“The First Girl Scout” - Sunday, October 19, 2014
Stories of admirable people often reveal that great achievements grow not from a life of ease and comfort but from the fertile seedbed of heartache and difficulty. The life of Juliette Gordon Low is one of those stories.
Juliette, or Daisy, as she was known, was born just months before the outbreak of the American Civil War. Although reared in a happy home in Savannah, Georgia, Daisy soon became acquainted with sorrow-the death of her beloved little sister, recurring bouts of malaria and chronic ear infections, a physician’s error that severely damaged her hearing, and an unhappy marriage that ended when her husband died in 1905, leaving her a widow in her 40s.1
By this time Daisy was living in England and yearning for a sense of purpose. It was then that she became acquainted with British war hero Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts. With Baden-Powell’s encouragement, she returned to the United States and made a historic telephone call to a friend, 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!”2
The American Girl Scouts movement that Daisy Low founded has since become the largest educational organization for girls in the world. Although Daisy had no children of her own, she has positively influenced tens of millions of lives.
Scouting represented everything Daisy valued: duty to country, joy in the outdoors, a cheerful spirit, self-reliance, and service to others. She believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Daisy died of cancer in 1927 and, at her request, was buried in her Girl Scout uniform. In her pocket was a telegram that she received from the national officers of Girl Scouts shortly before she died. “You are not only the first Girl Scout,” it read, “you are the best Girl Scout of them all.”3 As her biographer wrote, it may seem preposterous “that a near-deaf fifty-one-year-old childless widow began the Girl Scouts.”4 Yet it happened, and millions of girls have sold cookies, had lots of fun, learned valuable skills, and been strengthened as a result.
-Lloyd D. Newell
1. See Stacy A. Cordery, Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts (2012).
2. In “Juliette Gordon Low Biography: Founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA
3. In “Girl Scout Life”
4. Cordery, Juliette Gordon Low, xii.