Juliette Gordon Low, Girl Scout Extraordinaire ~Tanya Hanson

While exiting the grocery store on Saturday, I came across a troop of Girl Scouts selling cookies. I got a box of thin mints and began an immediate hobble down memory lane. For eight years during my girlhood, I was a scout, and I joined up again for the years my daugher was one. I not only learned how to mark a trail, put up a tent, make a meal in a coffee can, and tie every knot imaginable, but I also learned to knit and sew, practice charm school behavior and babysit, all in my quest for merit badges. I still have my sash.

Then I learned that this very week marks the one hundredth anniversary of Girl Scouting in America. And I owe all of those happy memories and girlhood accomplishments to Juliette Gordon Low.

 

She was born Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon on Halloween, 1860, into a prominent Savannah, Georgia family.  Her dad was a Confederate captain and after the war, a volunteer militiaman in Savannah.  Her family’s prosperity permitted Juliette an outstanding education in top-notch private schools. Her aptitudes included sculpture and animal sciences.

 

Nicknamed “Daisy” she contracted a serious ear infection that was treated with silver nitrate. Unfortunately, the treatment caused significant hearing loss. In 1886, at her marriage to William Mackay Low, a grain of wedding rice lodged in her ear, the removal of which damaged nerves and caused complete deafness. She and “Willy” resided in his native England for the next 19 years.

Although she and her husband were members of high society, the marriage turned unhappy with Willy’s philandering and drinking. Divorce proceedings were instigated, but Willy died suddenly in 1905 before a final decree. Most of his money was left to his mistress, leaving Daisy despirited. For several years, she traveled throughout Eurupe and India.

At a luncheon in England in 1922, she met Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the British Boy Scouts, and her interest in the scounting movement was immediate and profound. That year, she organized a troop of “Girl Guides,” Britain’s female equivalent, at her estate in Glenlyon, Scotland. Her first outreach was for poor girls. Then she created two troops in London.

 

On March 12, 1912, Daisy established the first Girl Scout troop in her hometown of Savannah. Thanks to her ethusiastic promotion, the movement grew rapidly and officially became the Girl Scouts of America in 1913. In 1915, the organization was incorporated  with a national headquarters in Washington D.C., with Daisy as president. In 1919, she was official representative at the first international meeting of the Girl Scouts and the Girl Guides, and in 1920, she was bestowed the title of “founder.”

 

Not only did Daisy devote her own time and finances to scouting, she tirelessly sought support and contributions from communities around the country. Her attempts to merge with the Campfire Girls, however, failed to materialize.

Daisy oversaw the first Girl Scout Handbook, and was so involved and “hands on” she was beloved by girls everywhere.

 

After a cancer diagnosis in 1923, Daisy kept her illness a secret and tirelessly continued her efforts. She helped organize the world Girl Scout camp in the U.S. in 1926. When she passed away in January, 1927, she was buried in the scout uniform. Membership in the Girl Scouts at that time numbered 168,000.

Were you or your daughters Girl Scouts or Campfire? What are your favorite memories of those times?

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A California beach girl, I love cowboys and happy-ever-afters. My firefighter hubby and I enjoy travel, our two little grandsons, country music, McDonald's iced coffee, and volunteering at the local horse rescue. I was thrilled last year to receive the CTRR Award at Coffeetime Romance for Sanctuary, my tribute to my cancer-survin' hubby!

33 thoughts on “Juliette Gordon Low, Girl Scout Extraordinaire ~Tanya Hanson”

  1. Interesting post Tanya! Sorry I never was a girl scout, my best friend was but I never got to do it. I always wanted to be one but my parents didn’t have the time or money for me to be in the girl scouts.

  2. Proud to say that we were all involved in Girl Scouting in my family, including my dad. He volunteered at the camp, along with all of us, doing annual upkeep. My mom was a troop leader for years and was also Council President for some time. My oldest sister works with college-aged scouts. I’m only sad for Quilt Lady that there wasn’t someone who stepped up to the plate for her and helped her participate.

  3. My daughter was in the Girl Scouts an loved it ,I wasnt a leader but a assistant an we had those girls in lots of good activities,their favorite was going caroling at the local Nursing home an spending time with the residents,,first they were scared but became comfortable when they saw how much the residents loved seeing them

  4. How wonderful that someone with so much sadness in her life did something to bring so much happiness to others!
    Yes, I was a Girl Scout. So were my sisters. My Mom was a troop leader. My best memories are of camping out and learning outdoor skills. I also enjoyed helping with my Mom’s younger troop. Those girls still come up to me to say remember when we . . .

