TRAVERSE CITY — Proficiency badges for cooking meals and caring for babies were awarded to novice Girl Scouts when they met for the first time a century ago.
Since that early meeting, millions of young girls have taken the Girl Scout promise, earned badges and sold cookies by the truckload.
Rebekah Keeder, a fourth-generation Girl Scout from Traverse City, says her favorite badge is always the one she is working on — for now, the aMUSE journey badge.
"It has to do with writing, acting, stuff like that," said the 10-year-old member of Courtade Elementary's Troop 3537.
As Girl Scouting celebrates its 100th anniversary this month, lessons in domestic know-how, outdoor adventures and technical skills are aimed at teaching girls they can do anything.
"I wanted my daughter to continue in scouting because I had so many wonderful opportunities," said Rebekah's mother, Michelle Keeder, who participated in scouting through the Senior Scout level.
Keeder, who along with her mother, Sue Walters, serve as Rebekah's Junior troop leaders, says being a Girl Scout allowed her to travel to events throughout the United States. She wanted her daughter to have the same opportunities.
"She can learn so much from scouting and it has really helped her come out of her shell," said Michelle, who sees a direct connection between scouting and her daughter's increased ease in social situations.
"She has become someone who will get up and make announcements to her troop. She would never have done that before."
Rebekah, her mom and grandmother look forward to celebrating Scouting's centennial anniversary when, along with other troops across the nation, the Grand Traverse Area Service Unit of Michigan Shore to Shore district will host a 100 Year Promise Circle ceremony.
All past and present girl and adult members are invited to come together from 5:45 to 6:30 p.m., Monday, March 12, at the Grand Traverse Civic Center's Howe Arena meeting room.
"I remember celebrating the 75th anniversary when Rebekah's mom was a Scout, the energy of all of the girls coming together and saying the promise was amazing," Walters said.
When Juliette Gordon Low rounded up her first troop on March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Ga., few women held jobs and only six states allowed them to vote.
Low's original registration book shows 102 girls enlisted within just a few weeks. By 1917, enrollment had swelled to 13,000, and today the girls number 2.3 million nationwide.
Locally, the Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore district serves more than 14,500 girls and 4,000 volunteers in 30 counties throughout northern and western Michigan.
Low didn't set out to cause sweeping social change, however the Girl Scouts would help set the stage for the modern women's movement and gradually help bridge the gender gap.
"Girl Scouting from its inception was always forward-looking," said Mary Rothschild, a retired historian from Arizona State University who spent 30 years studying the Girl Scouts. "Although it was always rooted in domesticity, it always opened further paths to women."
The first Girl Scout handbook, published in 1913, encouraged girls to shoot rifles and gave instructions for tying up intruders.
The original Scouts took camping trips and played basketball on outdoor courts shrouded from public view by curtains hung so that men couldn't glimpse the girls in their bloomers.
"She had girls in the outdoors, in the green environment, before it was cool to be green or cool for girls to be out there kicking balls," said Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, who credits much of the group's success to Low thinking well ahead of her time.
Decades later, former Girl Scouts including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Laura Bush, Barbara Walters, tennis star Venus Williams, seven astronauts and 13 current and former members of Congress are leaders in the fields of business, science, sports and politics.
For more information on the 100 Year Promise Circle, call Sue Walters at 463-9875.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.