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The Boy Scouts shaped history in 1913

Welcome to Wild, Wonderful West Virginia, Boy Scouts. The state has much to offer, and the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve certainly will allow the Boy Scouts to explore a West Virginia few residents see.

The state also has an ample supply of something else the Boy Scouts may need.

With a median age of 40, West Virginia has 900,000 people over 40. Since half of them are women, that means 450,000 potential women of a certain age.

That means the Boy Scouts can easily meet their daily need to do a good deed by helping women of a certain age cross the street.

As silly as that is, the fact is the Boy Scouts have a long history of chivalrous behavior, which is not the same as chauvinism.

A century ago, women could not vote. As Woodrow Wilson's presidential inauguration on March 4, 1913 neared, thousands of people gathered in the nation's capital, including 1,500 Boy Scouts and as many as 8,000 suffragettes, women who sought the right to vote.

Many men were no more interested in letting women vote as they were in letting them smoke, drink or drive a car. Saudi Arabia today gives its women more rights than the United States did 100 years ago.

The suffragettes marched to protest to the jeers and taunts of men, who soon grew violent. The police were hard-pressed to protect the women. The casualties mounted to 100 women injured by the mob.

Enter the Boy Scouts.

Police "were soon begging the Scouts to help them and borrowing their staves...[Scouts] found the task of keeping the way open for the parade was, in itself, tremendous, but also they had to give first aid in hundreds of incidents," Boys Life, the official Boy Scout magazine, reported in April 1913.

The Boy Scouts were the gentlemen the adult men were not. The showdown also tested the first aid skills of the Scouts.

"There is record that one boy handled 16 cases of fainting," Boys Life reported.

Suffragettes appreciated the help. Mrs. Keppel Hall of Dayton, Ohio, gave a testimonial for the boys.

The Scouts "were working so hard. I noticed them all along the line, and was interested in them because they appeared to be doing all the work. Even those small boys were succeeding in holding back the crowd whenever they pressed themselves forward," Mrs. Hall said.

Many others noticed the behavior of these young men in a fledgling organization founding just three years earlier.

"Washington and its respectable visitors will not soon forget the spectacle of boys in the uniform that stands for learning the principles of good citizenship actually restraining grown men from acting the part of brutes," Boys Life noted.

Politics did not enter the picture. Police sought aid and the Scouts provided it.

Boy Scouts have fallen out of fashion. Four years ago, Barack Obama became the first president not to attend their quadrennial jamborees and likely will be a no-show this year.

The refusal to allow gay men to serve as leaders has ostracized the Scouts in some quarters but the self-righteous.

But the narrow-minded critics need to know that if they ever need help, the Scouts will be there for them.

Helping little old ladies cross the street is a myth. Standing up to bullies bigger and in greater number is the truth.

Here is hoping that this year's jamboree is the first of hundreds.

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