It’s lovely that the Boy Scouts of America finally caught up to our troop. On Wednesday, the 107-year-old organization that has combined the adventure of the outdoors with the civic imperative to be courteous, kind, and brave, announced it was opening the door for girls to join Cub Scouts next year and the older Scout ranks in 2019. Girls will be eligible to earn the highest rank of the organization — Eagle Scout.
In our troop, girls have been flying high for a long time. When our youngest son was in Scouts, my wife, medical researcher Michelle Holmes, saw all the benefits of self confidence, fitness, and community service that the program gave to our neighborhood boys. She saw no reason why they should not be offered to girls. She invited girls to join our troop in 2003, through Scouting’s Venturing program.
We started with one girl, Hannah Lyons-Galante. She quickly earned the respect of the boys and by 2006, with several more girls in the troop, she led our 10-night backpacking expedition at the Philmont Scout Ranch in the mountains of New Mexico.
Hannah, now 27 and studying to be a landscape architect at Harvard, wrote me in an e-mail to say that, though it was weird to be called a Boy Scout, “Scouting was probably the best thing that I ever did as a teenager. It got me out of doors regularly, challenged me to work with people who are different from me — especially people of the opposite sex — and it pushed me to define what I stand for and develop my sense of self.”
We’ve watched so many girls develop their sense of self. There was Ryan, a scout from a single-parent family who gutted out altitude sickness in our 2006 Philmont trek. Years later, she would go back to Philmont to be on summer staff and lead new crews out into the wilderness. Today she is a farmer in Washington State.
There was Ariela, who was our crew chief in 2010. After she graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, she took a gap year to hike the entire 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail. Then there was Madeline, who at 12 led one of our snowshoe overnight trips in zero-degree wind-chill to a high hut in the White Mountains. She bluntly once told me for a Globe column:
“I am at least as capable of achieving Eagle Scout as any other scout in my troop, but I am not allowed to become one, because I am a girl . . . I’ve always dreamed of being an Eagle Scout. I like hiking and nature, and I also want to prove that girls can do just as much as boys . . . Eagle Scout is my goal as much as the next kid in Scouting and I don’t want anything to get in my way of reaching it.’’
While it is too late for Madeline to become Eagle, my wife and I are happy to say that the girls of tomorrow will now have that chance.