11 People You Didn't Know Were Girl Scouts

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

If you participated in your local Girl Scout chapter when you were younger, you're in good company. Sixty-four percent of women in civic, corporate, and political leadership roles in the U.S. are alumnae of the American institution. In honor of Girl Scouts Day on March 12, here are some famous women that got their start as Girl Scouts.

1. Dakota Fanning

Dakota Fanning in Girl Scout uniform.
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Between starring in blockbuster films and going to school, Dakota Fanning found time to join the Girl Scouts. She joined into the organization in 2005 at age 11—prior to donning her Junior uniform, she had already been nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role in I Am Sam (2001), making her the youngest-ever SAG nominee.

2. Michelle Obama

Barack and Michelle Obama camping with Girl Scouts.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former First Lady Michelle Obama first joined the Girl Scouts when growing up Chicago. Years later, she served as the organization's Honorary National President, a position held by every First Lady since Lou Henry Hoover. Michelle also hosted the first-ever Girl Scout campout on the White House's south lawn during the Obama presidency.

3. Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In addition to being a Hollywood legend, Debbie Reynolds was also a legend among Girl Scouts. She earned 42 badges over her scouting career and said that she wanted to live to become the world's oldest Girl Scout. Her scouting experience came in handy when she used the time-step dance moves she learned at Girl Scout camp in Singin' in the Rain (1952). When she was older, she served as the leader of her daughter Carrie Fisher's Girl Scout troop.

4. Venus Williams

Venus Williams.
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Before she was a world-famous tennis star, Venus Williams was a member of her local Girl Scout troop in Compton, California. She's still partial to Thin Mints as an adult.

5. Lucille Ball

Portrait of Lucille Ball.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The I Love Lucy star and producer grew up reciting the Girl Scout pledge with her troop near Celoron, New York.

6. Sally Ride

Sally Ride in space.
National Archives at College Park

Sally Ride's involvement with the Girl Scouts didn't end with childhood. After retiring from NASA in 1987, America's first woman in space co-founded Camp CEO, where successful adult women mentor high school-aged Girl Scouts.

7. Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift posing for photos.
Rich Fury/Getty Images

Taylor Swift's childhood in Pennsylvania included being a Girl Scout. The pop star must have a soft spot for organization: In 2018, she gifted local Girl Scout troops in New Jersey and Connecticut free tickets to her tour.

8. Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling talking on stage.
Presley Ann/Getty Images for EMILY'S List

Being a Girl Scout prepared Lisa Ling for life as a journalist. "Girl Scouts had a tremendous impact on helping me to build self confidence," Ling said ahead of addressing a Girl Scout troop in Oklahoma in 2012. "It is a terrific organization for girls, and one that promotes the right things."

9. Hillary Clinton

Hilary Clinton waving.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton is another former First Lady who learned leadership and teamwork skills in the Girl Scouts. The girl who would grow up to become first female presidential nominee of a major party joined the organization while living in suburban Illinois.

10. Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Martha Stewart probably wasn't baking too many chiffon cakes as a Girl Scout, but her time with her Nutley, New Jersey, troop taught her other valuable lessons, like a "love of the outdoors, camaraderie and friendship," she told ABC News. She gave back to the organization later in life when she invited a New Jersey troop onto her show for the Girl Scouts' 100-year anniversary.

11. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Currently the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle was an all-American Girl Scout when she was younger. The Girl Scouts declared her to be first Girl Scout Princess following her royal wedding to Prince Harry in 2018.

11 Facts About the Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson Building of the LOC. Image Credit: TheAgency via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Thomas Jefferson Building of the LOC. Image Credit: TheAgency via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

For more than two centuries, the Library of Congress (LOC) and its staff have served as invaluable resources for American legislators. But their mission isn’t limited to U.S. politics. The Library of Congress catalog includes iconic films, historical documents, and your tweets about lunch. In short, it's a cultural treasure. Here are 11 facts worth knowing about the Washington, D.C.-based establishment.

1. The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest cultural institution.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is America’s oldest federal cultural institution. It was established by the same bill that officially moved the capital from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. The library was conceived of as a resource available exclusively to members of Congress, containing "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress." That remains the case today, though citizens can read books on site or request them at their local library through an interlibrary loan.

2. Thomas Jefferson helped rebuild the Library of Congress catalog after a fire.

Not long after it was established, tragedy struck the Library of Congress: Its contents were destroyed when the Capitol Building was set on fire by British troops during the War of 1812. Approximately 3000 books (mostly law-related) were lost in the blaze, but luckily a friend of Washington D.C. owned a collection that was even bigger. Thomas Jefferson’s personal library comprised well over 6000 volumes, making it the largest library in the country at the time. He agreed to sell all of his books to Congress for $23,950 in 1815. Jefferson's contributions significantly expanded the scope of the library, by including books on art, science, and philosophy. (The increased diversity of the collection was a subject of criticism at the time, to which Jefferson responded by saying "there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”) Sadly, the library met with another tragedy when a second fire tore through it on Christmas Eve 1851, burning two-thirds of Jefferson’s contribution.

3. James Madison first proposed the Library of Congress.

Seventeen years prior to the LOC's official formation, James Madison proposed the idea of a special library for Congress. He planted the idea as a Continental Congress member in 1783 when he suggested compiling a list of books to which lawmakers could refer. As president, Madison approved the purchase of Jefferson’s personal library in 1814.

