Juliette Gordon Low

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Juliette Gordon Low
Edward Hughes - Juliette Gordon Low - Google Art Project.jpg
Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927) in 1887
Born Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon
(1860-10-31)October 31, 1860
Savannah, Georgia
Died January 17, 1927(1927-01-17) (aged 66)
Savannah, Georgia
Known for Founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA

Juliette Gordon Low (October 31, 1860 – January 17, 1927) was the founder of Girl Scouts of the USA, with the help of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting Movement. Baden-Powell and Low had a shared love of travel and support for the Girl Guides. Low joined the Girl Guide movement, forming a group of Girl Guides in Scotland in 1911.[1] In 1912 Low returned to the United States, forming the first American Girl Guide troop in Savannah, Georgia in 1912. In 1915, the Girl Guides in the USA became Girl Scouts and Low became the first president. She stayed active until the time of her death. Her birthday, October 31, is celebrated by the Girl Scouts as "Founder's Day".[2] She was also awarded two patents, a utility patent for a "Liquid Container for Use with Garbage Cans or the Like", Patent 1,124,925, and a design patent, D45234, for the trefoil Girl Scout Badge.

Camp Juliette Low in Cloudland, Georgia was founded by her and bears her name.

Early life[edit]

Low was born Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon on October 31, 1860. She received the nickname "Daisy" from her uncle, who stated that "I bet she’s going to be a Daisy!"[3]:6

Gordon's mother's family came from and founded Chicago. Her father, William Washington Gordon II, was a Confederate captain in the American Civil War, and a brigadier general in the United States Army during the Spanish-American War. With her mother and her sisters Eleanor and Alice, Gordon moved to Chicago during the Civil War. General William Tecumseh Sherman knew her family in Chicago, Illinois and paid them a special visit; one of her earliest memories was sitting upon Sherman's knee and asking him what happened to his arm he replied "It got shot off by a rebel."[3]:11 At the age of five, Gordon returned to Savannah and lived with her grandmother.[3]:12 They found that Savannah had not been heavily damaged by the Union Troops; Sherman had thought that Savannah was a beautiful city, and kept it from burning and raids.

Gordon loved to hear the family stories of her great-grandmother, Eleanor Lytle McKillip Kinzie, who had been captured by Native Americans at the age of nine. 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 would give Eleanor 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 Gordon, as she was always jumping into new games, hobbies, and ideas.[4] Juliette was an animal lover.[5]

As a young girl, Gordon enjoyed helping people. She, her sisters, and her cousins organized sewing clubs and made clothing for a poor family in their town.[3]:15 When the winter months came, Gordon one night wrapped her family's cow in a blanket to keep it from getting cold; she also was known for taking in stray cats and dogs at night. As she grew older, her helpful antics earned her the name "Crazy Daisy."[6]

Gordon was educated in several prominent boarding schools, including the Virginia Female Institute (now Stuart Hall School); Edgehill School, run by Thomas Jefferson's granddaughters, the Misses Randolph; Miss Emmett's School in Morristown, New Jersey; and Mesdemoiselles Charbonniers, a French finishing school in New York City.


At the age of 26, Juliette married William Mackay Low, known as "Willy" to his family but called "Billow" by his wife, 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 Low's good ear. When it was removed, her ear drum was punctured and became infected, causing her to become mostly deaf in that ear. Her hearing was limited for the rest of her life. She used a variety of hearing aids.

Low's marriage was childless. The couple moved to England, and after a two year search purchased Wellesbourne House in Warwickshire, not far from the Low home in Leamington Spa. Despite their intentions, the Lows never returned to live in Savannah during their marriage, though they did visit the United States almost every year. They spent their summers in London, went to Scotland in the fall for the hunting season, and then usually visited the United States in the winter. Besides annual visits to her parents and brothers in Savannah and her sister in New Jersey, Low also traveled to Europe. She traveled to Egypt and India after her husband died. During the Spanish-American War, she came back to America to aid in the war effort. With her mother's assistance, she aided in the organization of 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.[7]

Juliette Gordon Low (center) standing with two Girl Scouts, Robertine McClendon (left) and Helen Ross (right)


Low's inability to have children and her husband's open affairs with other women caused their relationship to deteriorate. In 1901, Low became formally estranged from her husband.

Her husband died from a seizure in 1905 before their divorce was finalized. It was revealed that he had left most of his estate to his mistress, who was to distribute a monthly allowance to Low. Low contested the will, and the Low home in Savannah was awarded to her along with a sum of money.

Involvement with the Girl Guides[edit]

While traveling through Europe in 1911, Low met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement, at a party. She was inspired by his ideas, and became involved with the Girl Guides, an offshoot of the Boy Scouts that was headed by Agnes Baden-Powell, Sir Robert Baden Powell's sister. Low formed a Girl Guides troop near her home in Scotland, where she encouraged the girls to become self-sufficient by learning how to spin wool and care for livestock.

