Girl Scout's highest award was created in 1916, and has gone through numerous changes over the years.
Golden Eaglet of Merit - 1916 to 1918
This award was a pin of an eagle with its wings spread, on a red, white, and blue ribbon.
Golden Eaglet - 1919 to 1938
In 1919 the name of the award was changed to the Golden Eaglet. Requirements for the award ranged through the years from earning 14 out of 17 specific badges, earning the Medal of Merit, earning a different number of badges, and the acceptance of a letter of Commendation instead of the Medal of Merit. The award it self changed from the spread-winged eagle and ribbon to an eagle with half-furled wings and a "G" and an "S" on either side of its head.
In November of 1923, Juliette Low wrote: “The five requirements for winning the Golden Eaglet are character, health, handicraft, happiness and service, and that others will expect to find in our Golden Eaglet a perfect specimen of girlhood: mentally, morally, and physically.”
First Class - 1938 to 1940
In 1938 the Golden Eaglet changed to the First Class Award.
Curved Bar - 1940 to 1963
This award was earned by Intermediate Scouts who had already earned the First Class Award, and was the way to bridge to Senior rank. Because of the shortage of metal during WWII, at first the award was a curved embroidered patch worn on the uniform. In 1947, the Curved Bar pin was introduced.
First Class - 1963 to 1980
In 1963 the award went back to being called First Class. Requirements for earning the First Class Award changed over the 17 years it was offered. In the beginning Cadettes had to earn a number of badges and 4 Challenges:
In 1980 the Gold Award was introduced. In 1990, National Council Session delegates approved a proposal which would keep the name of the Gold Award in perpetuity.
Until 2004, requirements for earning the award were:
Earning the Girl Scout Gold Leadership Award, which requires girls to complete 30 hours of leadership work, as well as earn three Interest Projects and one Focus Book relevant to their project.
Earning the Girl Scout Gold Career Award, which requires girls to complete 40 hours of career exploration.
Earning the Girl Scout Gold 4Bs Challenge, which required girls to assess their community and its needs, and develop a vision for change. Up to 15 hours work on the 4Bs challenge could be counted toward the 65 hours for the service project.
Gold Award Requirements
Complete two Girl Scout Senior or Ambassador Journeys or complete one Girl Scout Senior or Ambassador journey and have earned the Silver Award.
Plan and implement an individual "Take Action" project that reaches beyond the Girl Scout organization and provides a sustainable, lasting benefit to the girl's larger community.
Once these steps have been met, girls use their vision for change to complete a service project that reaches beyond the Girl Scout organization and provides lasting benefit to the girl's larger community. It requires a minimum of 80 hours of work in planning and actually completing the project. All of these hours must be completed by the Awardee, and though it is encouraged that the girl use troop members and other from the community to help her, their time spent does not count towards her 80 hour requirement. Plans must be developed with the aid of an advisor, then a project proposal must be submitted and approved by the girl's local council before starting the project, and a final report after the project's completion.
The Gold Award emblem is presented as a pin resembling an eight-pointed gold star with rays radiating from a central, polished trefoil.
After earning the Gold Award
Recipients of the Gold Award who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces may receive advanced rank in recognition of their achievements. Some universities and colleges offer scholarships to Gold Award recipients. Yearly, GSUSA selects ten girls to be Young Women of Distinction based on their Gold Award projects.
Jan Hopkins, financial news anchor for CNN (earned the Curved Bar, a Girl Scout Gold Award predecessor)
Natalie D. Hardy, first African American Girl Scout to receive the Golden Eaglet award, as a member of Troop 24, New Haven, Connecticut, the first African American Girl Scout Troop in the country, founded by Laura Belle McCoy.