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Juliette Low

Birth

Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born on October 31, Halloween, in 1860 in Savannah, Georgia, the second of six children of William Washington Gordon and Eleanor Kinzie Gordon

She was born to a very prominent family just a few months before the Civil War began. She was named for her grandmother, but an uncle gave her the nickname "Daisy" soon after she was born. 

Family Background

Her great-grandparents were John Kinzie and Eleanor Lytle (Kinzie). Eleanor was captured by Indians and lived with them for a long time. "Little-Ship-Under-Full-Sail".  "The Captive Heart" is a romanticized novel about Eleanor Lytle Kinzie (Little Ship). Kraft Theater produced this for TV, starring Shirley Temple in the 50's. They were silversmiths, fur traders, and Indian agents.

Her grandparents, John Harris Kinzie and Juliette Magill Kinzie were one of the founding families of Chicago. "Wau Bun: Early Days in the Northwest" was the book written by her grandmother Juliette Magill Kinzie, about living and traveling among the Plains Indians in the mid to late 1800's. 

Her father was a Confederate Captain in the Civil War. After the Civil War ended, he joined a volunteer militia in Savannah. The volunteers were called up during the Spanish American War and Mr. Gordon was commissioned as a general on the Puerto Rican Peace Commission.

Childhood

Daisy spent summers at Etowah Cliffs in Northern Georgia on her aunt's plantation with cousins from several branches of her family.

The first club that Daisy founded was Helpful Hands, it was to help others. The first project was to make clothing for children that had rags for clothing. She didn't know how to sew but she taught herself and the members of her club to sew.

She and her cousins created a club, TAC, "The Animal Catcher" to take care of the animals that they had rescued and already had. Her parents gave her a stall in the stable next to her horse to hold all her animals.

In her teens, Daisy attended boarding school at Virginia Female Institute (now Stuart Hall School) in Staunton, Virginia. She attended Mesdemoiselles Charbonniers, a French finishing school in New York City when she turned 18. At school, she learned how to speak French, sit properly, dance, curtsy, and become a well mannered young lady.

  • Daisy grew up in the Victorian period. She wore beautiful gowns with bustles in the back, carried a fan and a parasol. She once had to stand in line to visit the Queen. It was such a long wait that she placed her bouquet of flowers on the bustle of the girl standing in front of her.
  • When Juliette Low visited her Grandparents in Chicago for the first time there was shortage of sugar due to the war. She had never seen snow before so when she saw the white dust falling from the sky she ran to her mom and said, "We should gather all the sugar for the south it falls from the sky here".
  • Claiming decapitation was inhumane, Juliette chloroformed the Thanksgiving turkey. It was plucked (feathers pulled out of it) and put in the icebox (refrigerator). The next day when the refrigerator was opened to prepare the turkey for dinner, the turkey jumped out and scared the cook.
  • Juliette Low was visited by a beautiful Japanese lady to teach her about her culture. Later in life she visited Japan.
  • Juliette Low was given a locket by her grandmother for good luck, with her horse on one side and a picture of her on the other.
  • She created a magazine completely written and illustrated by children.
  • Daisy enjoyed painting, sculpting, drawing and designing. She once forged her own iron gates.
  • Daisy loved animals and had a horse named “Fire”. She had many pets throughout her life and was particularly fond of exotic birds, Georgia mockingbirds, and dogs.
  • She was very athletic. From her childhood on, Daisy was a strong swimmer. She was Captain of a rowing team as a girl and learned to canoe as an adult. She was also an avid tennis player.
  • Daisy wrote many letters to family and friends even though she often misspelled words. She also had trouble with mathematics. 
  • Kim's Game was one of Juliette's favorite games. She also LOVED to tell stories, especially ghost stories around the campfire!

Marriage

On December 21, 1886, her parents' 29th wedding anniversary, Juliette married William "Willy" Mackay Low, a wealthy Englishman, at Christ Church in Savannah, Ga.

She wore a white gown with diamond star pins. She designed a pin with a daisy of diamonds and the year 1886 on the flower stem to give to all the bridesmaids at the wedding

After a few months she went to live in England with her husband, where she lived for most of their nineteen years of marriage. Her British life was very much a continuation of the one she had in America, except that her friends and companions now had names famous in English history, and for the most part lived in castles, or manor houses or, in some instances, palaces. 

During the Spanish-American War, Juliette came back to America to aid in the war effort. She helped her mother organize a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers returning from Cuba. At the end of the war, Juliette returned to England to her husband. Unfortunately, their happiness together did not last and Daisy and Willy had agreed to divorce. They were in the process of divorce when William Mackay Low died suddenly of paralysis in 1905. She spent the next several years globetrotting through Europe and India.