4. It makes Congress's job a lot easier.

Members of Congress drafting legislation don’t necessarily need to do the nitty-gritty research themselves: There’s a whole team [PDF] of lawyers, librarians, economists, and scientists employed through the Library of Congress to do it for them. Established in 1914, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a legislative department within the LOC responsible for supporting lawmakers through every step of the lawmaking process. Based on what’s asked of them, CRS employees supply House and Senate members with reports, briefings, seminars, presentations, or consultations detailing research on the issue in question. The CRS is currently staffed with 600 analysts. In any given year, a single researcher responds to hundreds of congressional requests.

5. It's the largest library on Earth.

With over 164 million items in its inventory, the LOC is the world’s largest library. In addition to the 38 million books and other printed materials on the premises, the institution contains millions of photographs, recordings, and films. It also houses some record-breaking collections: more maps, comics, newspapers, and phonebooks can each be found there than any other place on Earth. The whole thing is stored on about 838 miles of bookshelves.

6. The Library of Congress contains some surprising items.

The Library of Congress is home to an eclectic collection, with books ranging in size from a tiny copy of “Ole King Cole” to a 5-foot-by-7-foot photo book filled with color images of Bhutan. Some items, like a Gutenberg Bible and a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, feel right at home in the historic library. Others, like Rosa Parks’s peanut butter pancakes recipe, are a bit more unexpected. Additional noteworthy artifacts include Bob Hope’s joke collection, George Gershwin’s piano, and the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets the night he was shot.

7. The Library of Congress owns materials from around the world.

The Library of Congress isn’t solely dedicated to American documents. The institution possesses materials acquired from all around the globe, including 3 million items from Asia and 10 million items in the Iberian, Latin American, and Caribbean collections. Over half of the books in their inventory are written in a language other than English. In total, over 460 languages are represented, and their end goal is to eventually have at least one item from every nation. The LOC also maintains overseas offices in New Delhi, India; Cairo, Egypt; Islamabad, Pakistan; Jakarta, Indonesia; Nairobi, Kenya; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to acquire, catalog, and preserve items that might be hard to access otherwise.

8. It preserves America's most important films.

Since the National Film Preservation Act was passed in 1988, 700 "culturally, historically, or aesthetically" significant films have been selected for the LOC archives. Up to 25 entries are chosen each year by a board of industry professionals, and the only rule is that submissions must be at least 10 years old. Beyond that, they can be anything from beloved comedy blockbusters like Ghostbusters (1984) to health class classics like The Story of Menstruation (1946). Pieces added to the National Film Registry are kept in a climate-controlled storage space where they can theoretically last for centuries.

9. The Library of Congress serves patrons of all abilities.

In 1931 the Library of Congress launched The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Today the service offers free Braille and audio books, either through digital downloads or physical deliveries, to people with visual impairments or other issues that limit their reading abilities. Offerings include a wide array of books and magazines, as well as the world’s largest collection of Braille music. NLS librarians are currently undertaking the painstaking process of scanning every sheet of Braille music onto their computer system. Once that project is complete, the National Library Service’s entire collection will be fully digitized.

10. Only three librarians of Congress have been actual librarians.

When nominating someone to head the largest library in the world, presidents rarely choose actual librarians. They’re more likely to select a scholar, historian, or some other veteran of academia for the job. Of the 14 Librarians of Congress we’ve had, current title-holder Carla Hayden is one of just three to come into the role with prior librarian experience. (She is also the first woman and the first African American to hold the job.) On top of running the world’s largest library, Hayden is also responsible for managing relations with Congress, selecting the Poet Laureate, and overseeing the U.S. Copyright Office.

11. It receives every public tweet you write.

The government isn’t just responsible for cataloging tweets coming out of the White House. In 2010, Twitter agreed to donate every public tweet in its archive to the Library of Congress. That amounts to several hundred million tweets a day. In addition to documenting the rise and fall of #dressgate and live tweets of The Walking Dead, the archive would also act as an invaluable data source for tracking language and societal trends. Unfortunately, that archive isn’t much closer to being completed than the day the deal was announced. The LOC has yet to develop a way to organize the information, and for the past seven years, unprocessed tweets have been have been stored out of sight on a server. There’s still no word on what the next step will be, but that might change with the newest Librarian of Congress. Unlike her predecessor, Carla Hayden is known for taking a digital-forward approach to librarianship.

Merriam-Webster Just Added Hundreds of New Words to the Dictionary—Here Are 25 of Them

iStock.com/xxz114
iStock.com/xxz114

The editors of Merriam-Webster's dictionary know better than most people how quickly language evolves. In April 2019 alone, they added more than 640 words to the dictionary, from old terms that have developed new meanings to words that are products of the digital age.

Entertainment fans will recognize a few of the new words on Merriam-Webster's list: Buzzy (generating speculation or attention), bottle episode (an episode of a television series confined to one setting), and EGOT (winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony) have all received the dictionary's stamp of approval.

Some terms reflect the rise of digital devices in our everyday lives, such as unplug and screen time. Other words have been around for centuries, but started appearing in new contexts in recent years. According to Merriam-Webster, snowflake can now mean “someone who is overly sensitive," purple can describe an area split between Democrat and Republican voters, and Goldilocks can mean “an area of planetary orbit in which temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold to support life."

You can read 25 of the new words below. And for even more recent additions to the dictionary, check out Merriam-Webster's list from last September.

  1. Bioabsorbable

  1. Bottle episode

  1. Bottom surgery

  1. Buzzy

  1. EGOT

  1. Garbage time

  1. Gender nonconforming

  1. Geosmin

  1. Gig economy

  1. Go-cup

  1. Goldilocks

  1. On-brand

  1. Page view

  1. Peak

  1. Purple

  1. Vulture capitalism

  1. Qubit

  1. Salutogenesis

  1. Screen time

  1. Snowflake

  1. Stan

  1. Tailwind

  1. Top surgery

  1. Traumatology

  1. Unplug

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