WWOC 19: School House Girlhood

NHS Girl Reserves, 1942

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When public education expanded in the 19th century, there was little debate over the fact that girls would be included along with the boys. In 1860, it was equally as likely that a family would send their daughter to school as their son, even in farming communities. Starting in the 1870s, young women have graduated high school at higher rates than their male peers. Groups and clubs helped young women developed friendships and learn life skills. Girl Scouts was founded by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912. The organization is designed to empower girls and promote compassion, courage, active citizenship, character, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Naper Settlement celebrates Juliette Low with a birthday bonanza in October. Girl Reserves at the YWCA was founded in 1918 to help girls dealing with the stress of World War I. Their goal was to “develop a well-balanced personality, grow physically and take on social responsibility.” Cheerleading originally started as a men’s activity. It was not until the 1920s that girls started participating. Many junior high and high schools have cheerleading squads who energize the crowd at games and compete as athletes. Naperville teenage girls and young women continue to make significant contributions to our city, including organizing 2020’s Hearts for Peace project in downtown Naperville.