Did somebody say Tagalongs? Is that a Samoa I spy? Yep, folks, it’s time to set aside a few of your well-earned dollars for a box of Thin Mints (or not), get into a heated water cooler debate over the socio-political agenda behind Do-si-dos and brush up on your “Cookie Time” dance moves … Girl Scout Cookie season is in full swing.
No matter what your take is on the more than $700 million annual business of hawking Girl Scout cookies — or the nearly 101-year-old youth organization behind it — it’s both inspirational and fascinating to take a closer look at some of the notable former three-finger salute-rs who once donned decorated sashes, hauled dunk bags through the middle of the woods and descended on their neighborhoods to peddle boxes of highly caloric limited-time treats. With the mission to build girls of “courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place,” Girl Scouts boasts an alumnae list that’s nearly 59 million American women strong, so naturally there are a few bold-faced names in the mix, particularly names made famous through politics, diplomacy and business.
We’ve rounded up 10 accomplished former (and a couple of current) scouts, both living and dearly departed, across a range of professions including sports, science, politics and the arts with many more listed within the entries and at the end of this article. Do you have a favorite famous Girl Scout that we left out? Tell us about her in the comments section.
The diplomat: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Serving as an inspiration for all the young negotiation and hostess badge recipients, a staggering number of Girl Scout alumnae have gone on to become first ladies of the United States or to hold high-ranking political office: Nancy Reagan, Janet Reno, Laura Bush, Madeline Albright, Geraldine Ferraro, Dixie Lee Ray, Condoleezza Rice, Patty Murray and the list goes on. In 2009, current FLOTUS and erstwhile Savannah Smiles-peddler Michelle Obama accepted the role of national honorary president of Girl Scouts.
And then there’s Hillary Rodham Clinton. The former first lady and recently retired 67th secretary of state (is there a badge for text messaging?) recounted her days as a member of Troop 316 in Park Ridge, Ill., when welcoming a group of Girl Scouts to commemorate the International Day of the Girl in October 2012: “And that reminds me of how much I benefited from my years associated with Girl Scouts, starting out as a Brownie, flying up, becoming a Girl Scout, becoming what we called in those years so long ago a Mariner Scout, acquiring badges. There’s some people of my vintage or a little bit closer who can remember those days. But the Girl Scouts not only taught me great songs that I still sing, but lifelong lessons about leadership and the value of public service and friendships that go back all those years and keep me grounded because I’m with people who know that I had a really hard time starting a fire in the rain.”
Like her mother, Chelsea Clinton was also a scout. At the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts-hosted Forever Green Gala in Boston, the younger Clinton remarked that she “learned a few core lessons as a Brownie, one of those being the value of teamwork and everything that we girls can do when we work together.”
The pop star: Taylor Swift
We aren’t clear about what important skills Taylor Swift, America’s most beloved 20-something singer-songwriter for 14-year-old girls who also behaves like a 14-year-old girl, would have learned during her time as a Girl Scout. Passive-aggressiveness? Serial dating?
Apparently before T-Swift started selling millions of records and dating Kennedys, the Nashville-based pop-country songstress/perpetual preteen was quite the cookie entrepreneur as evidenced in her excruciating novelty rap song with T-Pain, “Thug Story:” “Still live with my parents but I’m still a thug/I’m so gangster you can find me baking cookies at night/You out clubbing but I just made Caramel Delight.”
No matter how you may feel about Swift’s juvenile sensibilities, she learned a thing or two about philanthropy from the Girl Scouts, and she has whipped out her checkbook on numerous occasions to lend generous support to a range of good causes including children’s literacy, music education, disaster recovery and cancer research. No stranger to charity concerts and benefits, in 2012 Swift was recognized for her do-goodery with a Kid’s Choice Big Help Award. Now here’s hoping that Swift takes Tina Fey’s sage advice and earns herself an adult “me time” badge.
The journalist: Katie Couric
Years after serving time in Arlington, Va.’s Girl Scout Troop 2165 in fourth through sixth grades, Katie Couric still can’t resist donning a uniform. She wears it well … and certainly looks a lot happier than when she was actually in the Girl Scouts.
