Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born in Savannah, GA, on October 31, 1860. Nicknamed Daisy by an uncle, who said she looked like a Daisy, she retained that nickname throughout her life.
Juliette’s father served in the Confederate Army, and the family took in relatives, which strained the family’s resources. Her Northern grandparents sent packets of food to assist the family. After the surrender of Savannah, GA, during the Civil War, Juliette and her family traveled to Chicago to stay with her maternal grandparents, Juliette Magill Kinzie and John Harris Kinzie. Mr. Kinzie was well known in Chicago and very politically active. Their home was on the north bank of the Chicago River across from Fort Dearborn.
Juliette Magill Kinzie wrote the book Wau-Bun which described their life in Portage, WI, where John served as the Indian subagent at Fort Winnebago.
As a young girl, Juliette enjoyed artistic pursuits – writing, drawing, painting – and, at sixteen, created the Helping Hands Club, a sewing club that made clothing for the less fortunate in Savannah. She was brought up to be a proper Southern lady, Juliette attended boarding school in Virginia and finished school in New York City.
An infection in her ear led to partial deafness when she was just 25 years old.
In December of 1886, she married William (Willie) Mackay Low. At the wedding, guests threw rice as a good-luck tradition, and a grain of rice got lodged in her ear and left her with total hearing loss.
Beginning in 1887, Juliette and Willie traveled to England and spent many years entertaining and being entertained by royalty. They had homes in Warwickshire (Wellesbourne House) and Lude (Scotland). At Wellesbourne House, there were pets and horses but no children of Willie and Juliette. She loved her nieces and nephews and friend’s children, though. Juliette would invite them to visit her home and take them on adventurous trips.
Following Willie’s death in 1905, Juliette remained in England in the summer and returned to Savannah in the winter. She traveled, became a proficient sculptor, and continued to meet new friends, including Lord Baden-Powell, and the rest, as they say, is history. In 1912, Juliette started the first Girl Scout troop in Savannah, which, over the years, ignited a movement across America where every girl could unlock her full potential, find lifelong friends, and make the world a better place.
Juliette Gordon Low diedfrom breast cancer onJanuary 17, 1927, in Savannah, GA. She was buried in her uniform with the following note in a pocket: “You are not only the first Girl Scout but the best Girl Scout of them all.”
Juliette’s story has been told by many authors through the years. Pictured are a few of the biographies that share more of her “Crazy Daisy” antics, as well as her work to establish Girl Scouting as the premier organization for girls in the United States. In 1925, she wrote in her birthday message, “Truly ours is a circle of friendships, united by our ideals.”
The story of her Girl Scout years is well documented, and the following websites can provide much information:
When Mary Ann Tuft was in high school back in the late 1940s, her teacher invited all the girls in the class to be in an exclusive sorority – everyone except for Mary Ann that is. She was not invited because she was Jewish. Although that may have been very deflating for some girls, Mary Ann had her Girl Scouts troop that accepted her no matter what.
Because Girl Scouts was so impactful on Mary Ann’s life, she decided to be one of the founding members of the Juliette Gordon Low Society – Girl Scouts Planned Giving Society. Mary Ann, who currently lives in Chicago, is happy to give back to an organization that has given her so much.
Mary Ann fondly recalls her troop leader and experiences as a Girl Scout. She says she felt a sense of belonging and her experience helped build her confidence as a young girl. She went camping across the country where she developed the love of the outdoors.
Learning how to collaborate and work as a team were key components of camping, she explains. They shared common goals and worked together to accomplish them. “There was a focus on others,” says Mary Ann. “We helped each other, it was never just about oneself.”
Today, hanging in her kitchen, is a Girl Scout certificate from 1947 for a cooking class she completed. At age 83, she laughs at this because now she is the first one to call a caterer.
One Girl Scout opportunity led to the next Girl Scout opportunity for Mary Ann. After graduating from college, she started teaching the third grade and served as a volunteer Girl Scout leader. One of her favorite memories was taking the girls to Colorado Springs to go camping like she did when she was a Girl Scout.
Then Girl Scouts of the USA asked Mary Ann to be a representative to Girl Scouts in Israel. She lived in Israel for six months and never stayed in a hotel. She lived with many different families and learned a new culture and way of life. “Girl Scouts had always been ahead of the times,” says Mary Ann. “Girl Scouts has always accepting of other cultures.”
When she returned from Israel, she served as a national trainer for the Girl Scouts. Her leadership courses were even better than her college courses. With troop leaders, she shared her love and enthusiasm for Girl Scouts. Then those troop leaders passed on that love of scouting to future generations of girls.
“Girl Scouts is the ultimate training course for life,” says Mary Ann. After leaving Girl Scouts of the USA, she went on to be the Executive Director of the Radiological Society of North America in Oak Brook, Illinois. And then went on to start her own business, Tuft and Associates.
