Juliette Gordon Low (Youth Leader)

juliette-gordan-low.jpgJuliette Gordon Low (born Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon in Savannah, Georgia, October 31, 1860 – January 17, 1927) was an American youth leader and the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1912.

Gordon Low's mother's family came from Chicago and her father was a Confederate Captain in the American Civil War. She was known as "Daisy" to her friends and family.

Another one of her nicknames was "Little Ship." She acquired this nickname while living with her maternal grandparents John H. Kinzie and Juliette Augusta Magill Kinzie in Chicago during the Civil War.

Juliette loved to hear the story about her great-grandmother, who was captured by Native Americans. Even though she was a captive, she was always joyful, so the Native Americans started calling her "Little-Ship-Under-Full-Sail." She was the adopted daughter of the Seneca chief Cornplanter in the years she dwelt with the tribe.

Eventually, the Seneca said they'd give Juliette's great-grandmother whatever gift she wanted, and she chose to go back home. The Seneca let her go. The shorter version of the nickname was bestowed on young Juliette. Daisy was always jumping into new games, hobbies and ideas.

Juliette was educated in several prominent boarding schools, including the Virginia Female Institute (now Stuart Hall School) and Mesdemoiselles Charbonniers (a French finishing school in New York City).

When she was about 25 years old, Juliette suffered an ear infection that was treated with silver nitrate. This treatment damaged her ear, causing her to lose a great deal of her hearing in that ear.

At the age of 26, she married William Mackay Low, the son of a wealthy cotton merchant in Savannah and England. His mother was a native of Savannah, Georgia. Their wedding took place on December 21, 1886, which happened to be her parents' 29th wedding anniversary. A grain of rice thrown at the wedding became lodged in Juliette's good ear. When it was removed, her ear drum was punctured and became infected, causing her to become completely deaf in that ear. Her hearing was limited for the rest of her life, so she learned Sign Language.

Her marriage to Low was childless. However, there are three known individuals Cameron Low Donahue, Stephen Low Donahue, and Kevin Low Donahue who are related to Juliette. Although the couple moved to England, Juliette continued her travels and divided her time between the British Isles and America.

During the Spanish-American War, Juliette came back to America to aid in the war effort. She helped her mother organize a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers returning from Cuba. Her father was commissioned as a general in the U.S. Army and served on the Puerto Rican Peace Commission.

As early as 1901, due to her husband's drinking and philandering, Juliette intended to get a divorce. However, her husband died from stroke in 1905 before the divorce proceedings could be finalized. When his will was read Juliette discovered that her husband had left his money to his mistress and she was left with a small widow's pension.

It was in 1911 that Juliette met Second Boer War hero (and founder of the Scouting movement) Robert Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes. She and Sir Robert (later Lord) Baden Powell shared a passion for sculpture and art. She also enjoyed working with iron.

While in the UK, Juliette worked as a Girl Guide leader for troops she organized in Scotland and London. On returning to America in 1912, Juliette placed her historic telephone call to her cousin, Nina Pape: "Come right over! 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!" On March 12, 1912, Juliette gathered 18 girls to register the first troop of American Girl Guides.

Margaret "Daisy Doots" Gordon, her niece and namesake, was the first registered member, but did not attend the first meeting. The name of the organization was changed to Girl Scouts the following year. The organization was incorporated in 1915, with Juliette serving as president until 1920 when she was granted the title of founder.

In personality, Daisy was known for being eccentric and charming. One commonly related anecdote recounts how, at an early Scout board meeting, she stood on her head to display the new Girl Scout shoes that she happened to be wearing. She also wrote poems; sketched, wrote and acted in plays; and became a skilled painter and sculptor. She had many pets throughout her life and was particularly fond of exotic birds, Georgia mockingbirds, dogs, cats, and a few horses. Daisy was also known for her great sense of humor.

Juliette Gordon Low developed breast cancer in 1923, but kept it a secret and continued diligently working for the Girl Scouts. Low died January 17, 1927, from cancer, and was buried in her Girl Scout uniform in Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah.

Related Links:
Juliette Gordon Low on Wikipedia
Girl Scouts