While on a trip to the United States, Low decided to bring the Girl Guides movement to her hometown, Savannah, Georgia, as a way to help girls learn practical skills and build character. In March 1912, Low made a phone call to Nina Pape, a local educator, saying, "I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight."

Founding of the Girl Scouts[edit]

On March 12, 1912, Low started the first two American Girl Guides troops, registering a total of 18 girls. Margaret "Daisy Doots" Gordon, her niece and namesake, was the first registered member, but did not attend the first meeting. Within two months, three more troops formed. Most of Low's early involvement with the American Girl Guides was spent recruiting new members and leaders. She advertised in newspapers and magazines, and recruited her family and friends. Much of the early growth of the Girl Guides movement in the United States was due to Low's extensive social connections.

Low established the first headquarters in a remodeled carriage house behind the home in Savannah that she inherited from her husband. Edmund Strudwick Nash, who rented the main house from Low, offered to pay rent on the carriage house as his contribution to the organization, becoming one of the American Girl Guide's first benefactors. Nash's son, Ogden Nash, immortalized "Mrs Low's House" in one of his poems.

Within a year of the founding the American Girl Guides, Low changed the name of the organization to the Girl Scouts. In 1913, Low set up the Girl Scouts national headquarters in Washington DC, and created the first Girl Scout handbook, titled How Girls Can Help Their Country. By 1915, over 5,000 Girl Scouts were registered in more than 100 cities, and the national council held its first meeting as the Girl Scouts of the United States. In 1916, Low moved the Girl Scout headquarters to New York City.

The first International council of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts met in London in 1919. Low attended, representing the United States. She stepped down as the national president in 1920 so that she could devote more of her time to promoting the International Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.


The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah, Georgia, is open for tours to the public.

Low developed breast cancer in 1923, but kept it a secret. She died in Savannah on January 17, 1927, at the age of 66. She was buried in her uniform with a note in her pocket stating "You are not only the first Girl Scout, but the best Girl Scout of them all." Low is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah, GA.


In 1948 a postage stamp honoring Low, Scott catalogue number 974, was issued by the United States. Over 63 million were printed, making this a common issue. At the time the Post Office had a policy of not honoring civic organizations, and it took a joint resolution of Congress, with the approval of President Truman, to have the stamp produced. (The National Postal Museum suggests that it may have helped that Bess Truman was honorary president of the Girl Scouts.)[8]

In 1979, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

On May 29, 2012, the centennial of the Girl Scouts was commemorated when Low was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[9]

Low's home in Savannah, Georgia can still be seen today, and is visited by Girl Scouts from all over the world. In 1965, her birthplace was listed as a National Historic Landmark.[10]

Girl Scouts celebrate Low's October 31 birthday as "Founder's Day".[11]


  1. ^ Cordery, Stacy A. (2012). The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts: Juliette Gordon Low. USA: VIKING. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-670-02330-1. 
  2. ^ Girl Scouts, Girls Scout Days". Accessed June 13, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d Aller, Susan Bivin (2007). Juliette Low. Minneapolis: Lerner. 
  4. ^ Panagopoulos, Janie Lynn (1997). Little Ship Under Full Sail: An Adventure in History. River Road Publications. ISBN 0-9386-8246-6. 
  5. ^ Juliette Low: Girl Scout Founder (Young Patriots series) Paperback
  6. ^ ("Juliette Gordon Low" 2012)
  7. ^ "William Washington Gordon II". Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace. Retrieved March 31, 2013. 
  8. ^ Juliette Gordon Low Approved Die Proof
  9. ^ Juliette’s Presidential Medal of Freedom
  10. ^ "Low, Juliette Gordon, District". National Historic Landmarks Program. Retrieved March 31, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Girl Scout Days". Girl Scouts. Retrieved January 19, 2013

Further reading[edit]

  • Corey, Shana (2012). Here Come the Girl Scouts! The Amazing, All-True Story of Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 978-0-545-34278-0. 
  • Wadsworth, Ginger (2012). First Girl Scout, The Life of Juliette Gordon Low. New York: Clarion Books. ISBN 978-0-547-24394-8. 
  • Cordery, Stacy A. (2012). The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts: Juliette Gordon Low. New York: Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-02330-1. 
  • "Juliette Gordon Low." Last modified 2012. Accessed December 5, 2012.
  • Girl Scouts of the USA, "Juliette Gordon Low Biography." Last modified 2012. Accessed December 5, 2012.
  • Kent, Deborah . Juliette Gordon Low: Founder of the Girl Scouts of America . North Mankato: Childs World, 2004.
  • National Women's Hall of Fame

External links[edit]