When was the last time a Girl Scout inspired you to follow your dreams?
If your answer involves dreaming of Girl Scout cookies, then I don’t blame you — getting your hands on those Thin Mints can be a real motivator.
But what you may not realize is that Girl Scouts have influenced the world in much bigger ways that don’t involve their awesome cookies. In fact, some Girl Scouts have changed the course of history.
We’re talking astronauts, political leaders, activists, and more. Girl Scouts of the USA reports that an incredible 64% of today’s American women leaders were once Girl Scouts.
This organization helps girls understand what they’re capable of by giving them badges for accomplishments in areas such as entrepreneurship, citizenship, and STEM. The girls practice an incredible range of skills, from running a business to creating art to tackling cybersecurity.
And if their roster of prominent former scouts is any indication, every Girl Scout is capable of greatness. Here’s a look at seven of them.
1. Lucille Ball created her own space in an industry that hadn’t yet made space for her.
When a Girl Scout named Elizabeth dressed up as Lucille Ball in 2017, she wasn’t just wearing a costume. Ball was a former Girl Scout, and Elizabeth was portraying her spirit and determination in a Girl Scout photo shoot celebrating Women’s History Month.
Lucille Ball cracked people up with her wacky physical comedy, her expressive face, and her “I Love Lucy” character’s knack for getting into hilariously troublesome situations. And while audiences laughed, Ball was making history.
She became one of the first female comic leads on television and often defied traditional gender stereotypes in her role. “I Love Lucy” was also a massive hit, ranking as the #1 show in the country for four of its six seasons.
Off-screen, Ball was also a trailblazer. She and Desi Arnaz co-owned the production studio Desilu Productions until she bought out his shares and ran it on her own. That made her the first woman to run a major television studio. And the hits that came later on her lot, like “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Star Trek,” and “Mission: Impossible,” show that she did a fantastic job.
2. Tammy Duckworth changed what it means to be a United States senator.
In this digital age, nearly all of our senators are on Twitter, and if you follow Tammy Duckworth’s account, you might have seen messages like this one: “Thanks, @girlscouts, for teaching me leadership skills I use in the Senate everyday.”
Duckworth still has her Girl Scout uniform and sash, which carries an impressive number of badges. The skills she learned to earn those badges no doubt helped her become the incredible trailblazer she is today.
In fact, Duckworth just can’t stop making history. She served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Iraq, where she lost her legs in a 2004 grenade attack. In 2012, she became the first woman with a disability elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first member of Congress born in Thailand.
And in 2016, she was elected to her current position, making her the second ever Asian-American woman senator.
Then Duckworth did something that the Founding Fathers probably never saw coming. In April 2018, she became the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office. At just 10 days old, baby Maile followed in her mom’s footsteps by making history of her own as the first newborn to grace the Senate floor.
3. Katie Couric broke into the boys’ club of nightly news anchors.
When the Girl Scouts reached their 100th anniversary in 2012, news anchor Katie Couric went all out to celebrate them. She wrote about the organization on her ABC blog, interviewed Girl Scouts on her show, and even donned a vintage Girl Scout uniform for the occasion.
“Girl Scouts taught me some of the basic and essential principles and values that I still hold dear today, like being truthful, helpful, and independent,” she said in 2012.
Couric has demonstrated these values throughout her career as a journalist by bringing attention to important issues, including colon cancer and gun violence. She’s also held top anchor positions at all of the three major television networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS.
Breaking into the news industry’s boys’ club took some time, but she never gave up. She started at the ABC News bureau in 1979 and eventually became the host of the CBS Evening News in 2006, making her the first solo woman anchor among the “big three” weekday nightly news broadcasts, according to Reuters.
Now, as a Television Hall of Famer and a New York Times bestselling author, Couric continues to use her platform to show girls that it’s possible to overcome the obstacles they face.
4. Susan Collins has set the second longest consecutive voting streak in the Senate.
Growing up in Caribou, Maine, now-Sen. Susan Collins had some great role models: Both her parents served as the mayors of her hometown. Not only that, but she was also a Girl Scout with some amazing troop leaders who inspired her to always persevere toward her goals. “[Girl Scouts] helps to build strong women,” Collins told a young scout who interviewed her in 2014.
