Women's (and other) Reserve
In the first 30 years or so of the Boy Scouts of America, females could NOT hold any position within a
Boy Scout Troop, a local District or Council, or the National Council. This changed in 1941 with the
introduction of the "Women's Reserve" membership category within the BSA.
The Women's Reserve was the BSA's answer to a shortage of manpower due to males being drafted and
volunteering to serve during the Second World War. Women would serve as members of unit committees,
assisting local Councils and their Districts, and serving as "defacto assistant leaders" when males could
not be found. Many of those volunteers served as receptionists, newsletter editors and typists, and program
assistants -- and were either the spouse or girlfriend of a registered male Scouter.
Until the early 50s, there was no insignia which females could wear. As a matter of fact, females could not
wear the official field uniform until after the introduction of the Cub Scout program and the revision to the
Explorer-Scout and Rover programs. Tunics, skirts and blouses, and dresses were designed for wear by
In the middle 50s, the decision of the BSA's National Executive Board was to allow females to serve as volunteers
at the District and Council levels, mainly to support Cub Scouting units and volunteers. However, all Commissioners
as well as Cubmasters and Assistants, Scoutmasters and Assistants, and Lone Scout Friends and Counsellors must
continue to be male. Additionally, all professional field employees must be male.
The first "Women's Reserve" emblems appeared during this time. Even so, most local Councils continued to use
womanpower to support units -- IF the Troop or Post wanted female assistance.
In 1961, the BSA's National Executive Board approved females serving as committeemembers at all levels of the
movement. Many local Councils continued to keep females from serving at any level other than at the unit level.
The BSA did create a Women's Reserve insignia piece in the middle 60s, but it remained a special order item from the
Supply Division and could only be purchased with written permission from the Council's Scout Executive.
In 1972, with the introduction of the "Improved Scouting Program," female professionals and paraprofessionals were
hired for the first time with most of them working as Cub Scouting or Exploring field executives or staffers. The summer
of 1973 brought adult females to serve on Cub Scout Day Camp staffs for the first time as well as an expansion of females
working at summer camps on staffs. Those women frequently wore the "Women's Reserve" badge of office like those
created for other "special catagory" of volunteers -- Physicians, Chaplains and Chaplain Aides. The emblems were freely
available for purchase from local Councils -- there was no longer any restriction on its ordering or wearing.
Women's Reserve emblem worn between 1972 and 1988
A emblem was also designed for College Scouter Reserve members but was shelved when the Exploring program created
a new catagory of Explorer Posts called "Collegiate Scouting".
In 1988, all volunteer positions were opened to male and female volunteers, and the "Women's Reserve" emblem became
a relic of its past as an emblem denoting "female supporters of Scouting".
College Scouter Reserve
In 1957, the BSA's National Executive Board authorized a special category of membership called "College Scouter Reserve"
or "CSR". This allowed young men to continue their registration in the BSA while going to a college or university. Like many
new programs of the BSA, local Councils were allowed to develop how and under what circumstances they would utilize those
Young men could become College Scouter Reserve members on their 18th birthday. They would be treated as adult members of
the BSA even though the Order of the Arrow and Exploring considered them as youth members. Their registration would entitle
them to serve as members of local Council and/or District operating committees, merit badge counselors, or as a summer camp staffers.
Many local Councils loved the additional volunteer support and welcomed the CSRs. They could also serve as members of Explorer
Posts or Ships and many did just that.
In the middle 70s, as the Exploring program expanded, a new catagory of types of Explorer Posts which could be organized was
developed: "Collegiate Scouting". Because Exploring is co-ed, only the male members of Explorer Posts could also be registered as CSRs.
Females between 18-21 could only be registered as youth members of Exploring units or as Associate Advisors. Many females
decided to keep their "power" within Exploring and the catagory was attempted several times but each one did not survive very long.
In 1988, the BSA's National Executive Board opened all of their volunteer positions to both males and females with no exceptions.
The decision was made to also allow females to participate in Wood Badge, the advanced training program for Scouting volunteers.
That same year, fourteeen Explorer Posts specializing in "Collegiate Scouting" were organized around the nation, most chartered to the
national American Humanics partnership program. The following year, all but six of the Posts survived. At least two of those
Explorer Posts used the "Women's Reserve" emblem shown above or developed their own, replacing the word "Women's" with the
word "College" or "Collegiate". The BSA considered manufacturing a similiar emblem which was designed in 1974 when other "special
position" emblems were designed -- but because of pressure from the former Exploring Division, the emblem was not created and
distributed on a national level.
College Reserve emblem worn sometime 1988and 1998
With the demise of the Exploring program in 1998, the BSA sent notice to local Councils to discontinue registering individuals as College
Scouter Reserve members. To get around this, many Councils either re-started or organized Venturing Crews which would "specialize"
in outdoor programs and be chartered to the local Council. In this way, those youth members would continue to serve in roles supporting
the Council and their Districts while being employed during the summer as staff members.
In 2000, the BSA's revised adult registration policies removed College Scouter Reserve members as members
of District or local Council volunteer committees and started enforcing a policy that all District or Council-level volunteers must be
21 years of age or older. The same policy removed the ability for volunteers to serve as merit badge counsellors unless they were 21 and
strongly discouraged local Councils from creating "shell units" to serve as placeholders for youth and/or adult members "in reserve" to
It is important to note that the BSA DID NOT discontinue the position catagory called "Scouter Reserve." This catagory still exists and
is a valid position for volunteers with no specific role within the local Council to occupy. Many of those volunteers have "retired" from
the profession of Scouting; have "retired" as Scoutmasters or Commissioners many decades ago; or are influncial longtime Scouters who
continue to support the program through short-term projects or support. The majority of these volunteers however, wear either the
District Committee or Council Committee emblem with the "Retired" strip below or above the position emblem (depending on if the volunteer
is wearing the "legacy" or "Centennial" field uniform).
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Credits: Scans courtesy of Mike Walton.
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