Deafness

Before her marriage, Juliette had suffered from chronic ear infections. When she was about 25 years old, Juliette had an ear infection which was treated with silver nitrate. This damaged her ear and caused her to lose a great deal of her hearing in that ear. 

At her wedding, when she was 26, she lost hearing in her other ear after a grain of good-luck rice thrown at the event lodged in her ear, puncturing the eardrum and resulting in an infection and total loss of hearing in that ear.

She found it useful to exaggerate her deafness when she pretended not to hear friends who tried to beg off commitments to work for the Scouts. 

As an Adult

Juliette Low also maintained a healthy sense of humor that she was said to have displayed every year on her birthday when she would stand on her head to remind her family of how much spunk she still had.

Juliette loved fishing, in fact she would go out with the men after a formal dinner often in her evening dress.

Even though Juliette lived in a time when tea was served regularly, she spent 6 months drinking water (instead of tea) as a bargain with her butler to help him quit drinking.

Juliette was friends with Rudyard Kipling (who was famous for writing The Jungle Book). 

Girl Scouts

Daisy met General Sir Robert Baden-Powell. He had founded the Boy Scouts and was a British military hero. They had a lot in common (a mutual interest in sculpting, among other things) and enjoyed each others company. Daisy looked to Sir Robert as an inspiration. She decided to help with the Girl Guides that his sister Miss Agnes Baden-Powell was forming of the nearly 6 thousand girls who registered when Sir Robert formed the Boy Scouts.

During 1911, she organized a troop of Girl Guides among poor girls at her estate at Glenlyon, Scotland with seven girls. They created tea parties for fundraisers. She then founded two more troops in London. Lord Baden-Powell said to Juliette, “There are little stars that guide us on, although we do not realize it.” This gave her encouragement to return to the USA and start Girl Scouting.

At the age of 51, on March 12, 1912, she called a distant cousin and exclaimed, "I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight!" On that evening, she gathered those 18 founding members, including her niece and namesake Margaret "Daisy Doots" Gordon, to register the first troop of American Girl Guides. The name of the organization was changed to Girl Scouts of the USA the following year.

Through her steadfast promotion the movement grew rapidly, becoming the Girl Scouts of America in 1913. The organization was incorporated in 1915 with the national headquarters at Washington, D.C., with Daisy serving as president until 1920 when she was bestowed the rightful title of founder.

She found a joy and a purpose in life in the organization of Girl Scouts and worked relentlessly for many years establishing a solid foundation for the movement. She personally donated, secured, and financed much of the Girl Scouting program needs in the United States for the first few years and her generosity was also felt overseas. She spent time at camps and knew many of the girls well. Although she never had any children of her own, she was loved by many all over the world.

By maintaining contact with overseas Girl Guides and Girl Scouts during World War I, she helped lay the foundation for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. 

The first Girl Scout Handbook had instruction on how to tie up a burglar with 8” of rope.

Girl Scouting welcomed girls with disabilities at a time when they were excluded from many other activities. This idea seemed quite natural to Juliette, who never let deafness, back problems or cancer keep her from full participation in life.

Her lifelong eccentricity and love of "stunts" were enlisted in the cause. She would trim her hat with carrots and parsley and go to a fashionable luncheon. "Oh, is my trimming sad?" she would ask as the vegetables drooped. "I can't afford to have this hat done over -- I have to save all my money for my Girl Scouts. You know about the Scouts, don't you?" 

As with all Girl Scout troops, money was needed to keep the program running, so Juliette sold the pearl necklace Willie had given her for a wedding present.

When Juliette Low first formed her troops, she had a tea party at the end of each meeting for the girls in her troops. She wanted the girls to learn manners, to be good citizens, and have the social skills to be good leaders in the business world.

Death

In 1923 Daisy contracted breast cancer.  She kept her illness a secret and dauntlessly continued her efforts. 

On January 17, 1927, Juliette Gordon Low died of cancer at home in Savannah, at the age of sixty-six.

She was buried in her Girl Scout uniform, beside her parents, at the Laurel Grove Cemetery located in Savannah Georgia. In the breast pocket of her uniform was a folded telegram she received while she was ill that read "You are not only the first Girl Scout, you are the best Girl Scout of them all." All the Girl Scouts in Savannah lined the steps of Christ Church where the funeral service was conducted to bid farewell to a great woman who inspired them to be great women.