  5. I was “almost” in Girl Scouts. I started out intent on joining the “Brownies” when I was in 1st grade, but I was so shy and quiet I only went to a few meetings and never got my uniform.

    My 9 y/o daughter isn’t in GS, either, but like Quilt Lady, time, money and transportation constraints kind of squash participation, as we discovered when my stepson tried Boy Scouts for a short time. It became clearly overwhelming for a single income household with only one licensed driver able to attend to meetings, etc.

    Daisy sounds like a very amazing woman though and she’s left a wonderful legacy for so many girls. Glad I popped by, learned some new and interesting history.

  6. In the small town where I grew up we had boy scouts but no girl scouts or campfire girls. Too bad, I would have loved being a girl scout.
    Thanks for the story of this inspiring woman, Tanya. It was new to me.

  7. THere were no Girl or Boy scout troops in my small town when I was young, nor any when my own girls were young.
    I’ve got a nephew who went all the up to…but didn’t finish as an Eagle Scout though. He loved his boy scout activities.

  8. ps, deafened by a piece of rice. Bummer. And, to think she did all this while utterly deaf, back then. It’s an amazing accomplishment in any situation but to do this while dealing with deafness makes it all the more impressive.

  9. hi Quilt Lady, always so good to see you here. So sad about that. Scouting was such fun. I was lucky…my mom often chaperoned our outings and camp outs. My best friend’s mom was our leader, and she’s still close to me.

    Have a wonderful day!

  10. Hi CateS, what wonderful memories and involvement! My dad always went along on camp outs to help set up. When our daughter was a scout, my hubby usually had a day of duty at camp outs as medical advisor–he’s a certified paramedic. Oh, those were fun days. Sounds like you had them too. Thanks for the post!

  11. Hi Vickie, oh, you just brought back another wonderful memory: Christmas caroling! We’d go sing to the “shut ins” at church, the elderly who couldn’t get out much. It was such fun and those folks were soooo happy to see us. We often got a little treat from them after. Ah. good times. Thanks for stopping by today.

  12. Hi JudyH, I am so happy today to read of so many others’ happy experiences as a scout. The camp outs were always my favorite part: we’d invariably find a Boy Scout troop of cuties to sing around the campfire with. Those were the days! Thanks for sharing

  13. Hi Taryn, ah, sorry it didn’t work out, but so glad you stopped by today. Our neighbor boys next door are very involved in Boy Scouts; the older made Eagle last summer and the younger will do so in May. It was so inspiring to be at the ceremony. We’ve saved aluminum cans and glass bottles to help out the troop for years. They recycle them to raise money.

  14. Hi Elizabeth, thanks for stopping by. I grew up in an LA suburb where we had lots of everything, so I am sad you didn’t have the opportunity. But I am very glad you enjoyed the post. When I got the idea for it, I vaguely remembered learning about Daisy during my scouting days. I am so glad she worked so hard for something so wonderful (lots of “so” going on there LOL.)

  15. Hi Mary, I agree! I had a dreadful ear infection two years ago and lost my hearing in one ear temporarily, and it was unimaginably awful. At least I knew it would ease eventually, but wow. I am glad Daisy wasn’t kept down by her infirmity and rose to the occasion! Thanks for the post.

  16. What a wonderful story of Juliette Gordon–Daisy. How sad and unfortunate that she lost her hearing caused by others. And boo hiss on Willy–what a creep. However, it does appear that Daisy soldiered on and became a very important, famous woman. Maybe she wouldn’t have accomplished any of that if ol’ Willy had lived.
    I can just see you in your cute girl scout uniform. I was in Brownies one year, but that didn’t last long for some reason.
    I wanted my daughter in Girl Scouts, but she had no interest. Our son, though, was a Webelo one year, and he had a great time. Never went any further.
    I think GS a wonderful organization.

  17. Hi Celia, so glad to hear from you. Our son had no interest in Scouts, but our daughter had a few years in Campfire then switched to Girl Scouts. I went along with her LOL. It was such fun and brought back to many memories. We made a chain of hands and sang “Day is Done” at the end of each meeting, and I used that song for the campfires in my city slicker wagon train series.

    Ah, good times!

