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Girls Incorporated

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Subject: Flo Hyman, National Council of Women's Organizations
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Girls Incorporated

Girls Inc.
File:Girls, Inc. logo.gif
Founded 1864
Key people Judy Vrendenburgh, President & CEO
Motto Inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold

Girls Incorporated is a nonprofit organization that focuses on giving confidence to girls.

Since 1945, Girls Incorporated has focused on responding to the changing needs of girls in their communities.

Media literacy, economic literacy, adolescent health, violence prevention and sports participation are also some of the educational topics the organization focuses on.

Local chapters

Girls Incorporated has local roots dating back to 1864 and has been nationally recognized since 1945. Girls Inc. has a network of local organizations in the United States and Canada. Chapters are available in all 50 states and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario. The majority of Girls Inc centers are found in low income areas.


The Girls Incorporated movement started in New England during the Industrial Revolution as a response to the needs of a new working class: young women who had migrated from rural communities in search of newly available job opportunities in textile mills and factories. The oldest Girls Incorporated affiliate, formed in 1864 in Waterbury, Connecticut, provided programs not only for young working women but also for younger daughters of mill families who had no place to gather but in the city streets. Other early centers followed the same pattern, and girls flocked into their homelike atmospheres at a time when wages were low and wage earners had little to spend for recreation.

During the Depression, with fathers out of work and mothers leaving home to find part-time work so that they could eke out their slender budgets, Girls Incorporated centers were warm, friendly places where girls could forget their troubles, even though the world outside had fallen into chaos. Girls gave plays, made their own dresses and hats, danced and made lasting friendships. In the middle thirties, Dora Dodge, executive director of the Worcester affiliate, published an article in a national magazine, which pointed out the growing needs of girls in the congested areas of American cities. Questions poured in from people who had been aware of the problems of girls in their own communities. So Ms. Dodge invited other directors of similar organizations in Pittsfield and Springfield to talk over common problems, discuss ways of bringing about better programs and facilities, and to create publicity that could strengthen all girls' organizations.

For ten years, this informal association ran deep, until through the women's continued efforts, representatives of 19 interested organizations met in Springfield on May 18, 1945 to form Girls Clubs of America. Total assets of the fledgling organization were $72.64, and its headquarters was the guestroom of the founding president, Rachel Harris Johnson of Worcester. From its beginning, the national organization had two major concerns — to exchange information on programs relevant to girls and to help communities establish new centers. Programming in the early days was focused on recreation and on preparing girls for their future roles as wives and homemakers. Every local organization had courses in cooking, sewing, knitting; some offered dramatics and swimming. During the 1950s, even though many women did work outside the home, women's roles as wives and mothers were romanticized as the ultimate in femininity.

In a sign of the times, the organization's first national award, established in 1952, was "Young Homemaker of the Year." And in 1955, John H. Breck, Inc. funded the publication of the Handbook of Charm. Topics included care of the hair, skin, eyes, hands and teeth, how to improve posture, and a charming wardrobe. Pointers on manners included: "Don't monopolize a conversation. Don't interrupt when others talk. When at any public gathering, conduct yourself in a ladylike, considerate manner … don't be conspicuous and call a lot of unnecessary attention to yourself."

It is interesting to note that Girls Incorporated maintained its traditional focus clear through the 1960s. The original statement of purpose and philosophy, written in 1937, was: "Little girls of today are the homemakers of the future, and the mothers of the next generation of citizens. Opportunities given to them now for cultural background, for building healthy minds and bodies, for training in homecraft and a basic knowledge of motherhood — these determine the standards of our future homes."

In September 2006, Warren Buffett auctioned his Lincoln Town Car to support Girls Inc. The vehicle sold for $73,200 on eBay.[1]

Today they have many facilities all over the world and are being recognized. Michelle Obama is an honorary board member.


Girls Incorporated is governed by a “dual governance structure,” which is made up of the National Council and the National Board.

National council

The National Council generally makes decisions concerning the purpose, goals, and public policies of the organization. Generally there are almost 300 voting members, but rarely do even most of them come to the meeting. They also elect the National Board, the officers of the Council and the Board Development Committee. They also vote to amend the bylaws of the organization, which requires a two-thirds majority. The council meets every two years and at least 75 delegates must be present for the meeting to be called to order. 45 days before each council meeting, the agenda and items to be voted upon are sent out.

National board

The National Board must have at least twenty members but no more than forty. The board includes five officers, eight regional representatives, and up to 27 at-large board members. The President/CEO is a voting member on the board. It meets four times a year with the spring meeting being the annual meeting. Eleven members in attendance constitute a quorum. The board acts like the executive committee of a corporation. The board’s duties include:

  • Ensure that the purpose, goals and public policies adopted by the council are carried out (the business plan)
  • Fiscal oversight & financial planning
  • Promoting public understanding of the organization and its purpose
  • Appoint the President/CEO
  • Ratify acceptance of member organizations
  • Fill any vacancies on the board
  • Approve appointments by the Chair of all Honorary Directors
  • Recommend to council any changes in the regional structure
  • Approve appointments by the Chair of all committee chairs.

Some of the current leaders of the organization include Bridgette P. Heller, a National Board Chair; Donna Brace Ogilvie, a National Board Honorary Chair; and Judy Vredenburgh, the President and CEO.

Partner companies

Girls Inc. join in efforts with partner companies that help create positive change for women. The companies do this through selling jewelry to raise money or simply giving donations. Some of Girls Inc.’s partner companies include Dove, ABC Family, Business Wire, Motorola Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Eileen Fisher.

A venture with the American Girl dolls collection in 2005 generated controversy among fundamentalist Christians.[2]

National scholars

Every year, Girls Inc. gives out a varying number of scholarships to young women in the organization through the Lucile Miller Wright Scholars Program. The program was created in 1992 when Lucile Miller Wright made a bequest from her estate to fund scholarships for young women. Since 1993, $2.58 million has been given to 413 high school women. These scholarships are open to eleventh and twelfth grade girls that are members of Girls Inc. Currently, the scholarships that are currently being given out are $2500 and $15000.


External links

  • Official site
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