She believed in service to one's community and self-reliance for girls, all while maintaining a sense of fun and adventure.

Juliette brought girls of all backgrounds into the out-of-doors, giving them the opportunity to develop self-reliance and resourcefulness. 

She encouraged girls to prepare not only for traditional homemaking, but also for possible future roles as professional women in the arts, sciences and business, along with active citizenship outside the home. 

Honors

During World War II, she had a "Liberty Ship" named in her honor.

On July 3, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed a bill authorizing a stamp in honor of Juliette Gordon Low. The stamp was one of the few dedicated to women.

Daisy's home in Savannah was purchased and restored by Girl Scouts of the USA in 1953. Now known as the Juliette Gordon Low Girl Scout National Center, or often referred to as the Birthplace, the handsome English Regency house was designated a registered National Historic Landmark in 1965.

In 1954, in Georgia, the city of Savannah honored her by naming a school for her. A Juliette Low School also exists in Anaheim, California.

On October 28, 1979, Juliette Low was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.

On December 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill naming a new federal building in Savannah in honor of Juliette Low. It was the second federal building in history to be named after a woman.

In 1992, a Georgia non-profit honored Juliette Low as one of the first Georgia Women of Achievement. A bust of Juliette Low is displayed in the State Capitol. In 2000, The Deaf World in Wax, a traveling exhibit, featured her as a famous deaf American.

On October 14, 2005, Juliette Low's life work was immortalized in a commemorative, bronze-and-granite medallion as part of a new national monument in Washington, D.C. The Extra Mile Points of Light Volunteer Pathway pays tribute to great Americans who built their dreams into movements that have created enduring change in America. The monument's medallions, laid into sidewalks adjacent to the White House, form a one-mile walking path.

On April 26, 2012, The White House announced that President Obama posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the founder of Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low. The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, recognizes individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors".

After her death, her friends honored her by establishing the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund, which finances international projects for Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world. 

Juliette Low Quotes

This quote attributed to a letter written by Juliette Low in 1925
  • "I realize that each year it has changed and grown until I know that, a decade from now, what I might say of it would seem like an echo of what has been instead of what is."
  • The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers." 
  • Right is right, even if no one else does it.
  • "Ours is a circle of friends united by ideals."
  • When asked what the girls should do, Juliette responded "What do the girls WANT to do?"
  • Every badge you earn is tied up to your motto. This badge is not a reward for something you have done once or for an examination you have passed. Badges are not medals to wear on your sleeve to show what a smart girl you are. A badge is a symbol that you have done the thing it stands for often enough, thoroughly enough, and well enough to BE PREPARED to give service in it. You wear the badge to let people know that you are prepared and willing to be called on because you are a Girl Scout. And Girl Scouting is not just knowing.....but doing.....not just doing, but being. 

Why should my daughter become a Girl Scout - FUN
If you asked her daughter, she would probably reply Because the Girl Scouts have real Fun but if I were to analyze the results of Scouting I would tell that mother that the most valuable asset her girl would gain is a sense of Individual Responsibility She makes her Promise (1) To do her duty to God and Country (2) To Help others at all times (3) To obey the Scout laws This promise is taken seriously & the individual responsibility is brought about by Team Work. Every girl living up to a standard & seeing that her [comrades] in her patrol live up to it also

Juliette Low's Notes on the Laws, 1912

  • "HONOR. This means that a girl is not satisfied with keeping the letter of the law when she really breaks it in spirit.
  • LOYAL. This means that she is true to her country, to the city or village where she is a citizen, to her family, her church, her school, and those for whom she may work or who may work for her.
  • HELPFUL. The simplest way of saying this for the very young Scout is to do a good turn to someone every day:  that is, to be a giver and not a taker. This is the spirit that makes the older Scout into a fine, useful, dependable woman."
  • THRIFTY. The most valuable thing we have in this life is time, and most girls are apt to be rather stupid about getting the most out of it. Health is probably a woman's greatest capital, and a Girl Scout.....doesn't waste it in poor diet.....so that she goes bankrupt before she is thirty. Money is a very useful thing to have....A Girl Scout saves, as she spends, on some system."
  • "FRIEND TO ANIMALS. All Girl Scouts take particular care of our dumb friends, the animals, and protect them from stupid neglect or hard usage.
  • PURE.A good housekeeper cannot endure dust and dirt; a well-cared-for body cannot endure grime and soot; a pure mind cannot endure doubtful thoughts that cannot be freely aired and ventilated."
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