Think of Girl Scouts, and girls selling cookies comes to mind. But how did they become synonymous with these tasty treats? Who is the person behind Girl Scouts, USA?
In Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts, Stacy A. Cordery traces the life of Low, known as “Daisy” to her family and friends. Born before the start of the Civil War to Savannah aristocracy, Daisy grew up surrounded by a large family.
She attended schools in the North, forming lifelong friendships. Society expected her to become a wife and mother with few other options for her background. After finishing her formal education, she studied art in New York.
For several years, Daisy pursued her art, traveled to and with family and friends, and met eligible suitors. During this time, she suffered ear infections that left her partially deaf. She fell in love with Willy Low, a Savannah neighbor, and the couple married in 1886.
The moved to England, visiting the United States every year. Daisy’s life revolved around entertaining and travel. Her husband spent much of his time in idle pursuits while enjoying the friendship of the Prince of Wales. The Low marriage broke down and the couple separated. Before a divorce happened, Willy died. He left his estate to his mistress, but Daisy prevailed to win her share in court.
Being a lady of leisure did not appeal to Daisy. She sought ways to have a meaningful life while helping others. During her extensive travels, she became friends with Robert Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell started the Boy Scouts in England for young men to form groups to learn outdoor skills and help others. He enlisted Daisy’s assistance in the Girl Guides, a sibling organization to Boy Scouts.
She became a leader of a troop and realized the value of such an enterprise. She felt that girls improved their lives by becoming Girl Guides. When she next returned to the United States, she introduced the idea of Girl Guides to the children of Savannah. To spread the concepts elsewhere in the United States, she enlisted others. The Guides expanded along the East Coast as girls embraced the opportunity to learn new skills.
Daisy wrote manuals, decided on uniforms, and recruited staff and volunteers for the Guides. She wanted to see it as the only national organization for girls, but failed to win over the Camp Fire Girls (a competing organization now headquartered in Kansas City).
Girl Guides became Girl Scouts and proceeded in promoting fun, learning, and service. Their work during World War I became well-known for their assistance in the war effort. They started selling their cookies in the 1920s to raise money to support their projects.
Daisy crossed the Atlantic many times promoting both Girl Scouts and Girl Guides. She kept working as the organization grew in national stature and professionalization. Though there were growing pains, the spread of Girl Scouting could not be stopped. Daisy Low kept up her work with Girl Scouts until her death. Her lasting legacy is still felt today especially during cookie sale time.
I enjoyed reading about the founder of the Girl Scouts. It made me remember learning how to tie a square knot and selling boxes of cookies to my neighbors. I will remember Daisy next time a girl asks me to buy some cookies!
About the Author
Judy Klammis a reference librarian in Central Reference. She has written book reviews for Library Journal and various Presbyterian publications.