A Girl Scout is a Model Citizen

Told by council historian, Carol Macola

From 1920 to 2011, Girl Scouts could earn a Citizen Badge, that was recognizable by its eight-pointed star symbol. The name varied from Citizen to Junior Citizen to Active Citizen to Model Citizen, but the look of the badge only differed in the colors, varying from black and white on the khaki uniform to green and white and finally blue and white.

The badge was first presented in the 1920 handbook. However, Juliette Gordon Low’s 1913 How Girls Can Help Their Country included a whole section on patriotism, requiring Girl Scouts to know about their town and state to earn their Tenderfoot rank. A few more requirements about the American flag’s history and display rules were incorporated into the Second Class rank.  

The new Citizen Badge in 1920 was a requisite badge for First Class rank. A Girl Scout had to know what constitutes a citizen, what are our government’s responsibilities, what are our President’s duties, and how laws are made. Qualifications to vote, secret ballots, and party affiliation were also part of the badge work. Remember, women only got the right to vote in 1920! 

In 1934, the badge was renamed Junior Citizen and was green and white. The requirements were more directed at community responsibilities and activities. A Girl Scout had to know who to contact for different emergencies—without a telephone or 911! She had to know public buildings and places of interest in her community and draw a map or give clear directions to get there. She even had to explain how garbage is disposed of in her community and how she could help keep areas clean and attractive.

In the 1938 Girl Scout Program and Activities and the 1940 Girl Scout Handbook, Junior Citizen requirements returned its focus to patriotic symbols, how one becomes a citizen, and how one can help with the responsibilities that accompany privileges. Girl Scouts were to identify patriots in history, find out about various types of taxes, learn about voting procedures, and care of public property.

The 1947 handbook added three mandatory activities: community service, a presentation on what democracy means, and what the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights provides. In 1953, the name was changed to Active Citizen. The requirements were tweaked to incorporate the government and patriotic activities with community life activities.

With the new Junior Girl Scout program in 1963, the badge had fewer requirements but still focused on “finding out about and putting into practice the responsibilities of a citizen of the USA.” Active Citizen in 1977 brought in the blue and white symbol. Then, in 1980, Girl Scout Badges and Signs had both Junior Citizen for Juniors with the eight-pointed star and Active Citizen badge for Cadettes with a state capital symbol, expanding the importance of knowledge about our government and our communities.

In 1990, the name Junior Citizen carried on for Junior Girl Scouts; Cadettes now had Interest Projects. 

The last change came in 2001, with the name changed to Model Citizen. The familiar blue and white eight-pointed star remained the same, as the badge was now connected to the part of the Girl Scout Law with a promise to “make the world a better place” by understanding what it means to be a model citizen.

By 2011, the Citizen Badge was transformed so Girl Scouts at all levels can still strive to become active and model citizens. Today, the badges are named Good Neighbor (Daisies), Celebrating Community (Brownies), Inside Government (Juniors), Finding Common Ground (Cadettes), Behind the Ballot (Seniors), and Public Policy (Ambassadors).

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