Juliette Low: A Birthday Tribute

Posted: Oct 20, 2011

By: Lindsay Johnson

The second of six children of William and Eleanor Gordon, Juliette—or Daisy, as everyone endearingly referred to her—was born into a privileged life.  She grew up in a large home in Savannah Georgia, until the civil war brought her family to Chicago. Despite the struggles her family endured, Daisy was a happy, adventurous child. She developed an interest in the arts at a young age, a passion that would endure her whole life.  She also became devoted to helping others early on: In her first club, “Helpful Hands,” she and her cousins sewed clothes for the poor. However, her good intentions were shortsighted. Knowing nothing about sewing, her club became nicknamed “Helpless Hands.” This seeming absentmindedness would remain through her life as one of her most memorable and charming qualities.

In her teens, Daisy’s family paid for her to attend the best private schools—and Daisy emerged into adulthood poised for success.  In her 20s, she married an English aristocrat, and was immersed into a life of luxury in Europe, and was even introduced to British royalty. However, no amount of formality took the spark from Daisy Low’s personality…she was a fantastic host, hilariously funny, and extremely naïve, which added to her humor. 

She was an idealist, and a stubborn one at that. Her brother once wrote “…once she has an idea in her head, facts cannot change it,” and “she didn’t know an obstacle when she saw one.”  She also maintained her compassionate spirit, often contributing a great deal of her riches to those in need.

After Daisy’s husband passed away in 1905, she began on her path toward finding the Girl Scouts.  In the summer of 1911 in the United Kingdom, Daisy met Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts. Fascinated by the program, Daisy began three troops of Girl Guides before departing in January of 1912 for Savannah Georgia.

Upon her arrival, Daisy began recruiting friends to assist in building what would become the Girl Scouts of the USA.  Daisy called her friend Nina Pape with her now famous rallying cry:  “Come right over!  I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America and al the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!”

On March 12, 1912, the first Girl Scout troop met in Savannah, Georgia. 

She was relentless in her efforts to promote and strengthen the program—even using her near deafness to her advantage: when friends would decline involvement, she would pretend to hear otherwise, and thank them for their help.  Her persistence paid off.

Until Daisy’s death in 1927, she contributed her time, money and energy to building the Girl Scouts organization in the United States the way she envisioned it, as an organization that allows girls the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually, bringing them out of isolated home environments and into the community.  The first handbook contained lessons on a variety of activities previously deemed unsuitable for girls: medicine, architecture, outdoor life (including sports) and even aviation were part of the program.  Girl Scouts grew stronger through WWI, when Scouts were called to work in hospitals, grow food and assemble care packages for troops.

By 1917, there were 9,000 members enrolled in the Girl Scouts, and by 1919, there were 41,225.

Currently, there are 3.2 million Girl Scouts.

Juliette Low speaking to a group of Girl Scouts at camp 

Juliette Low, like any other person on this earth, was not perfect. However, her particular mannerisms make her distinctly un-like anyone on this earth. She was energetic and eccentric.  She could be clueless and socially awkward at times, and then the life of the party at others. She was bold and intelligent. She had a heart of gold—for people and animals, and loved parties.  Above all, she loved the Girl Scouts organization, and would be proud to see that, after 100 years, it is still thriving, growing and, of course, building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make our world a better place.