Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927) – Another three-cent stamp, also issued in 1948
The founder of the Girl Scouts was called “Daisy” by her Savannah family. Partly because they had Northern connections, the Gordons suffered little during the post-Civil War period of her youth, and she attended finishing schools in the South as well as in New York City. Daisy made frequent trips to Europe as a young woman, and after her 1886 marriage to a wealthy Georgian, lived as much abroad as in the U.S.
Nonetheless, there were troubles in her life. She grew increasingly deaf from early ear problems; she had no children, something that defined her as an oddity in her time; and her husband’s interest in another woman was so great that he attempted to divorce her. When he died after eighteen years of marriage, he left his estate to his lover, and Low was only able to secure her financial future after long legal battles.
Her life in Britain made her aware of the “Boy Scouts” and “Girl Guides” that were becoming popular there after the turn of the century. After leading a group in Scotland, Low imported the idea to the U.S. and formed the first American Guide troops in Savannah on March 12, 1912. Then fifty-two, she devoted the rest of her life to organizing on behalf of girls. She began a national headquarters in Washington in 1913 (later moved to New York), and by the following year, there were troops from New England to Georgia and as far west as Chicago.
In 1915, Low formalized her Guides into the Girl Scouts of the USA. Her model for independent, sturdy girlhood proved extremely popular as America moved out of the Victorian era, and the Girl Scouts built camps throughout the country where girls learned survival skills as well as appreciation of nature. At the same time, domesticity was stressed, with early merit badges being awarded in such categories as parlor maid, laundress, cook, and dairymaid. Girl Scouts began selling their famous cookies in the early 1920s, shortly before Juliette Gordon Low’s death.
She continued to expand the Girl Scouts even after being diagnosed with cancer in her early sixties. Her genius for organizing was such that Scout membership soon exceeded the older Camp Fire Girls, and by her death, there were troops in every state of the nation.