Catherine N. Pollard, 88, First Female Scoutmaster in U.S., Dies

The New York Times noted the passing of Catherine N. Pollard:

MILFORD, Conn., Dec. 14 (AP) — Catherine N. Pollard, the first woman to be a scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America, died on Wednesday in Seminole, Fla. She was 88.

Ms. Pollard ran a Milford troop from 1973 to 1975 because no men had volunteered. But her application for a leadership position was denied when the Boy Scouts contended that a woman was not a good role model for young boys involved in the Scouts.

The state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities sided with her, but state courts reversed the commission’s ruling. In 1987 the State Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling that boys “in the difficult process of maturing to adulthood” needed the guidance of men.

In February 1988, however, the Boy Scouts of America did away with all gender restrictions on volunteer positions, and Ms. Pollard, who was 69 at the time, became a scoutmaster in Milford.

“I do think that this is marvelous,” she said at the time, “because there have been women all over the United States, in fact all over the world, that have been doing these things for the Boy Scouts because they could not get a male leader, but we could not get recognition for the things we’ve done.”

Ms. Pollard was a volunteer who went on to achieve a position of leadership.

The arguments against Ms. Pollard were as wrong then as they are today.

“A woman cannot be a useful model for a young boy.” Balderdash!

It is also ironic — though more shameful than ironic — that those who wrongly argued 20 years ago that “boys in the difficult process of maturing to adulthood need the guidance of men” now equally wrongly argue that no homosexual male is capable of providing useful guidance.

I was a Cub Scout and then a Boy Scout over 50 years ago. In those days Cub Scout leaders were mostly women, and as noted above it took several decades for women to achieve leadership postions in the Boy Scouts. But sad to say, BSA seems to have retreated into the distant past, and I find its recent record opposing homosexuality shameful. [1]

My son made Eagle Scout before the age of 15 and he has considered returning his award. I was an assistant scoutmaster for a number of years. I am no longer active in BSA but were I to resume activity it would only be at the local level, one that would not imply endorsement of the national BSA organization’s current policies.

Catherine Pollard – may her memory be a blessing.

Notes:

1. It’s also annoying that the public spokesman for the BSA, Greg Shields, shares my surname. I hope we’re not related. See for example http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/03/29/scouts.charges/index.html

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