In celebration of the Girl Scout’s 100th anniversary, the famed broadcast journalist hosted an ABC News segment dedicated to the organization. She also published an article for ABC News highlighting To Get Her There, a new Girl Scouts program geared to “raise awareness about the leadership gap that exists between men and women in positions of authority across most industries and sectors.” Explains Couric: “Women in business and government have come a long way since I took the Girl Scout pledge, and maybe, to quote ‘Dirty Dancing,’ nobody puts baby in a corner anymore — or calls us ‘baby’ for that matter. But as a society we’ve also been slow to put women in corner offices.”
In addition to Couric, several other esteemed television journalists, correspondents and anchorwomen are proud former Girl Scouts including Judy Woodruff, Jane Pauley, Lisa Ling, Rita Braver, Deborah Norville and, last but not least, Barbara Walters.
The comic: Lucille Ball
While we don’t know much about Lucille Ball’s time spent as a Girl Scout, we do know this much: The legendary TV funnywoman, business executive and “Three’s Company” addict would have made from the best troop leader of all time, hands down (although we’re not so sure about her wilderness survival skills).
In addition to Ball, other showbiz legends who have spent time as scouts include Debbie Reynolds, Mary Tyler Moore, Dinah Shore, Marlo Thomas and Sandra Dee.
The media mogul: Martha Stewart
Well, color us shocked: Once upon a time Martha Stewart, show dog owner, convicted felon and high priestess of domestic bliss, was once a Girl Scout in her native Nutley, N.J. She has said of the experience: “Girl Scout camp at South Mountain Retreat (in Orange, N.J.) taught me the real love of the outdoors, camaraderie and friendship.” Guess she picked up her knack for floral arrangements and insider trading later in life.
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of GSUSA, Stewart aired a special May 2012 episode of her syndicated how-to television show in which she welcomed Nutley Jr. Troop No. 20190. We should also mention that the entire audience was composed of in-uniform scouts and troop leaders. Naturally, there were numerous, Martha-esque activities during the special “Girl Scout Show”: Trail mix preparation, faux-agate pendant crafting, homemade Thin Mint ice cream blending and a look at vintage Girl Scout uniforms dating back to 1919.
And, of course, Stewart broke out the felt, craft scissors and aquamarine crystal glitter paint and joined Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez for an S.W.A.P.S. (“Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere”) how-to demo. When asked by Chavez what badges she received during her Girl Scout tenure, Stewart replied: “I remember getting a lot of badges because of course I was an overachiever.”
The diva: Mariah Carey
“American Idol”-judging butterfly enthusiast Mariah Carey was indeed once a Girl Scout while growing up on Long Island. No offense, but we’re having trouble wrapping our heads around the thought of the fabulous Ms. Mimi, even as a kid, starting a camp fire and going door-to-door hawking cookies. (We’ve admittedly watched Carey’s mind-blowing episode of “MTV Cribs” one too many times).
But like fellow mega-rich singer-songwriter and Girl Scouts alumna Taylor Swift, the spirit of giving back seems to have been deeply ingrained in Carey. Most notably, she helped launch Camp Mariah, a Fresh Air Fund-operated summer camp in Fishkill, N.Y., that’s centered around promoting career awareness and training amongst disadvantaged, inner-city youth. Carey is also a major benefactor and longtime supporter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
And while there aren’t a ton of other VH1-certified divas running around who reportedly once donned pin-covered green sashes, there is one that comes to mind who is just as lovably bonkers as Mariah Carey: Celine Dion.
The athlete: Venus Williams
A very abbreviated list of famous athletes who were once Girl Scouts: Cathy Rigby, Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Bonnie Blair, Nancy Lopez. However, none of these fine sportswomen are quite as currently visible in the ranks of former Girl Scout-dom than the game-changing tennis phenomenon known as Venus Williams. Why? Because Williams was a Girl Scout for only a week.
Yep, a Girl Scout for only a week — she can blame the scheduling conflicts that come along with being a rising tennis star for that one. Still, the GSUSA has identified the four-time Olympic gold medal winner as being “an athlete and public figure who exemplifies the best of what Girl Scouts teaches: having a strong body and living a healthy life; being a tough yet still gracious competitor; taking action for what is just; being a good sister; having a balanced life that includes interests beyond tennis.” In a 2009 interview with Girl Scouts publication Leader Magazine, Williams says: “The message I like to convey to women and girls across the globe is that there is no glass ceiling.”
