Girl Scouts Founder’s Day: 155th Birthday of Juliette Gordon Low

Can you tie a sailor’s knot? Can you cook a one-pot meal in the woods? Can you, if necessary, splint a sprained wrist? If you answered yes to these questions, and if you’re anything like 2.8 million women and girls, you may have been a Girl Scout. Girl Scouts around the world celebrate October 31 as Founder’s Day, honoring the birth of founder Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1860, Juliette Gordon Low belonged to a wealthy, southern family. An adventurous yet accident prone child, Gordon Low had permanent hearing loss but refused to be treated as sickly or delicate. After the breakup of her troubled marriage, Gordon Low lived her adult life independently, traveling extensively and studying painting and sculpture.

British Boy Scouts founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell inspired Low to bring the scouting movement to the United States. In March 1912, Gordon Low held the first Girl Scouts meeting in Savannah for eighteen local girls. This first troop learned skills for becoming efficient homemakers, including nursing, childcare, and food preservation. But they also took on activities that had been deemed inappropriate for girls, including military and career skills such as signaling, typing, farming, and telegraph operation. The girls also camped, scavenged for edible plants, and played sports like tennis and basketball. Low even developed an Aviation Badge in 1913.

Gordon Low believed that girls should be engaged American citizens even before the Nineteenth Amendment was passed, and ensured Girl Scout preparedness for civic emergencies when war broke out. Girl Scouts jumped head first into the World War I and II war efforts, organizing scrap metal drives, collecting fruit pits for gas masks, planting gardens, and canning fruits and vegetables. After each war, Girl Scouts organized to send care packages of desperately needed clothing and school supplies to children overseas.

Juliette Gordon Low died in 1927 after a battle with breast cancer, leaving behind a lasting and powerful movement for girls that reaches far beyond Thin Mints and Tagalongs.