Juliette Gordon Low
The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts
In celebration of the Girl Scouts' centennial, Juliette Gordon Low is the first full-scale biography of its maverick founder. Watch this video of Penguin employees reminiscing about their Girl Scouting days and the impact it had on them.
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In celebration of the Girl Scouts' centennial, a lively salute to its maverick founder.
Born at the start of the Civil War, Juliette Gordon Low grew up in Georgia, where she struggled to reconcile being a good Southern belle with her desire to run barefoot through the fields. Deafened by an accident, "Daisy" married a dashing British aristocrat and moved to England. But she was ultimately betrayed by her husband and dissatisfied by the aimlessness of privileged life. Her search for a greater purpose ended when she met Robert Baden-Powell, war hero, adventurer, and founder of the Boy Scouts. Captivated with his program, Daisy aimed to instill the same useful skills and moral values in young girls-with an emphasis on fun. She imported the Boy Scouts' sister organization, the Girl Guides, to Savannah in 1912. Rechristened the Girl Scouts, it grew rapidly because of Juliette Low's unquenchable determination and energetic, charismatic leadership.
In Juliette Gordon Low, Cordery paints a dynamic portrait of an intriguing woman and a true pioneer whose work touched the lives of millions of girls and women around the world.
Girl Scouting was one of many institutions attempting to assist youth during the Progressive Era. But Daisy Low and her organization were not consciously part of this larger movement. She neither knew the reformers nor took much notice of their work, beyond initiating Girl Scout patrols at Hull House. Daisy drew on her own familial and social contacts to establish and run Girl Scouting, seldom turning outward to network with recognized reform leaders. She was in the reform movement but not of it.
She was not an intellectual or a deep thinker. She did not confide to paper any rationales or philosophies for her actions, because she operated intuitively. A fundamentally happy childhood gave her an innate trust in and liking for people, and they generally rose to her expectations. She admitted that it was improbable that someone like her should have begun such a great movement. She frequently compared herself to Saint Denis, who, after his beheading, plucked his head from the ground, tucked it under his arm, and walked up Montmartre. It was only the first step that was hard, she would laugh— after that, the rest of the journey was easy.
Juliette Low was neither methodical nor predictable. She was the visionary leader of an organization that is still thriving one hundred years later. Her sense of humor first drew her to Baden-Powell’s emphasis on fun. Girl Scouting had an earnest agenda, but it had to be enjoyable. Juliette Low saw enormous potential in girls and knew women had few outlets for personal and professional development. In 1916 she explained, “Our purposes are analogous to those of the Boy Scouts. They aim to make better men, we to make better women. They are made better housewives if they are to remain in the home, for they are taught practical and useful things, or, if they have to go out in the world, they will learn self-reliance as well as being helped to a means of livelihood.”
Only Daisy Low could have created the Girl Scouts of the United States. Had she been a trained, earnest reformer, she would have neglected the fun at the heart of Girl Scouting. Had she been less patriotic and duty driven, she would have discounted Scouting’s emphasis on civic preparedness. A traditional woman would have stressed only the homemaking side of Girl Scouting, but Juliette’s disastrous marriage made her prize the organization’s unconventional offerings. Her enormous charisma, her storytelling abilities, her youthfulness and joie de vivre complemented her hugely effective persuasive skills. She converted her disability into an advantage, conveniently turning a deaf ear to those who would say no to her.
No one who knew the young Daisy Low—when she was the age of a typical Girl Scout—would ever have dreamed she would create an organization that would affect millions and millions of girls around the world. The story of the Savannah belle who transformed into a uniformed leader of one hundred thousand girls gladly donating millions of hours of service to the United States during the First World War is an unlikely one. The tale of a romantically inclined dreamer who devoted her last decade to peace through international understanding seems improbable. That a near-deaf fifty-one-year-old childless widow began the Girl Scouts is preposterous. To have done so with neither a network of social reformers nor experience in any pertinent fields is unbelievable. But that is precisely the story of Juliette Gordon Low’s remarkable life.
"A biography that fully captures its dynamic subject and her greatest accomplishment." — Boston Globe
"Stacy Cordery's engaging portrait . . . paints a charming picture of Daisy as a warm-hearted force of nature." — Chicago Tribune
"Cordery . . . has written a detailed and well-researched book. She shows Low to be a strong woman ahead of her time." — The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Of the three books pegged to the Girl Scouts' 100th, the most engaging by far is Stacy A. Cordery's Juliette Gordon Low. Ms. Cordery gives us the unexpurgated life—one that might make you want to shield the eyes of the nearest Brownie Scout but one that also lends depth and color to the American Girl Scouts founder's story. Ms. Cordery uses a wealth of historical detail to animate both an era and the author's flawed, sometimes exasperating but generally appealing subject. . . . The merit badge here goes to Stacy Cordery's biography." — The Wall Street Journal
"Cordery's extensive biography fully explores the complex and intricate life of Low." — Deseret News
"Delightful." — BookPage
"This biography brings to life the woman whose efforts galvanized an entire nation of young women. 'Long Live Girl Scouts!' may be the cry on readers' lips after finishing this tribute to a spirited and inspirational American leader." — Kirkus Reviews