The Power Of A Concept: Get To Know The Courageous Lady Behind The Girl Scouts
Certainly, there is a great story behind every successful organization, and the Girl Scouts are no different. For many young women, the Girl Scouts group has been inspirational and has helped them grow and discover themselves.
However, do you know the story of how it all began? The Girl Scouts began with one woman whose desire to help young girls find their ways in life changed everything.
A Lady With Passion
Juliette Gordon Low was someone anyone would describe as a passionate lady. This was shown in the choices she made and her impact on other people.
Although Juliette was unable to hear, had no children, and was separated from her husband, she chose not to live her life constrained to the reality of her circumstances. Juliette chose to live a meaningful life and help other young women discover themselves and find purpose in their lives.
Diving Into Her Past
On one October night many years ago, Juliette was born into a wealthy family. Juliette Gordon Low, originally named Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon, was born in Savannah, Georgia, on October 31, 1860.
She was also often affectionately called “Daisy.” The history of those women in Daisy’s family line can be described as strong-willed women committed to forging their own paths. Daisy certainly had great role models that impacted her life.
Stepping Up To The Challenge
Things sadly took a sudden turn after her sister passed. Alice was Daisy’s beloved elder sister, who passed when Daisy was 20 years old. With this unfortunate situation, Daisy had to step up to fill in for her grieving mother, and she took up the responsibility for the household duties.
During this time, she met and fell in love with a young man called William Mackay Low.
To Fall In Love And To Be Courted
William Mackay Low was a handsome young man. He was the son of a family friend of Daisy’s family, and it was said that he had come home from studying at Oxford.
Undoubtedly, his return home fuelled Daisy’s desire for him. All attempts by her mother to dissuade her from pursuing a relationship with William failed. After courting, they got married in 1886 and moved to England.
Ear Trouble Developed Into Something More
As a child, Daisy had always had ear problems. This affected her so greatly that it reduced her hearing in one of her ears. Sadly, the problem only worsened after her wedding ceremony.
In a traditional bridal send-off, the guests at the wedding tossed grains of rice at the newlyweds. Unfortunately – at the wedding ceremony – one of the rice grains got stuck in her other ear, causing an infection.
Poor Healthcare Didn’t Help
After that period, she had an ear infection caused by the rice, and the physicians of that time were ill-equipped to treat her properly. Their attempts to treat the ear infection with the knowledge they had only damaged her hearing further.
For years after that, she struggled with deafness for the rest of her life. Her attempts to adapt by learning to understand speech in loud social gatherings exhausted her.
Marriage Life For Daisy
Along the line, Daisy’s husband practically left her to pursue his pleasures. He was very fond of drinking, gambling, and spending time with members of high society; because of this, they barely spent any time together.
It was so serious that they lived in separate houses. Daisy stayed in Scotland while he spent most of his time in London, entertaining other women. Unsurprisingly, they also never had any children.
Keeping Busy Through it All
Although lonely and saddened by her absent husband and the turn of events, she found a way to keep herself entertained and occupied. She took up activities like painting, woodwork, and even metalworking.
Daisy also extended her extracurricular activities to community involvement by participating in charity work. She did her best to help clothe and feed local impoverished families. Her community service also involved joining a nursing association.
Making Significant Progress
Even though she was struggling through life as an unhappy married woman, Juliette had made significant progress in many areas of her life.
Even though she was married to a man who was having an affair with other women and leaving her at their estate every time he went off to pursue his desires, she didn’t let that make her feel bad about herself.
A Bitter Divorce
In the early 1900s, Daisy and William went through a bitter divorce. Unfortunately for William, he had a stroke during this period, and he eventually passed.
However, they had not finalized their divorce when he passed. It was after his passing that she realized he had left all he had to his mistress. With the help of William’s sisters, Daisy contested the will, and she won.
Meeting A Kindred Spirit
Although Daisy had won the contestation of the will, it had taken a lot of her time and effort, and she never remarried. Down the line in 1919, she met a man, Sir Robert Baden-Powell.
Sir Robert was someone Daisy would describe as a kindred spirit. He had formed an outdoor leadership program for boys only. Daisy truly admired this and was thrilled.
While the idea of a Boy Guides enthralled Daisy, she learned that Sir Robert’s sister, Agnes, had also established a similar program only for girls. This was called the Girl Guides.
Through this knowledge, Daisy was also looking to set up her own Girl Guides program in Scotland by that summer. She was so excited about the concept that she rushed home to Savannah, Georgia, to get started.
Choosing A Life Of Impact
Through her determination to create a space for young women to learn, grow, and succeed, Juliette founded the Girl Scouts group in 1912. Juliette, who was often known by some as “Crazy Daisy,” set the pace for a means for women, both rich and poor, to grow to hold offices in high positions.
Her life showed how those – even the downtrodden – can make something of themselves despite their situation.
On March 12, 1912, Daisy registered the first group of 18 girls in her Girl Guides group. Her niece and namesake, Margaret “Daisy Doots” Gordon, was the first member of her guides. Daisy was 51 years at this point.
She leveraged her wealth and contacts to promote the group, and it eventually became renowned. From the start of the group, she tried to include everyone she could and got positive responses.
Learning To Be A Girl Scout
During the time the girls spent at Daisy’s, they engaged in numerous activities on a section of her land in Savannah, Georgia. Some of these activities were similar to those that the boys in the Boy Scouts learned.
These activities included sports like tennis and basketball. The girls also had the opportunity to learn various survival skills, like how to set up a tent and make a fire using wood.
The girls also earned badges after they had adequately learned different homemaking skills. Daisy also knew survival skills were just as crucial as life skills; they were an important part of life, too.
She made sure they got to learn skills such as cooking, food preservation, and sewing. Some other important things she taught them included farming skills, using the telegraph to communicate, and typing, among others.
The Ever Growing Group Of Girl Scouts
Since the opening meeting of the Girl Guides in 1912, more than 50 million girls have joined the group. Many of them have forged their unique journeys in life – a legacy that Juliette Gordon Low would be proud of.
She led the Girl Scouts with passion and drive, ensuring that the group was and always would be one in which “girls led” the activities.
Leaving A Legacy
Even 100 years after her passing, Daisy has been honored in various ways. She has had tributes in the form of biographies, operas, and postage stamps, amongst others.
In 2012, she was also posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ex-President Barack Obama. However, most importantly, her great legacy lies in the heart of every Girl Scout and Girl Scout alumna who stands up for what they believe in.
Daisy’s Girl Scouts
Daisy’s life was what anyone would have described as being sad, unfortunate, and in shambles. From the hearing problems to the hearing loss, the loneliness to the failed marriage, all of these would have suppressed many, but Daisy chose to rise above it all.
Juliette Gordon Low chose to open the door she never had for other young women to grow and learn and make something meaningful of themselves.
The Incredible Life Of Juliette Gordon Low
After a lengthy and personal battle with breast cancer, Juliette Gordon Low passed away on January 17, 1927, in the comfort of her home in Savannah, Georgia. Upon her passing, some of her friends established the Juliette Low Global Friendship Fund in her memory.
This fund supports global initiatives for Girl Scouts and Girl Guides. In 1965, her house — often just referred to as the Birthplace—became a recognized National Historic Landmark.