Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Happy Birthday #GirlScouts

Juliette Gordon Low pins a Girl Scout

March 12

Girl Scout Day

Today is a very special day for Girl Scouting. On this day in 1912, Juliette Gordon Low gathered twelve girls and started the Girl Scout troop in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia.

Juliette Gordon Low had always had an active lifestyle. She was born on October 31, 1860 in Savannah, Georgia. Her family nicknamed her Daisy. Daisy developed a lifetime interests in the arts during her childhood. She wrote poems, wrote and acted in play, sketched, and later became a skilled painter and sculptor. She also blacksmith as a young adult. 

Daisy was very athletic as well. She loved to play basketball. She had been an avid swimmer since her childhood. She was the captain of a rowing team in her youth and learned how to canoe as an adult. Every year on her birthday she would stand on her head just to prove she could still do it. Juliette Gordon Low was not your typical upper class 19th century woman. 

Daisy married William Mackay Low, a wealthy Englishman, on December 21, 1886 in Savannah, Georgie. Before the wedding, she had suffered from chronic ear infections for most of her life and had lost most of her hearing in one of her ears due to improper treatment of her condition. As she and her beloved passed through the crowd of well wishers a grain of rice became lodged in her ear.  It punctured her eardrum and she lost the ability to hear in that ear. Daisy and her husband moved to England after the wedding but she continued to maintain ties to her family by travelling numerous times between the British Isles and the United States during her marriage. 

The Spanish American War broke out between Spain and the United States on April 25, 1898. Daisy returned to Savannah where she aided her mother in organizing a convalescent hospital for soldiers who had returned from Cub. Daisy's father, who had served as a Confederate captain during the Civil War, was commissioned a general by the United States Army and served on the Puerto Rican Peace Commission eight months later where the Treaty of Paris was signed, effectively ending the Spanish War. After the war, Daisy returned to her home in England where she found her marriage had already begun to crumble. When her husband died in 1905 the couple had already been separated. 

Juliette Gordon Low (center) with two Girl Scouts
US Public Domain
Daisy was looking for something to do with her life after the death of her husband. Her search ended when she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell in 1911. He had just founded an organization known as the Boy Scouts. Daisy loved the idea. The English Baron felt girls would benefit from a troop as well but with their own organization. His sister, Agnes Baden-Powell organized the Girl Guides, which was the female equivalent of the Boy Scouts. Soon after learning of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, Daisy began her own Girl Guide troop in Scotland. She taught them many skills she had learned from her grandmother. Although she enjoyed her Girl Guide troop in Scotland, Daisy wanted to bring the same idea to the United States. She approached Sir Robert Baden-Powell with the idea and he fully supported her. 

Daisy returned to the states where on she called her distant cousin and announced, "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!" Daisy gathered 18 girls from all walks of life and registered them as the first American Girl Guides troop on March 12, 1912. The first registered girl was her niece Margaret "Daisy Doots" Gordon. ( I had the pleasure of meeting her when I was child. She was an amazing woman who had loved her aunt dearly.) 

The American Girl Guides officially changed their name to Girls Scouts a year later. 

You can learn more about the history of Girl Scouting by visiting these pages.

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