Looks Back on History,” GSBlog, 2012.

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Two Girl Scouts participate in a Memorial Day Parade in 2009.
Courtesy of Melissa/Flickr.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Three Jewish Women Participate in Forming of First Girl Scout Troops." (Viewed on August 19, 2019) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/mar/12/1912/three-jewish-women-participate-forming-first-girl-scout-troops>.

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