Think of Boy Scouts and the first image that comes to mind is often of boys and men doing outdoor stuff like hiking and camping. But if you look deeper into Scouting, you will see plenty of women in a variety of roles working alongside the men, helping to instill values in today’s youth and preparing them to be tomorrow’s leaders.
In 1930 with the advent of Cub Scouting, 20 years after the founding of the Boy Scout movement in the United States, women were eligible to be officially registered as den mothers in the Boy Scouts of America. Over the years as times changed, women played an increasingly larger formal role in Scouting until in 1998 the national council of the BSA formally removed all gender restrictions on leadership positions in the movement.
Registered or not, women have always played a role in Scouting. Mothers encouraged their sons on their path to the coveted Eagle Scout award. Wives quietly supported their husbands as they gave countless hours at troop meetings and campouts.
In 2009, Chuck Hedrick, development director for the Great Salt Lake Council of BSA, came up with the idea of recognizing the often unsung efforts of Scouting’s women. Hedrick’s idea took the form of annual banquets to recognize a select group of women as the most influential women of Scouting.
Since 2009, a total of 39 women from the Great Salt Lake Council — which encompasses Salt Lake, Tooele, and Summit counties along with southern Davis County — have been recognized as influential women of Scouting due to their noteworthy service to Scouting, exceptional character, and significant years of service to Scouting and the community. Tooele County is home to three of the Great Salt Lake Council’s influential women.
The first to be recognized in Tooele County was Tooele resident Geraldine McBeth, who received the honor in 2010.
McBeth traces her start in Scouting back to 1985 when her husband was serving as a cub master.
Tired of making a weekly trek into Salt Lake City to pick up awards, McBeth started checking out awards from the scout shop in Salt Lake City and taking them over to her church. Doing business out of an old shoebox, McBeth would sell the awards to local leaders. Her little scout shop eventually outgrew the shoebox and now fills a room in her home.
McBeth has processed advancement awards, Eagle Scout applications, registration forms for new leaders and youth, tour permits, annual rechartering paperwork and provides a variety of resources for Scouts and leaders in Tooele County.
McBeth has opened her door late at night to take Eagle applications from Scouts at the last hour before their 18th birthday.
She also cheerfully leaves the dinner table to answer the doorbell to sell that forgotten award to a leader just minutes before their court of honor is scheduled to start.
When scouters in Tooele County get together and an answer about Scouting can’t be found it is not uncommon to hear, “Call Geraldine, she’ll know the answer.”
McBeth’s two sons along with one grandson are Eagle Scouts.
For 15 years, McBeth had taken time out from helping Boy Scout leaders to serve as an assistant young women’s camp director for the Tooele Utah South Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In 2011, Tooele resident Michelle Ekins was recognized as an influential woman of Scouting.
While Ekins’ first official role in Scouting started in 1998, her memories and love of Scouting go farther back. She was raised in a Scouting home with a Scout Master for a father.
Memories of scouts using her tricycle as a chariot to pull each other up and down the street and helping her brother memorize the Scout Oath and Law are among her early childhood memories. Ekins said at times, she even wanted to be a Boy Scout herself.
Ekins spent seven years as a Webelos den leader planning and directing activities for a group of 10-year-old boys, getting to know and love 25 boys she had the privilege of serving.
Ekins’ list of positions she has held during her 14 years in Scouting include den leader, Webelos den leader, cub master, pack trainer, roundtable staff and chairwoman of the Great Salt Lake Council’s Cub Scout Leader pow wow, an all-day training event for Cub Scout leaders that draws more than 1,000 people annually.
While Ekins’ two sons are grown up and have earned their Eagle Scout awards, she continues her involvement in Scouting because of her belief in the benefit it brings to young men.
“We are all successful when we help a boy who needs a positive program,” said Ekins.
Last week, Grantsville resident Cindy Broadbent became the third influential woman of Scouting in Tooele County.
Broadbent started in Scouting in 1984 when she helped organize the first Tiger Cub group in Grantsville, which she participated in along with her son. At that time, Tiger Cubs was a new program in Scouting centered on parent-boy partnerships with monthly meetings rotated among the homes of the parents in the group.
Broadbent has served as a den leader, cub master, district Tiger Cub coordinator, Cub Scout roundtable staff and chairwoman, and on the local district Cub Scout leader training staff.
Broadbent has also organized many local activities for Cub Scouts, including Haunted Woods, an annual Halloween activity, and the district Webelos activity.
Over the years, Broadbent has worked with boys and leaders, but she prefers working with the boys.
“My favorite was being a den leader,” said Broadbent. “I love watching them progress and do all sorts of fun stuff.”
For Broadbent, her involvement in Scouting has always been a family affair. She and her husband, Richard, are inseparable in their service to Scouting. One is always there to support the other.
Broadbent’s five sons, now Eagle Scouts, are also be found at her side helping out with Cub Scout activities.
“Scouting has really brought our family together and made us strong,” said Broadbent. “You ask, ‘Why did I get involved in Scouting?’ I just look at my sons and see how Scouting helped them grow into the great men they are today.”
As for the importance of the women’s role in Scouting, all three agree with McBeth’s observation.
“I think the men need us,” said McBeth. “We are more organized.”