And Williams doesn’t qualify just as a former Girl Scout who went on to change history in the world of professional sports. As a businesswoman, Williams joins the ranks of GSUSA alumnae including Ellen Marram (former CEO of Tropicana and Nabisco), Susan Falk (CEO of Betsey Johnson), Lois Juliber (former VP of Colgate-Palmolive) and cookie queen herself, Debbi Fields.
The explorer: Sally Ride
While a fair number of astronauts — Rhea Seddon, Jan Davis, Mae Jemison and Kathryn Sullivan just to name a few — are former Girl Scouts, none inspired a whole generation of young women to take flight and follow their dreams by pursuing careers in astronautics quite like Sally Ride. America collectively fell head over heels for the 32-year-old Stanford-educated astrophysicist when in 1983 she became the first American woman to fly in space after going into orbit aboard the Challenger. In a way, Ride was the ultimate Girl Scout — courageous, charismatic, confident, curious — and just a touch crazy. And true to the Girl Scout motto, Ride was prepared.
Wrote io9 blogger and journalist Annalee Newitz after Ride succumbed to pancreatic cancer in July 2012: “My parents' generation loved Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, but I loved Sally Ride. With her curly brown hair and bravery, she reminded me of another astronaut I loved — Ripley, from ‘Alien.’ Except Sally Ride was real. Because of women like Ride, I grew up in a world where female astronauts were not just fictional. I knew that women could go to space, and succeed there, because an ordinary scientist like Ride had done it. Because of Ride's trip offworld, I saw the future differently than my mother did when she was young.”
Currently, Sky Search and Aerospace badges are available to science-minded scouts while GSUSA continues to work alongside NASA through a dedicated partnership that’s “enabled thousands of girls to look beyond the boundaries of earth and explore the expanse of the universe.” A dedicated educator in her post-NASA years, Ride herself co-founded a Girl Scouts mentorship program called Camp CEO.
The starlet: Dakota Fanning
It seems like just yesterday that uber-precocious child star Dakota Fanning smiled brightly for the cameras as she became a registered member of the San Fernando Valley Girl Scout Council (OK, it was way back in 2005 — see the photo at the top of this article) while appearing in wholesome family fare such as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Dreamer” and “Charlotte’s Web.” Now, at 19, she’s taking her top — and presumably bottoms — off for a steamy sex scene in a new coming-of-age film called “Very Good Girls.” She’ll also appear, presumably fully clothed, as an eco-terrorist in an upcoming thriller called “Night Moves.” And let us not forget that controversial Marc Jacobs fragrance ad (same fragrance, different ad shown at right) and her girl-on-girl smooch scene with Kristen Stewart in “The Runaways.” Girl Scouts gone wild! Or, rather, Girl Scouts grow up!
Fanning isn’t the first accomplished former child actor to graduate from the ranks of GSUSA — Shirley Temple, the ultimate juvenile superstar, was also a Girl Scout before retiring from show business at the age of 22 and later becoming the U.S. ambassador to both Ghana (1974-1976) and Czechoslovakia (1989-1992). In 2005, Fanning’s slightly younger contemporary, the Academy Award-nominated “Little Miss Sunshine” actress Abigail Breslin, was inducted into San Fernando Valley Girl Scout Council.
The activist: Gloria Steinem
Author. Editor. Proto-feminist. Galvanizer. Undercover Playboy Bunny. Kardashian critic. Former Girl Scout. Need we say more?
10 more former S.W.A.P’ers of note
The judge: Sandra Day O’Connor
The princess: Grace Kelly
The firecracker: Bette Davis
The advice-giver: Abigail Van Buren
The labor leader: Linda Chavez-Thompson
The psychologist: Dr. Joyce Brothers
The ventriloquist: Shari Lewis
The humorist: Erma Bombeck
The winner: Susan Lucci
The songstress: Sheryl Crow
Related Girl Scouts stories on MNN:
- Girl Scout Cookie infographic reveals most popular cookie and more
- Girl Scouts celebrate 100th anniversary with a new cookie
- After-school clubs give girls a needed boost in science
Click for photo credits
Hillary Clinton: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Taylor Swift: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS
Katie Couric: Instagram
Lucille Ball: Getty Images
Martha Stewart: themarthablog.com
Mariah Carey: Valery Hache/AFP/GettyImages
Venus Williams: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Sally Ride: NASA
Dakota Fanning: marcjacobs.com
Gloria Steinem: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images