25 Famous People You Didn’t Know Were Girl Scouts
The Girl Scouts are about more than just cookies! The leadership organization, created over 100 years ago in 1912, has over 50 million alumni. For National Girl Scout Day, March 12, here are some of the well-known female leaders, entertainers, athletes, and other amazing women who started out as scouts.
The Girl Scouts no doubt set the first female astronaut, Sally Ride, on her path to reach for the stars. Ride was a trailblazer in her field, paving the way for girls to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers. After her accomplishments at NASA, she established Sally Ride Science to foster young people’s (particularly girls’) interest in these fields, wrote books about science for children, and spoke to Girl Scouts in a science camp at the Maryland Science Center. The Girl Scouts, which notes that just about every female astronaut was a Girl Scout, has recently rolled out new STEM badges in subjects such as space science and robotics. In a post about Ride’s death in 2012, the organization called her an “adamant Girl Scout supporter who changed the future.” Check out 25 famous people you didn’t know were boy scouts.
The industrious lifestyle mogul Martha Stewart may have learned some of her entrepreneurial skills from her time as a Girl Scout. “Girl Scout camp at South Mountain Retreat [in Orange, New Jersey] taught me the real love of the outdoors, camaraderie, and friendship,” Stewart told ABC News. For the Girl Scouts’ 100th anniversary, she featured Junior Troop No. 20190 from her hometown of Nutley, New Jersey, on her show, The Martha Stewart Show, with the audience comprised entirely of Girl Scout members.
Legendary Hollywood actress Debbie Reynolds credits the Girl Scouts for helping her find her way as a young girl. “I registered as a Girl Scout, and I want to die as the world’s oldest living Girl Scout,” she told USA Today. “I’ve been one for 70 years…It is such a good program, and it helped me in my youth.” In her memoir Unsinkable, she wrote, “In my heart, I’ll always be a Girl Scout.” According to the Girl Scouts’ website, when asked by Gene Kelly if she could do a particular dance move for Singin’ in the Rain, she replied, ” Yes, I learned it at Girl Scout camp!” Reynolds later became troop leader for her daughter Carrie Fisher’s troop and encouraged other girls to become scouts with the Girl Scout Piper Project. Read about another youth organization that keeps churning out trailblazers.
The Duchess of Sussex
Meghan Markle, who became an actress and women’s activist, and later, the Duchess of Sussex as the wife of England’s Prince Harry, got her start as a Girl Scout. “Gotta support the #girlscouts,” Markle tweeted in 2013, also hashtagging the famous #thinmints cookies. “My mother was my troop leader!” At age 11, Markle’s Scouts-inspired sense of equality led her to write a letter to advertisers asking them to change the sexist language in a TV commercial—which they did. Now Markle herself is the inspiration: Watching Markle’s wedding, one young scout told ABC News she looks up to her because she is “the first princess that’s a Girl Scout.” Although that’s not technically true: As her official biography notes, 11-year-old Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, was actually a Girl Guide (Britain’s version of the Girl Scouts) as well.
The veteran journalist found so much fulfillment in being a Girl Scout that she continues to be involved with the organization. “I really loved being a Girl Scout and was really honored when I was asked to deliver the keynote speech at their annual convention in Houston, Texas,” she wrote on ABC News’ website, revealing a picture of herself in her fourth-grade scouts uniform. She has also been active in promoting Girl Scouts’ efforts to get more women into leadership roles. “Girl Scouts are uniquely positioned for this goal,” Couric wrote. “After all, most women business leaders and 11 of the 17 women in the U.S. Senate [in 2012, when she penned the article] were scouts.” Find out 16 ways women still aren’t equal to men.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was a U.S. Senator and also U.S. Secretary of State and the Democratic presidential candidate in 2018, is a former Girl Scout. Bucking gender norms, the young Clinton actually wanted to be an astronaut or a baseball player when she grew up. “I learned some of my first lessons in leadership as a Girl Scout,” Clinton said in a video. “So when we were raising Chelsea in Arkansas, I made sure she became a Brownie as soon as she could!” Speaking about the Girl Scouts organization, Clinton said, “You do so much to support, inspire, and challenge girls, here at home and around the world. Thank you for everything you’re doing.”
Women in government in both political parties got their start in leadership in the Girl Scouts. In fact, all three female secretaries of state—Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice, and Hillary Clinton—were scouts. Rice, the first female African-American Secretary of State, was honored by the Girl Scouts during Black History Month in 2015. Rice was also chosen as one of the inspirational women that young Girl Scouts dressed as for Women’s History Month in 2017. “The most important qualities in being a leader are to have a strong sense of values and integrity, that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it because you believe it’s right, to not just try to do the easy thing,” Rice told Girl Scout Magazine in 2008. Find out about 57 trailblazing women who made history.
