The Scouting movement has been alive and well for over 100 years now. Since the beginning of the movement the BSA has had the premier focus on educating young men to make moral and ethical decisions throughout their lives. For over 100 years adult men have lead Troops of Scouts into the outdoors in the search for adventure and to train the leaders of future generations. A proven history of success with over 2 million young men being awarded their Eagle rank.
Not until after the introduction of Cub Scouts in 1930 were women allowed to participate as adult volunteers in the BSA. Even the early years of Cub Scouts had no women. It wasn’t until 1932 that women were allowed to serve as Den Mothers, and then still under the guidance of a Boy Scout Den Chief. Nearly 60 years passed before the BSA removed all gender restrictions on adult volunteer positions. In February 1988, when I was 10 years old, I may have been one of the first groups of Cub Scouts to move into a Boy Scout Troop that had the opportunity to be lead by a female Scoutmaster. I never made it to Boy Scouts and I have no idea if at that time there would have been any female Scoutmasters in my area, but only in that year would that have been possible.
So you ask, what’s the big deal? Why am I even talking about it? It’s the 21st century, right? Well, here’s the deal, I’m upset about the role women play in modern day Scouting. Ya, that’s right, I’m not happy with it at all.
This last weekend I had the fortunate honor of taking part in my Ordeal ceremony to become part of the BSA’s honor society, the Order of the Arrow. An honor that was granted to me by my district and something I don’t take lightly. Upon my return home I learned something, something I’ve known to some extent for some time, but I guess I never fully understood. My wife pointed out that I was now part of the “Boys Club” and one step further away from the two of us being on equal terms in regards how we are perceived in Scouting circles. This is the first thing since we both joined Scouting many years ago that we did not take on together. I’m not going to get into the politics of how she did not get elected into the OA, but let’s just say I feel she was cheated out of it by someone that has not devoted their life to cheerful service of others. My wife deserved the nomination from the district way more than the person that was nominated in by our unit, and to be honest, she deserved it way more than I did.
But there’s the rub. When it comes to perception of our roles in Scouting she is often looked upon by others as not a proper member of the BSA. She hears comments like “How are you able to be a Boy Scout?”, “Oh, you’re a Den Mother, right?”, “I didn’t think they let girls be in Boy Scouts.”, “When did the let women in Scouts?” and worst of all “You’re not a real Boy Scout.” Most of these comments come from non-Scouters and typically those of older generations. But sadly she is often looked upon within Scouting as not an equal. The two of us are fortunate to do so much together, but when we meet up with fellow Scouters they look at me when they talk, her opinions are not always heard, and her advice is not always asked for or sought after.
In 1971 a women by the name of Catherine Pollard became the Scoutmaster for Troop 13 in Milford, CT. She took on the role as no male adult was willing to serve as the guide for the young men of the Troop and she felt a duty to take that on for the sake of her Scouts. The BSA didn’t recognize her position and it wasn’t until 1988 that she was able to officially register as a Scoutmaster. Sad to think that was only 23 years ago. You walk into any BSA event today and you’re going to see many women filling many important roles with the organization. I’ve met many female Scoutmasters and I look upon their service with no less admiration than any male Scoutmaster.
The issue is so many of my fellow Scouters do not share that view. My wonderful wife thinks to herself that she is less important and less impactful to the youth of the BSA than men that wear the same uniform. In my house I wear the patch of Scoutmaster, but that is only because I’m more outspoken and more comfortable being in the spotlight. My wife should wear the patch of Scoutmaster Advisor. She’s the one that often gets the things done that I often get credit for. She keeps me in line and guides me in how I lead. I have no doubt that she has the ability to lead any Troop out there and do it better than most other Scoutmasters. She has a passion, she has skills, she has it all.
My wife questioned her role in Scouting this weekend and wondered if it was all worth it. In this day in age were women have achieved so much in terms of equality, it’s a sad state that her time in the BSA has not been played on the same field. Why should she have to fight to gain a voice in a male dominated organization when we all have the same mission and equal skills to accomplish it? I don’t understand.
It saddens me to think that as we go out to better the life of boys in this world and to take our skills and focus on training the future leaders of society that she is still fighting to have her voice heard. She has to struggle to overcome a roadblock that is put in front of her that holds her back from being able to be an effective leader. This is a waste of her amazing talents.
I’d like to say to my wife I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with it all. I’m sorry I didn’t take enough notice of the internal struggles you go through. I’m sorry that I haven’t stood up for you more. I’m sorry that you’ve come to the point of finding the challenge too much to bear.
I’d also like to thank every female Scouter for your unselfish service to these young men. You have taken on a role that is not easy to live out and for that you have my heartfelt thanks.
To my wonderful wife, you are an amazing person and the model of a true Scouter. You live every day by the Scout Oath and Law. You live a wonderful life of cheerful service. You are an amazing mentor to both adults and youth alike. I wish I was only half of what you are as that would make me a million times the person I am today. I dedicate my life to support you and to allow you to live the life you have always wanted.
This picture shows just how my wife has traveled through Scouting. Often alone and with many difficult paths traversed, but she goes forward anyway. This was the day she was presented her Wood Badge beads, recognized for her unselfish service and dedication to others. She stood alone on Gilwell field this day, but she had the thoughts of every Scout in her heart. That is something she will never loose.