In 1994, when Collins ran for governor, she became the first woman to become a nominee for a major party in Maine. Then, in 1996, Collins was elected to the Senate, and she has kept her seat ever since.
Collins is now the most senior Republican woman in the Senate. She has spent her time focusing on causes including Alzheimer’s research, diabetes research, and support for small businesses. In fact, Collins has had a say in every single one of the more than 6,600 decisions that the Senate has voted on since 1996 because she has never missed a vote. In 2015, she even broke her ankle running in heels to make sure she cast a vote.
Collins is also proud to be one of 73% of women senators who were once Girl Scouts. “That to me just proves that Girl Scouts learn leadership ability, have confidence in themselves, and learn to work together as a team,” she said.
5. Dolores Huerta gave us the rallying cry we need to make the world a better place.
When civil rights icon Dolores Huerta steps up to a microphone, you’d never guess that she was once a shy child. However, in a 2009 interview, Huerta credited Girl Scouts for helping her come out of her shell and learn to speak in public.
“In Girl Scouts, I learned how to be strong, to believe in myself, and to be open to new ideas,” Huerta wrote to young girls.
It’s no wonder she ended up coining the rallying cry “Sí se puede” — Spanish for “Yes, we can.” Her work as a community organizer began in the 1960s and became a blueprint for how many activists mobilize today.
Through her advocacy for women’s rights, workers’ rights, and immigrant rights, Huerta influenced labor laws that we still have today. She co-founded the United Farm Workers, a labor union for farmworkers in the United States, with Cesar Chavez.
Huerta is often hailed as an inspiration for activist movements and has received a number of major awards including the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was a Girl Scout from the ages of 8 to 18. At the age of 83, she was still continuing her community organizing work as president of the Dolores Huerta foundation.
6. Susan Wojcicki has carved out much-needed space for women and girls in tech.
Susan Wojcicki was only 11 years old when she started her first business: She went door to door selling homemade “spice ropes” made with braided yarn.
Since then, Wojcicki has proved herself as a go-getter in the world of business. For example, you may have heard of a “little” company known as Google — which started with co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in her garage in 1998. And as the company’s first marketing manager, she became known as the most important person in advertising.
Wojcicki eventually became the CEO of YouTube, the second most popular website in the world — just behind its parent company, Google.
She uses her influential position to help other women and girls get into tech by collaborating with the Girl Scouts of the USA, an organization she was once a proud member of herself. She mentors Girl Scouts who are working to earn their cybersecurity badges, and she also leads Google’s Made with Code, an initiative to inspire girls to get involved with tech activities like coding and 3D printing.
7. Queen Latifah is leaving her mark on every corner of the entertainment world.
Name a major award for entertainers, and Queen Latifah probably has a win or a nomination for it.
She first made her mark on the entertainment world as a rapper, releasing her first hip-hop album in 1989 at the age of 19 and kicking off her success as an MC. This is especially remarkable considering how much men have dominated the hip-hop scene. And now, she’s also known for her work on television and in movies, including the 1990s hit sitcom “Living Single,” the 1996 film “Set It Off,” and more recently, the massively successful 2017 film “Girls Trip.”
Throughout her career, she has earned a Grammy Award, a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy Award, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and an Academy Award nomination. But before she released that very first album, Queen Latifah was a Girl Scout and earning badges for her sash.
Today Latifah clearly appreciates Girl Scouts for helping start off on the right foot. She narrated this video to celebrate the Girl Scouts tradition of “Preparing girls for a lifetime of leadership.”
Perhaps the next time a woman in comedy makes you laugh or a piece of digital technology leaves you in awe, you’ll think of the Girl Scouts.
Being a Girl Scout helped these women develop their leadership skills, confidence, and ambitious attitudes. In order to earn Girl Scout badges, they had to prove themselves capable of helping people. And they’ve certainly done so in their careers by inspiring countless other women to forge their own paths across a wide range of industries, including sports, science, philanthropy, and business.
What’s more, they all uphold the Girl Scouts value of making the world a better place.
Keep their stories in mind the next time you see a Girl Scout — you might be looking at one of our future leaders.