Birth of Juliette Low
Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born on October 31, 1860, in Savannah, Georgia. She brought the Girls Guides to the US, which later became the Girl Scouts.
Nicknamed “Daisy,” Juliette was a curious and adventurous young girl. She was accident prone and suffered several injuries and illnesses as a child and was rendered nearly deaf for most of her life. She enjoyed art, poetry, athletics, and nature, often spending more time with her hobbies than her school work. Juliette created a newspaper with her cousins as well as The Helpful Hands Club. This club made clothes for the children of Italian immigrants.
Juliette attended several boarding schools and took painting lessons in New York. After her sister died, Juliette returned to Savannah to manage the family home. She met William Mackay Low and they were married in 1886. They lived in Scotland and London and Juliette learned woodworking and metalworking. The couple eventually grew apart and separated before William died in 1905.
Juliette traveled extensively doing charity work and looking for a new project. In 1911, she met Sir Robert Baden Powell who had recently founded the Boy Scouts. Low became an enthusiastic supporter and began working with the Girl Guides, headed by Powell’s wife Agnes. Juliette formed a Girl Guides group near her home in Scotland and two in London. In 1912, Juliette returned to the US and called her cousin saying, “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!”
The first gathering took place on March 12, 1912, with 18 girls present. The first registered member of the American Girl Guides was Margaret Gordon, Juliette’s niece. The next year, the name was changed to Girl Scouts. Juliette traveled to other states to recruit leaders and find patrons. However, she ended up providing most of the financial support, selling her own pearls. Later, 25¢ national dues were adopted to help support the organization.
In 1915, Juliette worked to establish a stronger central organization and created an executive committee and national council. She returned to England for a time to raise funds and establish a home for the families of wounded soldiers. Back in the US in 1916, she led the Girl Scouts in growing and canning their own food, in support of the thrift program instituted by the US Food Administration. Juliette then tasked the scouts with making surgical dressings for the Red Cross and clothes for soldiers. The scouts also created scrapbooks for the wounded soldiers and made smokeless trench candles for those on the front lines.
After World War I, Juliette helped expand programs to other countries, serving on the International Council of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. She stepped down as president of the US Girl Scouts to devote more time to expanding internationally. She helped create the first Girl Scout movie, The Golden Eaglet. Juliette was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1923. Despite several surgeries and treatments, she died on January 17, 1927. She was buried in her Girl Scout uniform with a note that read, “You are not only the first Girl Scout, but the best Girl Scout of them all.”
In 1965, Juliette’s Savannah home was declared the first National Historic Landmark in Georgia. She received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 and her birthday is celebrated annually but the Girl Scouts as Founder’s Day.
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