She says, “None of this would have happened without Girl Scouts.” She has owned her own business for 30 years and is still working today. “Any success I have had,” she says, “is because I had Girl Scouts as my foundation.”
Daisy had a very compassionate heart, but Willy tried to dissuade her from doing charitable work. However, Daisy unobtrusively carried on with her kindhearted ways and contributed greatly to Warwickshire life. She was a frequent visitor to the Stratford-upon-Avon workhouse where she would visit the destitute men and women housed there. A woman in Wellesbourne had contracted leprosy, and was shunned by the other villagers. Daisy’s concern caused her to quietly disappear one day each week, so she could visit with this neglected woman.
Another instance exemplifies Daisy’s tremendous compassion. One Sunday morning when coming home from church, she found a tramp outside the gates of Wellesbourne House. She could tell he was cold and in a very poor way. She urged the man to come with her into the kitchen. He refused, but Daisy brought him a tray with some tea and bread. The man didn’t want to take it because he was convinced it was poisoned.
Daisy continued to coax him until he ate some of the bread and drank some of the tea. She took the tray back inside the house, but when she returned to check on the man, he had vanished. The next day he was found a few miles away dead from exposure. She soon learned that he had escaped from a mental institution. Daisy was inconsolable over the incident, since she blamed herself for this man losing his life. Daisy Low always showed her benevolence to those less fortunate.
Because Willy was away so much on hunting trips, racing his horses, or gambling with his friends, Daisy started to feel the loneliness. She had been an artistic soul from an early age and delved into a variety of pursuits to take up the time whenever Willy was absent. Daisy had already proved herself to be an excellent portrait artist, but she branched out into other endeavors. She took up woodworking and carved a beautiful mantel for Willy’s smoking room, along with other ornamental pieces for her home. Then she took to metal working.
It’s not for certain who taught her how to forge, but it’s suspected that the village blacksmith John Thomas Thorpe was the one who instructed her. She took on a major endeavor by designing and then forging the gates for the entrance to Wellesbourne House. Those original gates were later shipped to Savannah and to adorn the entrance of Gordonston Memorial Park, but are now on display at the Birthplace. However, replicas made from Daisy’s design still hang at the Wellesbourne House entrance.
Although Daisy was thoroughly devoted to her husband, it cannot be said the same for him. Willy had a roving eye and was very keen on women. In 1901, Anna Bateman, an actress, was discovered to be Willy’s mistress. This was particularly hurtful to Daisy, since she had welcomed Mrs. Bateman to Wellesbourne House on several occasions. Now Daisy had a dilemma; how to end her marriage quietly and honorably. If she filed for divorce on grounds of adultery, then her husband and Anna Bateman would be subjected to embarrassment and shunned in polite society.
Not wishing to bring scandal to either of them, Daisy decided to leave Wellesbourne and take up residence in London. At a later time, she did file for divorce, but on the grounds of desertion. However, before the divorce was finalized, William Mackay Low died of a seizure in 1905. Without her knowledge, Willy had changed his will and left the entirety of his estate to Anna Bateman. Nevertheless, Daisy was able to persuade Willy’s four sisters to contest the will. In the end, Daisy did receive a small settlement, along with the house in Savannah. Willy’s sister Amy Low Grenfell kept Wellesbourne House.
Daisy needed to put the heartbreak of her marriage and Willy’s death behind her. Without a career or the prospects of remarrying, she set her sights on traveling. However, this strong woman wanted to have a purposeful life and continued to search for something meaningful to do. In 1911 at a luncheon, she had the good fortune to be seated next to Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Daisy was extremely impressed with all that Sir Robert had accomplished, especially his organization of a youth group for boys call the Boy Scouts, and then for girls called the Girl Guides. The two soon became good friends, and he encourage her to do something useful with her life.
Having Robert as a friend put Daisy’s life on a new path, one she had desired to walk for a long time, that is, being of service. Robert’s inspiration gave Daisy the courage to take an enormous step on that path. Having rented a summer home in Lochs, she called together a group of girls in the Scottish Highlands, and started her first troop of Girl Guides. When she returned to London for the fall and early winter, Daisy started two more troops. Having made arrangements with friends for her Girl Guide troops to carry on in her absence, Daisy set sail for America in early 1912. By coincidence, Sir Robert was on his way to America as part of tour to promote the Boy Scouts, and he found himself on the same ship as Daisy. Supposedly, during the voyage, Daisy and Robert made plans to organize the Girl Guides in America.
