Twins Maevry and Adele McCombs were the first two girls in Marietta, Ohio to join Cub Scouts.
To Maevry and Adele, the decision to become the first girls to join Pack 207 was simple. To them, it was a matter of becoming official participants of a club they had been around for all of their lives.
The 9-year-old twins started coming to family campouts when they were four years old. They followed their older brother Henry, tagging along on hikes and other scouting activities.
Their mother Jamie remembers their early experiences with the scouts. “They would let the girls do the crafts with them. They’d let them come along to stuff. But still, when they sat down to do their memorization stuff, the girls were like, ‘Well, why can’t we need that?’ So, they realize that they weren’t part of it, and they didn’t like that it was only for boys.”
The McCombs family is a busy family of five; splitting their time between two scouting organizations was not practical. “Everyone wants their kids to grow, learn and be happy. We thought of Girls Scouts, but it wasn’t a right fit, and we were already involved in Boy Scouts because of Henry. As soon as we heard that girls could join, it wasn’t even a question,” says Jamie.
To the girls, the choice was easy. “I don’t think there is that much of a difference between the two,” says Maevry, “I just like Boy Scouts better.”
During the last decade, membership has declined in youth scouting organizations. Some claim this is why Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is pushing for change. No matter the reason, the organization has made progressive strides in recent years. According to their website, BSA lifted the ban on openly gay scout leaders in 2015. In 2017, BSA allowed open membership for transgender youth, accepting the gender listed on the application form instead of the birth certificate.
In 2018, girls were first allowed to join the Cub Scout Program due to a new recruitment effort called “Scout Me In.” The 110-year-old organization made the decision in order to allow both boys and girls a chance at the scouting experience.
Maevry and Adele are currently Webelos. In Cub Scouts, each elementary grade level has a rank and is associated with an animal or symbol. The ranks always split into dens during meetings. Now that girls have joined, the dens are split by gender and come together for activities and events.
No matter what age or grade, this is the first badge earned before moving up in rank.
The rank designed for a first-grade or 7-year-old Cub Scout.
The rank designed for a second-grade or 8-year-old Cub Scout.
The rank designed for a third-grader or a 9 year old Cub Scout.
The rank designed for a fourth or fifth grader under the age of 11 ½.
The first rank in Boy Scouts, to which Maevry and Adele will graduate next year.
As of February 2019, Boy Scouts of America also allows girls to join Scouts BSA (the new name for the Boy Scout Program).
According to the BSA website, they believed it “critical to evolve how [their] programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children. [They] strive to bring what [their] organization does best — developing character and leadership for young people — to as many families and youth as possible as [they] help shape the next generation of leaders.”
BSA was founded in 1910. The organization aimed to prepare young men for the life ahead of them and instill the values of the Scout Oath and Law.
Girl Scouts (GSUSA) began in 1912 under the vision and direction of Juliette Gordon Low. Low wanted an organization that built courage, confidence and character.
On their website, Girls Scouts stated that they were “the best girl leadership organization in the world, created with and for girls.”
They wanted people to understand how Girl Scouts “offers a one-of-a-kind experience for girls with a program tailored specifically to their unique developmental needs.”
After these statements were released, BSA’s Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh defended their decision as “true to the BSA’s mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law. The values of Scouting — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example — are important for both young men and women.” After these statements were released, BSA’s Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh defended their decision as “true to the BSA’s mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law. The values of Scouting — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example — are important for both young men and women.”
In 2018, GSUSA filed a federal trademark lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claiming that Boy Scouts’ new name, Scouts BSA would “marginalize” and damage GSUSA. NPR reported on the issue, pointing out how the generic use of the term “scouts,” without a gender marker, was what GSUSA was objecting to.
This argument mirrors one from earlier history, when Boy Scouts objected to the name Girl Scouts. “James West, BSA leader from 1911 to 1943, rallied particularly against the Girl Scouts’ use of the term ‘scout,’ fearing that if the term became feminized, it would become unsuitable for boys’ adventure,” says Leslie Paris, author of “Children’s Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp.”
The lawsuit has not affected BSA troops as they continue their work. All around the country, children just like Adele and Maevry are participating in whatever youth organization they choose. In Marietta, Ohio, Cub Scout Pack 207 is full of kids being shaped by den and pack Leaders as they complete badge work and play and grow together.
This debate continues today, but the contention hasn’t stopped Maevry and Adele from having fun. Both currently of Webelo rank, they were the first two girls to attend Seven Ranges Scout Reservation on the Webelo Resident Camp Program. This program is a summer camp for Webelos who are transitioning from Cub Scouts to Scouts BSA. In Kensington, Ohio, the reservation is swarmed every summer with over 5,000 campers looking to fulfill merit badges.
“It really boils down to my girls’ personality. I could toss them in a room of a hundred boys and they could hold their own. I don't worry about it whatsoever. They don't care about it. They don't see themselves as dainty little flowers. They hold their own; they rule the roost,” says Jamie.
Last summer, Maevry and Adele earned their Craftsman Badge, Cast Iron Chef Badge and Aquanaut Badge. These badges are displayed as pins on their Webelo Colors, an optional emblem onto which Webelo Activity pins may be displayed. This emblem is worn immediately below and touching a U.S. flag patch on the right sleeve.
Along with Seven Ranges, the girls spent time at other BSA camps like Camp Kootaga during Cub Scout Adventure weekend. The twins stood among group of boys as they launched paper rockets and went hiking. The gender difference blends together, and a pack of Cub Scouts made of boys and girls stand together.
The twins look forward to attending Seven Ranges again this summer to complete the activity badges for their Arrow of Light, the only badge a Cub Scout can carry over to Scouts BSA. They want to continue to learn and grow and become Boy Scouts when they are old enough.
Until then, they will continue to be kids. They will ride their bikes to school and play outside with their friends. They will cook dinner with their dad.
Every first and third Thursday of the month they will rush into their American Legion, clad in their khaki Cub Scout uniforms. They will be greeted with a warm smile, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Scout Oath with their fellow scouts, knowing they are welcomed and accepted in an organization they know and love.