Last fall, a handful of girls in Juneau became brand new scouts — not Girl Scouts. They are the first girls in town to be officially welcomed into Cub Scouts, thanks to a decision the national organization made last year. Since then, they’ve met both support and confrontation in the community.
It’s a Wednesday night and a group, or den, of Cub Scouts is making bird feeders. Families are packed into a heated garage, hammering boards, drilling things together and talking about the birds they might see.
Nights like this are exactly why Kelsie Powers, about to turn 11, wanted to join Cub Scouts.
“I want to be more of an outdoorsy girl, and then I also like it because you can build things, you can go camping. You practically can do anything,” Powers said.
Powers is one of the first girls in Juneau to be an official Cub Scout: the organization just started letting in girls in 2018. Cub Scouts’ parent organization, Scouts BSA (formerly Boy Scouts of America) began accepting girls into the organization this year.
Her den leader, Emily Lockie, says girls have been a part of Scouts for years, they just weren’t recognized. She knows, because that was her story:
“I grew up with three brothers and no sisters, and I got to watch from the sidelines as my brothers participated in this incredible organization,” Lockie said. “And as a teenager, I worked side by side with all my friends. I worked at scout camp with them because they allowed females to work out there. I just couldn’t be a part of the program.”
And as a parent, Lockie was watching that story repeat itself, with her own daughters. So when she got the chance to start a girls’ den in Juneau, she jumped.
For the most part, Lockie says, it’s been going really well. Their den is small, just four Scouts between 2nd and 5th grade. They get together every week, just girls, to work on projects, and they join the larger, co-ed pack once a month.
Lockie says she loves Scouts because it’s well-rounded. Boys — and now girls — can earn awards for exploring everything from outdoors skills to robotics to spirituality.
But it’s been a challenge to recruit girls to the program, and Lockie says they’ve received some pushback.
“There was definitely controversy in the beginning. We’ve done service in the community and attended events, and for the most part we’ve received incredible amounts of support,” she said. “But there definitely have been some comments from adults to the girls about how there shouldn’t be girls in scouts.”
Powers has heard it from peers, too.
“So at my school, like, I’ll be talking to my friends about what I did at Scouts the night before, and then all the boys will be eavesdropping. And then all of a sudden, they’ll be like, it’s called Boy Scouts for a reason. Or then they’re like, I think it’s really stupid how girls are joining. Girls are overtaking Boy Scouts,” Powers said.
She says she ignores them. Or responds simply, just telling them what she likes about being a Scout.
Den leader Lockie says the resistance has actually been a learning opportunity. She and her Scouts have spent a lot of time talking about how men and women are treated differently and why that might be, looking at it big picture. Last fall, when they got to meet with Juneau mayor Beth Weldon and a couple legislators, they even drew a connection to the fight for women’s right to vote a hundred years ago.
“And we were able to tie that conversation into how they were making history and how there are laws that aren’t always the right thing,” Lockie said. “And part of being a good citizen is to recognize laws that aren’t the best for our country and our community and do what we can do to change those laws.”
In her way, Kelsie Powers is making history too. This month, she became the first girl in Juneau to earn the Cub Scouts’ highest award, and she’s old enough now to join Scouts BSA, formerly called Boy Scouts of America.
But so far, she’s the only one. She needs at least four other girls to join, so they can form a troop. Until then, she’ll be a lone scout.
Powers says she’d like to tell other girls considering Scouts that it’s a lot of fun.
“And even if the boys don’t want you to do it, you shouldn’t listen to them,” she said.
Powers is hoping in a few years she’ll be the first girl in Juneau to reach the highest rank of Scouts BSA and become an Eagle Scout.
Families in Juneau with girls interested in joining Cub Scouts (Kindergarten-5th grade) can contact Emily Lockie at email@example.com or 907-500-3020. Families interested in Scouts BSA (ages 11-17) can contact Chris Gianotti at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-790-2557.