On March 12, 1912, the first Girl Guides meeting was held in Savannah, Georgia with 18 girls joining the troop. In 1913, a National Headquarters was opened in Washington, D.C., and the organization’s name was changed to the Girl Scouts of the United States of American (GSUSA). Juliette wanted to put her girls on an equal footing with the boys, which prompted the name change from Girl Guides to Girl Scouts. Juliette’s vision and remarkable dedication kept the movement alive. Since its inception, the Girl Scouts of the USA has promoted courage, confidence, and character through the Girl Scout Promise and the Girl Scout Law, touching the lives of over 50 million American girls.
Juliette Gordon Low died in Savannah, Georgia on January 17, 1927. She was buried in her Girl Scout uniform. A note was placed in her pocket which read: “You are not only the first Girl Scout, but the best Girl Scout of them all.”
Daisy’s legacy has been well recognized over the years. In 1944, the Liberty Ship S.S. Juliette Low was launched. In 1948, the U.S. Postal Department issued a stamp in her honor. The Gordon home in Savannah where Daisy was born was purchased by GSUSA in 1953 and is now an Historic Landmark. A portrait of Juliette has been hanging in the Smithsonian’s National Gallery in Washington, D.C. since 1973. A bust of Daisy was placed in the Georgia State Capitol Hall of Fame in 1974. Daisy was inducted in 1979 into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. An office building was named the Juliette Gordon Low Federal Complex in Savannah in 1983. On May 29, 2012, during the 100th anniversary year of Girl Scouts of the USA, President Barack Obama presented the highest civilian honor to Juliette Gordon Low, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
I had the good fortune to visit Wellesbourne during a recent trip to England. The house Daisy so loved is now an office complex. However, it was nice to see the replicated gates and to imagine what a lovely home it once was. I’m sure the many people who enter those gates today are unaware of the lovely lady who once lived there.
When Willy returned to England in 1881, the impetuous couple continued to correspond, disregarding parental objections. Daisy was given the opportunity to see Willy at Beauchamp Hall in Leamington when her father consented to her first trip to Europe in 1882. Her second voyage overseas in 1884 gave her another prospect to encounter Willy, even though Daisy assured her parents that her trip to Beauchamp Hall was to visit with the Low sisters.
Daisy and Willy strengthened their commitment to each other that summer. Just a few months later, Willy came to Savannah, and the courtship continued. When the couple made know their intention to marry in February of 1886, Andrew Low insisted on a waiting period of a year; otherwise, Willy would forego his inheritance. Willy and Daisy agreed to the arrangement, but then Andrew suddenly died in June. Even though it was customary to have a year of mourning, they decided to get married as soon as possible. Willie Gordon, unwilling to relinquish his daughter totally, requested that Daisy come home to Savannah for six months of each year. The couple agreed, and the date was set for December 21, 1886.
A move to Wellesbourne House
At first, the newlyweds resided in Savannah and occupied the luxurious Low home. However, during the summer of 1887, the couple returned to England. At this time, Willy had two rented homes, one in Leamington, near Beauchamp Hall, and the other near Blair Atholl in Perthshire, Scotland. However, he wanted to own a country home befitting his social position. To that end, he purchased Wellesbourne House in rural Warwickshire in 1889, a 55 acre estate. Having inherited 750,000 pounds from his father’s fortune, Willy could well afford the purchase price, and then he set about making improvements. The estate grew to 20 bedrooms with a stable for 40 horses, a cottage for the gardener, a separate laundry facility, a greenhouse and a garage where the first Wellesbourne automobile was housed. This was a home for entertaining and living the good life. Daisy was excited to have a home of her own, and thoroughly enjoyed selecting the furnishings. From all accounts, Daisy was delighted with Wellesbourne House and relished being the lady of this stately home.
Being a part of the Marlborough set, a group of high society individuals who were close to Edward Albert, the Prince of Wales, meant that Willy and Daisy had many social events on their schedule. Willy became president of the Wellesbourne Cricket Club and was also a member of the Warwickshire Yoemanry, his voluntary cavalry unit. In May of 1895, the Prince of Wales attended a Warwickshire Yeomanry dance. Daisy was flattered to be the only woman in the room of whom the Prince asked to dance. In 1896, Edward actually visited Wellesbourne House with his entourage. Daisy presided over a lovely luncheon for her honored guests.
To read the full post, visit ourwakshire.org.uk, and stay tuned for the third part about Juliette Gordon Low’s her charitable work and artistic endeavours.
It may seem curious to discover that the woman who eventually founded the Girl Scouts of the United States of America spent a good portion of her life in Wellesbourne. However, examining Juliette Gordon Low’s upbringing and ties to England will explain how Warwickshire became a part of her life.
