The Girl Scouts have been pivotal in the lives of American girls for over a century. Since 1917 Girl Scout troops have used cookie fundraisers to finance activities. This is a tradition that is still practiced by Girl Scout troops today, however; what does it symbolize?
In 1917 gender roles were astonishingly different from what we see today. When the Girl Scouts were created in 1912, women did not even have the right to vote. This right did not come until 1920 with the passing of the 19th amendment.
Men were considered the “breadwinners”. Being expected to provide for the family, husbands went to work. Women on the other hand were considered nurturers. They were expected to take care of the home and the children.
Fast forward one hundred years, and we see a different situation. Spouses are more apt to share these responsibilities. In many houses, both work and take care of the home. Whether it is in the home, on the job, in the military or in the church, women have taken hold of equality.
What does any of this have to do with Girl Scout cookies?
In layman’s language, Girl Scout cookies started as a bake sale. Young girls were taught to fundraise under the limitations of their gender roles. Girl Scouts would spend time in the kitchen baking with mother volunteers. This was a convenient way to fundraise. Not only could they earn money for activities but also teach young girls to bake, an essential gender role requirement for women. These fundraisers would get limited resistance from fathers as their daughters were learning to be “proper women”.
As Girl Scout cookies grew more popular each year, it eventually became commercialized. Manufacturers got involved and Girl Scout cookies began to be mass produced. Today we see Girl Scout cookie fundraisers everywhere, from small villages to large cities.
Knowing its history, I often wonder about the symbolism of the Girl Scout cookie fundraiser. Is it symbolic of the sexist oppression and gender role limitation seen in American history, or does it represent the intelligence of women being able to turn a gender role limitation into a billion dollar business?
By Samuel Prince
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