Today, the Girls Scouts organization is made up of young girls from all races learning valuable life lessons, but that wasn’t always the case. The organization was desegregated via the efforts of Sarah Randolph Bailey, who began her mission in the mid ’30’s.
Bailey, born 1885 in Macon, Ga., was a longtime educator and missionary who saw the value in troubled young girls and volunteered her time to provide guidance. After working at a Macon rehabilitation and detention center for girls, Bailey had the vision to organize young women for the Young Women’s Christian Association’s (YWCA) Girl Reserves group.
In 1935, Bailey gathered informal groups of Black girls and started giving them the opportunity to learn life skills and lessons, much like their white counterparts in the Girl Scouts. After organizing some 15 Girl Reserve troops in Georgia, Girl Scouts, U.S.A. took notice and invited Bailey to organize the first Black Girl Scouts troop.
The group was formally introduced as official Scouts in 1948. Bailey was also named the chairwoman for the Macon Girl Scout’s Central Committee and earned the Thanks badge, the Scouts’ highest honor given to an adult. In 1961, a permanent campsite was named in her honor. She also worked as a district and council leader. Bailey passed in 1972.
In 1994, The Macon Girl Scouts Center was renamed the Sarah Bailey Service Center. She has also been the subject of a dedicated exhibit at Macon’s Tubman Museum.