Catherine Pollard died in Largo, Florida last week. She was 88. Catherine Pollard volunteered to be Scoutmaster for Milford, Connecticut Boy Scout Troop 13 from 1973 to 1975, when no one else would volunteer. Scout officials refused to accept her application at the time, citing a perceived need for male role models for boys. Eventually the troop dissolved when no one else stepped up as Scoutmaster.
In 1988 Boy Scouts of America abolished gender requirements on all volunteer positions, and made Ms. Pollard the first woman Scoutmaster.
A funeral service is set in Milford for Monday, December 18. Her casket will be carried on a fire truck from the Milford Fire Department, for whom she volunteered in different positions for years. When the ban on female Scout volunteers was lifted, it was the Milford FD that sponsored a troop so Pollard could be Scoutmaster.
My Scout registration covers most of the years since I signed up as a Cub Scout on my 8th birthday, all but a small handful of the past 45 years. Abolition of gender restrictions for leaders occurred a year after I graduated from law school, the longest period I was not active (I had to resign as Cubmaster when I started law studies). Within a couple of years I was Advisor to a large aviation interest Explorer Post sponsored by American Airlines, and I had the opportunity to work with women volunteers and professionals for the first time. They brought new spirit and skills to Scouting.
In particular, a professional in the Longhorn Council (Fort Worth), Martha Gollaher, cut through red tape, offered valuable advice, and in other ways made it possible for 75 kids a year to get aviation experience available nowhere else. The Post had dual charters in Longhorn and Dallas’s Circle 10 Council. Gollaher was the person who kept it going.
Since then I’ve had the opportunity to work with dozens of outstanding women in Scouting. They each have brought value and new perspectives to a program that is still among the best things a boy can experience. Each of the three units for which I am Charter Organization Representative has women in key leadership roles.
It seems odd, now, that Catherine Pollard had to fight her way in, just over 30 years ago.
Sometimes, the more things change, the better they get.
Coverage of Pollard can be found here:
- The Connecticut Post, “Pollard remembered as maverick leader in Milford“
- New Haven Register
- Los Angeles Times
- A website on BSA controversies
- Boston Globe, from the Associated Press
Tip of the old scrub brush to Bonnie’s History Buzz. And a special tip of Baden-Powell’s campaign hat to Kathryn Knowles, Alice Galipp, Anna Murphy, Judy Henry, Mrs. Stanfield, Mrs. Lundgren, Mary Almanza, Martha Gollaher, Chasity McReynolds, and several dozen other women who make Scouting go.