Music superstar Taylor Swift took the world by storm with her songwriting, singing, and guitar-playing prowess—so it’s no surprise she started as a Girl Scout. Swift continues to give back to the scouts themselves with free tickets to her concerts. “She did it under the radar without any attention,” one troop leader told a local paper. “Taylor Swift is one amazing young lady and a wonderful, giving role model for our Girl Scouts. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one of the many perks of being a Girl Scout.” One scout even showed her love for the pop star with a viral Girl Scout cookie parody video of Swift’s song “Blank Space.” Find out 10 surprising secrets about Girl Scout cookies.
The actress, who played the original feminist superhero Wonder Woman, undoubtedly was inspired by her time as a Girl Scout when taking on this strong female role. Recently, Carter and actress Gal Gadot, who played Wonder Woman in the movie reboot, spoke in front of an audience of Girl Scouts when the superhero was named an Honorary UN Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls in 2016 (honorary ambassadorships always go to a fictional character). “Wonder Woman helps bring out the inner strength every woman has,” Carter reportedly said. “She lives in the stories that women tell me day in and day out.”
The tennis star, who broke records and boundaries, was a Girl Scout—albeit for an unspecified “short time.” Still, the organization left a deep enough impression that Williams spoke at a 100th-anniversary celebration for the Girl Scouts in Dallas. According to the Dallas Morning News, she talked to the audience about trying new things, learning from mistakes, and being a leader. “What helps you stay motivated is doing something that you love…something that when you wake up in the morning, you want to be better at,” she said. Oh, and she said she loves Thin Mints! Williams was also featured in the recent “Lifetime of Leadership” Girl Scouts promotional video.
Philanthropist Melinda Gates, a co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, learned from the Girl Scouts’ message of giving back and helping those in need. “So many women making history today were once Girl Scouts,” she tweeted. “I love how this organization teaches girls to become leaders.” In another tweet featuring a vintage picture of two girls in scouts’ uniforms (her and her sister, presumably), Gates says, “Girl Scouts teaches girls to be leaders—and inspires them to explore everything from the outdoors to coding.”
Like all First Ladies since 1917, Laura Bush served as Honorary National President of the Girl Scouts while her husband, George W. Bush, was president. But Bush herself also grew up as a scout. “I have many happy memories from my years as a Girl Scout,” the former First Lady said in a video. “I made friends who are still my friends today. I remember the weeks at a Girl Scout camp, Camp Mitre Peak [in Texas], and the love for the outdoors that was fostered there…Like many of you, I wanted to make a difference in some way, and scouting gave me the confidence I needed to become a leader.” Here are 8 inspiring women who are changing the lives of women across the world.
The All My Children soap opera actress credits the scouts for helping her strive for goals—which served her well, as it famously took her 19 nominations to win a Daytime Emmy award. “I just loved being a Girl Scout!” Lucci wrote in a Girl Scout guest blog. “I have always loved learning things and having new experiences, then and now. Girl Scouts gave me the opportunity to set goals—achieving merit badges on my sash by learning skills in such a wide variety of areas from life saving to bird watching to baking!”
The actress, singer, and producer, born Dana Owens in Newark, New Jersey, has won a Grammy, an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and has been nominated for an Academy Award—and she may owe her drive for success to her beginnings as a Girl Scout. For her embodiment of female strength of character, Queen Latifah was chosen to narrate the Girl Scouts’ “Lifetime of Leadership” campaign video. “Redefining beauty, brains and what it really means to be ‘queen,’ making ourselves heard on stage and on screen…now that’s a job for a Girl Scout,” she says in the clip. Read about how New York launched its first Girl Scout troop for homeless girls.
Educator and former Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, Joe Biden’s spouse, says her time as a Girl Scout helped prepare her for future roles. “My Girl Scout experience taught me confidence, perseverance, and gave me skills that inspired me to pursue public service and helped me become a better leader,” she said in a Girl Scouts press release. Dr. Biden was the keynote speaker at G.I.R.L. Agenda 2018: Leading Change Through Civic Action. (G.I.R.L. stands for go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader.) “I have no doubt that the girls of today will become the leaders and change-makers of tomorrow,” Dr. Biden said.
Dakota Fanning, who just turned 25 years old, was already famous when she became a Girl Scout at age 11 in 2005—for her, being a Girl Scout was more about maintaining a normal childhood. But, the young actress also used her induction ceremony to promote the scouts: She gave her pledge at the AMC Burbank Theater in California, decked out in her uniform, then headed inside for a screening of her movie Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, with an audience made up of fellow scouts.
Called the “greatest female athlete of all time” by Sports Illustrated, Jackie Joyner-Kersee overcame poverty and beat the odds to become a record-setting track-and-field Olympic gold medalist. But in her retirement, this “famous former” continued to live up to the Girl Scout values of giving to the community, by establishing a youth foundation in her hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois. She continues to promote girls in athletics, hosting a recent event for National Girls and Women in Sports Day. “We want to teach girls that sports are about much more than just playing a game,” Joyner-Kersee said, according to a local news report. “It can give them the confidence, strength, and character-building skills they need to win in life.” Spoken like a true scout! Read about 13 moments that changed women’s history forever.