At the dawn of the American Civil War, Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born in Savannah, Georgia, on October 31, 1860. Her mother, Eleanor “Nellie” Lytle Kinzie, was from a prominent family that helped to establish Chicago. While her father, William “Willie” Washington Gordon II, was part of a notable family from Savannah, Georgia. Soon after her birth, Juliette’s uncle made the comment, “I’ll bet she’s going to be a Daisy.” From that time on, she was known to her family as Daisy.
Although the Civil War caused much upheaval for the Gordons, their status and connections did help to protect the young family to some extent. As an officer in the Confederacy, Willie Gordon could have his wife and family with him as he took on various assignments. However, he eventually ordered his wife back to Savannah when the war became more dangerous. At first, Savannah was not effected greatly by the war, but this did not last. Eventually, Union troops, headed by General William T. Sherman, occupied the city. General Sherman was a longtime friend of the Kinzie family. He arranged for Nellie to have safe passage to take her three young daughters to Illinois, where they stayed with her parents for the remainder of the war.
Once the Civil War ended, it became safe for Nellie and the girls to return to Savannah, making it possible to be reunited with Willie. There were still many hardships to bear as the family tried to recover from the ravages of war. Willie had to rebuild his cotton mercantile business which struggled for quite some time. But Willie was determined to regain the pre-war prosperity his family had enjoyed. With diligent work, he experienced financial success, and the Gordon family could again live a very comfortable life.
A family of well educated women
Nellie came from a family of well educated women, and she expected the same for her daughters. Early on, Daisy was learning to read and write in the home of a local teacher. At the age of twelve, she was sent to a boarding school in New Jersey. A year later, she attended the Virginia Female Institute, and afterwards, Edgehill School, also in Virginia. She studied such subjects as mathematics, English grammar, spelling, French, piano, and drawing. Daisy was quite artistic, so she enjoyed drawing the most. Her studies concluded at a finishing school in New York City where she learned how to dance, curtsy, and sit properly, the important skills of the day for members of polite society. In this era, it was understood that an elite Southern girl was being educated to take her place in society and to be a good wife, not to espouse a profession.
To read the full post, visit ourwakshire.org.uk, and stay tuned for the second part about Juliette Gordon Low’s marriage and move to Wellesbourne House.
It’s safe to say it would be a different place. Women have improved society and made their mark through their advancements, industriousness and inventiveness throughout time.
Would we be able to enjoy today’s technology without programming the first computers? Would 3,000 police officers have been saved from bullet wounds through the use of equipment reinforced with Kevlar? Would modern beauty and lifestyle brands be as successful if not for the the cutting-edge marketing of early entrepreneurs?
One thing is certain. Without women, there wouldn’t be Girl Scouts.
More than 100 years ago, a woman named Juliette Gordon Low saw fit that all girls should have a safe space to be themselves – a place where they could discover their strengths, passions and talents. And that place was (and still is!) Girl Scouts.
Some Girl Scout alumnae who’ve gone on to achieve great success are former
Secretaries of State Madeline Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who became the first female presidential nominee of a major party. There’s also former US Attorney General Janet Reno, astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, as well as Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
These women changed the world through their actions, which is why on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, also known as International Women’s Day, we invite you take the lead like a Girl Scout and #BeBoldForChange.
While there are certainly many accomplishments to celebrate, there is still work to be done. According to staggering statistics from The State of the Girls report, more girls are living in poverty and low-income households today than 10 years ago.
This is significant because we know that these girls with a low-socioeconomic status face considerable challenges that affect their health, happiness and achievement.
But together, we can improve conditions for girls across the globe. Because when girls succeed, we all succeed.
Let us know how you plan to #BeBoldForChange by sharing your stories on social media.
With purposeful action, we can create a better world — a more equal world for women and girls.
There are many ways to get involved in Girl Scouts. If a traditional troop doesn’t fit your needs, you can always register as an individual Girl Scout, also known as a Juliette (in honor of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low).
Afterward, the Juliettes had a chance to express gratitude toward their parents and mentors by giving them a single daisy, which symbolized the first level of being a Girl Scout and was also Juliette Gordon Low’s nickname.
Next up, the parents had a chance to connect with their daughters by pinning them with their Girl Scout level tab, WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) and Girl Scout pin provided by GSGCNWI’s Innovation and Inclusion Department.
Following the ceremony, everyone took pictures and enjoyed refreshments before continuing with a day filled with old-fashioned Girl Scout fun, such as making S’mores and participating in art and crafts. The Juliettes and their families were also able to make SWAPS (Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere), take a mystery hike, and have a chance to learn more about Girl Scout opportunities, such as the Highest Awards.
Recent Gold Award honoree Annie Vitti told the girls about her project, which involved building a habitat for chimney swifts, a protected bird species, and inspired many Juliettes to pursue their own Highest Awards.
Many thanks to everyone who helped make the Juliette Day Out a success! For more information or to register for Girl Scouts, please visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.