  18. “On my honor, I will try, to serve God & my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout law.” Oh, how I remember the day – and, my DD was a girlscout from Daisy straight on through Senior Cadette. She served as part of the Governor’s Honor guard on Mackinac Island for three years running, and loved it!!!Great post, T!!!

  19. Wonderful story of how the Girl Scouts got started! I was a Girl Scout back when cookies were 50 cents a box. And I was a Girl Scout leader for a few years too. I always support them by buying Thin Mints!! Great blog info!!

  20. Hi Marianne, sooo good to see you here. Oh, I remember the pledge. I remember “flying up” from Brownie to Girl Scout. These were the pre-Daisy days. Sadly, our program didn’t last through freshman year of high school. Many girls lost interest. But it was fun while it lasted! congrats on your daughter and her achievements. Wow!

  21. I, too, remember those days, Charlene. My daddy sold cookies to all his co-workers on my behalf, and “I” won a trip to Skateland. I also love the lemon ones, but on Saturday, they were out. But I’m eagerly awaiting the thin mints! Thanks for the post. Xoxxo

  22. I was a girl scout for a very short time. I was a teenager when the Girl Scouts started in our small town so they allowed my friend and I to join but we were really just assistants to the leaders. My sisters on the other hand were in scouts and loved it. My brothers were both in Boy Scouts and I have a Great Nephew who is an Eagle Scout at 12.

  23. Hi Pat, interestingly, we have a pretty active 4-H program in the county, and my daughter is an animal nut but we’re too cul-de-sac entrenched, I guess. She had friends who raised bunnies and exhibited them at the fair, but she tended towards handicrafts. I think whatever a child is interested in, go for it! Keep ’em active. Thanks for the post!

  24. Hi Connie, wow, Eagle at twelve! Years ago, I taught a freshman (English) who invited me to his ceremony and he was just about historically young for these parts LOL. Congrats to your nephew. I agree, you were probably a prime candidate to be an assistant. So nice of you to stop by today and post!

  25. Yes, My grandmother and mother were members in the Camp Fire Girls association. I also was a member and then for thirteen years was a leader. I kept my older daughter’s group together until they were juniors in high school. My younger daughter’s group fell apart in the fourth grade because of lack of parent help. It was a great experience for my children and me. My older daughter was so shy in first grade that she sat on the steps for the first six meetings. By the time we disbanded her group, she had gone to Kansas City and helped changed the by-laws for the older girls and sang at the World’s Fair in Canada. Yes – it was a great experience for her and gave us one more reason to be proud of our Kellie.
    We sold the candy – so good and such a temptation being stored in our garage.
    Bless this woman for starting the Girl Scouts and giving her life to such an admiral organization.
    Oh, by the way – my Indian name was ToTo Pakwa which meant Green Frog. It delighted the girls.

  26. I loved the girl scouts. My mom was an assistant one year and that made it special. So when I had two daughters I voluteered and was an assistant for 3 years and volunteered for as much as I could. Camping out was one of my favorites because I never was allowed to do that as a child. I have many wonderful memories with my daughters.

  27. Hi Margaret, I can’t wait to dig into my thin mints either. You are very welcome. At first I was going to do that big stupid giant boulder at LACMA they think is a piece of art LOL but came across this info and decided it was better!~ Thanks for stopping by.

  28. HI Paisley, Christi started out in Campfire but the leaders moved away, so when she was about in 4th grade, her church school started up a Girl Scout Troup. I chaperoned Day Camp one summer, and we had a Native American theme. I have forgotten my Indian name, but I do remember dancing with our Navajo guide! Thanks for another great memory!

  29. hi Catslady, I was lucky to have my mom come along as chaperon on my childhood camp outs. I loved having her there. That’s one main reason I volunteered as much as I could for my daughter’s troop. Those experiences and memories are so special years later. Thanks for the post today.

  30. I was a Girl Scout under my mother and her best friend in Brownies and Juniors. But when I moved to an older troop, they decided they did NOT want to go camping and I quit.

    My sister went all the way through, got her Gold Award, worked as a camp counselor and almost became a professionl scout but ultimately became a teacher. Her daughter followed in her mother’s footsteps and now is an environmentalist.

    Sadly, my daughter was a Daisy dropout.

    Peace and thanks for the memories, Julie

  31. Never was a Girl Scout, but have bought many cookies, especially now that my granddaughter and niece are scouts. Interesting story.

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