Juliette Gordon Lowe: Founder of the Girl Scouts

Today I want to tell you about the woman who founded the Girl Scouts. She was an incredible, unique woman, especially at the end of the 19th Century. I really relate to her in a lot of ways. We both love the arts and having fun outside and being active. We both have a strong desire to accomplish things and help people. Juliette Gordon Low is one of those ladies I really look up to. She is a woman who wows me.

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Juliette Gordon Low was born on Halloween, 1860 in Savannah, Georgia. She was a good-natured and beautiful baby according to all accounts. She was given the nickname “Daisy.” Juliette had a complicated childhood, being born just before the Civil War to a “divided house.” Her father was a Southern slave owner and her mother was part of a prominent Northern family who helped found the City of Chicago. For the many years the war dragged on Juliette, her mother, and her siblings barely survived. Once the war was over they were moved to her maternal grandparents in Illinois. There, Juliette attended boarding and finishing schools and lived a wholly different life than she had known on her Southern plantation.

Juliette learned all the appropriate subjects for girls to learn at the time. As a result, she gained a lifelong love of the arts; she could sketch, write poems, write and act in plays, paint, and sculpt. Juliette, however, yearned for something more. She loved the outdoors and was constantly caught sneaking out to play tennis, swim, canoe, and ride horse, all of which were frowned upon at the strict finishing schools to which she was sent.

Juliette was later called “Crazy Daisy” because she was often very eccentric and whimsical. She was known for “good natured disasters” and “frequent experiments that went awry.” Additionally, Juliette was an animal lover and had many pets in her life, including dogs and exotic birds. To Juliette, however, life was not yet whole. She still sought purpose and meaning in her early twenties as well as independence, something young girls at the time could only dream of.

Eventually her parents agreed to allow her to move to New York to study painting. She believed she could achieve a little financial independence by selling her art. Still, though she was expected to get married. She finally did, at 26 years old, to wealthy cotton merchant William Mackay Low. He was an Englishman and after their wedding they purchased a home in London, but Juliette’s time was more often spent in America and travelling. As a result of a freak accident on her wedding day, Juliette lost the hearing in one, and eventually both of her ears. She often travelled searching for a cure to her deafness. Meanwhile, her husband was travelling with his madame , gambling, partying, hunting and having a good ole time. Eventually Juliette found out and during the divorce trials William Mackay Low drop dead while on vacation with his mistress. Karmaaa!

After William died Juliette began travelling the world and eventually ran into Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts. She was sure she would hate him, but ended up thinking he was very charming; they also shared many views and ideas, especially on the new youth movement of the time. After their meeting Juliette spent all of her time and energy on the  creating a fledging youth movement.

Coincidentally, Baden-Powell had been searching for an answer to his problem with girls. They kept showing up with their brothers, eager to learn all the same skills and play the same games. This, especially in the beginning of the Twentieth Century created enemies, those who believed in would “feminise the boys”, or make the girls more masculine.

Less than a year after their fated meeting, Juliette founded the first Girl Scouts in her hometown of Savannah, Ga.  At that first meeting there were 18 girls, now there are 2.8 million girls in the Girl Scouts of America. The Girl Scouts, since the time of it’s beginning, teach girls not only about homemaking skills, but also survival and nature skills as well as preparing girls for possible roles as professional adults. The Girl Scouts have never excluded girls with disabilities, something Juliette was very serious about, never letting her deafness hold her back.

In 1927, Juliette found out she had breast cancer, but she kept it a secret and kept working diligently with the Girl Scouts of America until her death. She was buried in Savannah, GA and has received many awards and medals, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Juliette Gordon Low was a phenomenal woman, and it has been an absolute pleasure researching her life and achievements.

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