The Journey to Arizona: How Girl Scouting made it to the Grand Canyon State

Posted: Sep 08, 2011

Our story begins in Europe in 1911, where Juliette Low met and became inspired by the work of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. Low led several troops in Scotland, but was motivated to bring her own brand of the movement back to the United States.  She succeeded.  On March 12, 1912, the first troop of American Girl Guides met in Savannah, Georgia.  

Juliette Low with Girl Scouts (year unknown)

Soon after, Low set up a National Headquarters, and changed the name of the organization to Girl Scouts.  News of Girl Scouting began to travel...

Fast-forward to 1916, to the small town of Prescott, Arizona.It was around this time that Maxie Dunning, the wife of a local mining engineer, learned of the Girl Scouts program. A lover of camp and the great outdoors, Maxie—like Juliette Low—was determined to bring Scouting to the girls in her hometown.  Maxie wrote national Headquarters to inquire about becoming a Girl Scouting captain (what we now call a troop leader.) Even though her request was lost in the mail, Maxie, like a true Girl Scout leader, didn’t give up: She obtained a Girl Scout Handbook anyway, and began the first (unofficial) troop in 1916. Maxie’s request was finally approved in 1918, shortly after Mable Wester-Wick (also the wife of a mining engineer) of Ajo, Arizona began the first officially registered troop of Arizona.  The first Phoenix-based troops, Troop #1 and Troop #2, were started in the early 1920s by Fay Probst and Alice Marshall, respectively.  In 1936, Alice Marshall founded our council (then called the Maricopa County Girl Scout Council), and became the first council president.

Alice Marshall with Troop #1 in  Phoenix, Arizona (1925)        

Older Girl Scouts at camp (year unknown)                                                                                                                                                                     

The rest—as Juliette Low might say—is history. 

Despite Arizona’s infancy as a state when Girl Scouting arrived (Arizona became a state in 1912), Girl Scouting has remained a constant, growing force over the years: from an unofficial, lone troop in Prescott in 1916, to two councils serving over 25,000 girls annually—we have come a long way!

As we look back, we can’t help but recognize the work of the trailblazing women that made Girl Scouting possible in Arizona. The independence and willpower of these women personify what it means to be a Girl Scout: They found what they were passionate about, and pursued it with endless determination.  They, without a doubt, were women of Courage, Confidence and Character. They set the tone for Girl Scouts, and their influence is seen in everything we do at the Girl Scouts today. 

Throughout the next several months, we will take time to reflect on the history of Girl Scouting over the past 100 years, highlighting amazing stories, events and people from our rich history. 

Check back in a couple of weeks for more!