Rocker Sheryl Crow had a packed schedule as a child: According to US Weekly, she was a majorette, an all-star track athlete, and a National Honor Society member in her hometown of Kennett, Missouri. But the accomplished student was also a Girl Scout, an organization she continues to champion today. “My Girl Scouts #GIRLagenda is to help girls mobilize communities to support causes they care about,” Crow wrote on Facebook. On Twitter, she urged others to “support the @girlscouts #GIRLagenda & prepare a generation of girls to use their voices to change the world!”
Mary Tyler Moore
Actress, producer, and activist Mary Tyler Moore exemplified the Girl Scout spirit, particularly through her work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the 1970s sitcom that broke boundaries for its depiction of a single woman in the workplace. Never forgetting her roots, Moore made an appearance at the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York’s 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Upon her death in 2017, the Girl Scouts’ website shared, “We will always remember Mary Tyler Moore—an original go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leader, and a true Girl Scout,” and celebrated how she was able to “turn the tide for women in television.”
The television journalist, cancer survivor, former ESPN reporter, and Good Morning America host credits the Girl Scouts with helping her follow her oft-repeated motto of “dream big, focus small.” Roberts took to Twitter to confirm, “Yes I was a #GirlScout and I’m proud to say I’m a lifetime member!” And at a National Girl Scout Convention, Roberts said, “It takes courage to step outside of your comfort zone,” Scholastic News reported. “It leads to confidence and it builds character. And those are the qualities I learned through Girl Scouts.” Read 20 confidence-boosting quotes from seriously awesome women in history.
Actress, public speaker, and Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby may have been in a competitive sport, but she says the Girl Scouts helped foster a sense of working as a team. “The thing I received from Girl Scouts more than anything else was a sense of real teamwork and working for the community, helping others, and it was not competitive,” said Rigby, as quoted in a Girl Scout Juniors newsletter. “I remember working as a group to achieve a goal or to help the community. There was a great sense of accomplishment in that.”
Yet another journalist who began as a Girl Scout, Lisa Ling says the experience helped her get through challenging times as a young woman. “All of those things that we went through, not having money, or parents around, my dad was always working so that’s why I was home with the TV on all the time, all of those things I think made me a lot stronger,” Ling told high schoolers before appearing at a Juliette Low Leadership Luncheon in Oklahoma City, according to local news reports. In a press release about the event, Ling also reportedly said, “Girl Scouts had a tremendous impact on helping me to build self-confidence. It is a terrific organization for girls, and one that promotes the right things.”
Following fellow child star Dakota Fanning, Abigail Breslin was sworn in during an induction ceremony at the 20th Century Fox studio lot in Studio City, California, in 2008 at 11 years old. Breslin, who had received acclaim for her performance in Little Miss Sunshine, held up three fingers in the Girl Scout salute, representing the three parts of the Girl Scout Promise. She recently upheld that promise by visiting with some current scouts. “As a Girl Scout alum, I am so happy to…experience Girl Scouts’ STEM programming with the troops and share experiences of how I overcame my own challenges with issues of self-esteem and confidence,” Breslin said in a press release. “We want to show these girls that no matter what obstacles come their way, they can find success when they believe in themselves.” She later received props from the Girl Scouts after she tweeted from the event.
The model, entrepreneur, and philanthropist was hugely inspired by her time as a Girl Scout, especially in creating her STEAM-focused (which adds Art to STEM), girls-in-tech program Kode with Klossy. “I have so many fond memories of growing up with my sisters and my best friends, and selling cookies was such a big part of our year,” Kloss told Teen Vogue. “It’s such an incredible memory that I’ll always have. My oldest sister is just a few years older, and my youngest sisters are twins, so all of us were in Girl Scouts at the same time. I was in my troop with my absolute best friends growing up. In my community, the Girl Scout troops were very close. It was amazing to be a part of something that was big—it was a very special organization. It still is!” Selling cookies, she says, helped hone her business skills as well. Here are 16 business secrets from the savviest Girl Scout cookie sellers.
The fashion designer first got creative inspiration from her Girl Scout uniform. “I used to jazz up my uniform by hemming it, hiking it up so it was really short, or wearing it with all sorts of belts,” she says on her website. “I remember marching in a parade in my uniform—I insisted on wearing these black patent leather party shoes with this little heel that made me feel very princess-y. By block two of the parade, the heel had completely fallen off. My parents saw me limping with this nail sticking out of the heel of my shoe, but I waved and was like, lookin’ good!” A self-proclaimed “Girl Scout overachiever,” she says she gained so much “business acumen” and “early mentorship and support from smart, strong women who taught me to think creatively” from the scouts. That’s why she designed a shirt with the slogan, “Girls with dreams become women with vision,” with 20 percent of sales going to the Girl Scouts. Here are 23 amazing shopping sites that support women’s causes.