Today is Girl Scout Day! Celebrated every March, the Girl Scouts honor long standing traditions and countless Girl Scouts all over the country. BYOU Magazine highlights some amazing Girl Scout Gold Award honorees this #GirlScoutWeek, and we also wanted to honor the Girl Scouts’ founder, Juliette Gordon Low. Do you think Juliette (a.k.a. Daisy) ever imagined the impact her vision would have on girls around the world over 100 years later? Read her inspiring story below. BYOU Magazine’s founder, Debra Gano, was once a Girl Scout (and her daughter is now a Cadette), plus BYOU Magazine participates in lots of Girl Scout activities, so we are very excited to say Happy 104th Birthday Girl Scouts!
Meet Juliette Gordon Low
“Daisy,” as she was nicknamed, is considered America’s first Girl Scout. Born in 1860 in Savannah, Georgia during the time of the Civil War between the northern and southern states, she rarely had enough to eat and was often sick. Yet Daisy kept her spirit, and was always jumping into new hobbies, ideas, or games. She loved drawing and writing poems, had many pets, was quite athletic, and was often silly with her great sense of humor. One of her special skills was standing on her head! Like many southern girls in those times, Daisy wanted to grow up and become a “lady” who would marry a rich man and live in a beautiful house. A lady had to know perfect manners and speak other languages, so Daisy went to a boarding school in Virginia — where her life was much different than in Georgia. No longer was she climbing trees, swimming, and doing funny tricks and silly stunts; now she had to walk around quietly with teachers telling her to be good. But Daisy got used to it, and even learned to ride a horse side saddle — one of few sports ladies were allowed to do in the 1870’s. At the age of 17, Daisy went to a finishing school in New York to finish her training to be a lady. There she studied ballroom manners and how to curtsey, among other things. With her training done, she was ready for a handsome young man to marry her and sweep her away to a fairytale castle. That is exactly what happened — but it wasn’t happily ever after.
On a trip to England she met a wealthy Englishman, William Mackay Low, and at the age of 26 she married him. Ear infections, first in one ear and then the other, caused her to lose most of her hearing, yet in spite of her near-deafness, she still led an active social life in England. However, her husband changed over time, and when he died, he left her nothing. She had not been able to have children and did not have a job, and at the age of 45, she wondered what she would do for the rest of her life.
Girl Scouts Begins
Her question was answered in 1911, when she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, who told her about his new club, the Boy Scouts, which taught boys skills such as camping, first aid, and how to be helpful. He also told her about his sister’s club, Girl Guides, which taught girls similar useful skills — ones Daisy wished she had learned as a girl. Daisy realized that being a fine lady wasn’t enough. Sure, she had learned how to sit gracefully and how to read French, but she had never learned to make a difference in the world. So she started a Girl Guides troop near her home in Scotland, then another in London, and eventually decided it was time to take the idea to the United States. In March of 1912, Daisy held the first official Girl Guides meeting in Savannah, and soon changed the name to Girl Scouts.
A Champion for Diversity
Daisy expanded Girls Scouts across the United States and brought together girls of all backgrounds — including girls with disabilities at a time when they were excluded from other activities — for she had never let her deafness slow her down. The girls earned badges for skills learned, such as identifying snakes for a nature badge or making a chair out of sticks for a camping badge. They even hid bloomers under long coats to play basketball, because young Southern ladies never wore pants in those days! After World War I, Daisy wondered whether her Girl Scouts could help keep peace in the world after the war: if they got to know other girls around the world, girls would never allow wars with their new friends. Together with Sir Robert, she started World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. In 1920, their first international conference was held in England, where Girl Scouts from 46 countries came or sent messages of peace and friendship. Daisy created a handbook, titled How Girls Can Help Their Country, to teach many skills — from cutting wood to nursing to defending your own life — including tips such as, “Think about becoming a doctor or aviator, but don’t try to be like a boy, for it’s better to be a real girl such as no boy can possibly be.”
Today, Girls Scouts has grown to 2.7 million members. Through activities in science, technology, business, and outdoor and environmental awareness, Scouting provides girls with opportunities for fun and friendship in a multi-cultural environment while developing leadership skills and self-esteem. Several years ago, President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Juliette Gordon Low. That is the highest civilian award in the United States. “Juliette Gordon Low was an incredible person,” says Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. “She believed in girls and wanted to provide them an opportunity to develop into confident and successful young women who could do great things in their lives. She started Girl Scouts with 18 girls, and in the past 100 years, the organization has improved the lives of millions of girls. It’s amazing, and shows what one incredible person can achieve.” Although some things, like the uniforms and badges, have changed since Daisy’s time, her spirit and basic ideas still live on in the heart and mind of each and every Girl Scout — even those of us who stopped wearing our sashes a long time ago.
Did You Know? FUN GIRL SCOUT FACTS!
- The Girl Scout Mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.
- Fifty-nine % of the women in the U.S. Senate were Girl Scouts; and in the House of Representatives, 60% of women were Girl Scouts.
- Fifty-nine million American women have been part of Girl Scouting, and 80% of all women business owners were once Girl Scouts.
- Famous Girl Scout Alumni include Taylor Swift, Dakota Fanning, Abigail Breslin, Hillary Clinton, Katie Couric, Madeleine Albright, Martha Stewart, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Dolly Parton, Star Jones, Mariah Carey, Sheryl Crow, Lynda Carter, Astronaut Kathryn Sullivan, Lucille Ball, and Shirley Temple-Black.
- Girl Scout Cookie producers use 230,000 lbs. of peanut butter, 1,050,000 lbs. of flour, and 300,000 lbs. of vegetable oil shortening per week during peak bake times, and make over 4.5 million Thin Mints per day! What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie?
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