Cambridge Boy Scout Troop Allowed Girls Long Before National Decision To Do So

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Hannah Lyons-Galante, left, was part of the Cambridge Boy Scout troop Dr. Michelle Holmes, right, helps lead. The troop started allowing girls in 2003. (Elizabeth Gillis/WBUR)
Hannah Lyons-Galante, left, was part of the Cambridge Boy Scout troop Dr. Michelle Holmes, right, helps lead. The troop started allowing girls in 2003. (Elizabeth Gillis/WBUR)

Starting next year, girls will be able to join the Cub Scouts — and soon after that, the Boy Scouts.

Boy Scouts of America made the announcement Wednesday.

For one Boy Scout troop in Cambridge, this is sort of like old news. The troop has been allowing girls, albeit unofficially, since 2003. About 40 to 50 girls have been part of the group.

Dr. Michelle Holmes is one of several leaders of the troop (now officially known as Scouting Collective 56). She and one of her former scouts, Harvard graduate student Hannah Lyons Galante, joined WBUR'S All Things Considered to talk about the national decision to bring girls into the organization.

Interview Highlights

On the concerns people raise about girls joining Boy Scouts:

Dr. Michelle Holmes: One thing people worry about is, 'How are they going to camp together?' and, 'Won't there be romantic relationships?' And I have to say, that really didn't happen very much. The relationships among the young men and women in our troop are more like brothers and sisters. There's something about camping next to someone and being muddy and dirty that is not very conducive to romance, shall we say.

Girls sleep in tents with other girls, and boys sleep in tents with other boys. If there should be a relationship, which there almost never was, there are no public displays of affection during scouting."

On scouting's effect on kids and young adults:

Hannah Lyons-Galante: It was really a formative experience in that it really shaped my identity. I had to learn how to look out for myself, how to stay warm when you're facing hypothermic conditions on top of a mountain. All of the things that scouting's known for, and being prepared, really got me comfortable being outside. And that led later on to my passion for, really, the environment. And having studied — undergrad - environmental science, and now I'm doing a Master's in landscape architecture, I would say that 100 percent, scouting was part of that intellectual journey. Just learning how to read a topographic map at age 13, and nowadays I'm drawing topography lines, there's a real connection between these formative experiences in high school and what I ended up choosing to study in college and beyond.

On whether the national decision to allow girls into the Boy Scouts feels bittersweet:

Lyons-Galante: There's somewhat of a bittersweet [feeling], in that I wish there had been that opportunity. I had become a Ranger Scout, which is the highest award in outdoor Venture Scouting. And this accomplishment — if you look at the requirements for this award — they're exactly the same, if not more rigorous, than gaining Eagle Scout. However, I don't get to write Eagle Scout on my resume. And Eagle Scout — everyone knows what that means. Not everyone knows what Ranger Scout means.

I really have no regrets, but looking at it in the context of history now, it's yeah, that was a really tough thing to go through.

On differences between Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts:

Holmes: I was a Girl Scout in my youth, and that was really an important experience. In fact, that's why I'm in Boy Scouts, because I was a Girl Scout who said, 'When I grow up I want my kids to be in scouts,' and I had sons. So I got involved in Boy Scouting. Girl Scouting took a different direction, and not every girl wants to go in that direction. Girls should have choice. The Boy Scout program is very traditionally focused on the outdoors. We do an outdoor camping trip every month, year-round. Girl Scouts, although [it] allows outdoor experiences, doesn't require it the way Boy Scouts do. So if you are a girl who is very enthusiastic about the outdoors, you have no place to go. Now you will have a place to go.

This article was originally published on October 12, 2017.

This segment aired on October 12, 2017.


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Jack Lepiarz Reporter and Anchor
Jack Lepiarz was a reporter and anchor at WBUR.


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Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.



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