October 31: A Day Dedicated to GSUSA's Founder

Girl Scouts Celebrate Juliette Gordon Low's Birthday

October 26, 2005

On Halloween, a day that many associate with ghosts and spirits of the past, Girl Scouts the world over celebrate the life of their founder, Juliette Gordon Low, who was born October 31, 1860, in Savannah, Georgia.

Quiz: How much do you know about GSUSA founder
Juliette Gordon Low?

Low's vision—to see girls blossom into productive and responsible women—led her at age 51 to form the Girl Scouts. What began on March 12, 1912, as a small gathering of 18 girls has flourished into an international movement with 3.7 million girl and adult members today, and guaranteed the Girl Scouts its place in history as the preeminent organization for and leading authority on girls.

How Girl Scouts Honor Juliette Gordon Low's Birthday
Girls Scouts celebrate Juliette Gordon Low's birthday in various ways—with parties, service projects, events to thank donors, even special cakes. In honor of Low's love of tea parties, the Girl Scouts-Bluebonnet Council's Central Bell area is this year hosting a mother/daughter tea party, complete with hats, gloves, and teatime etiquette. The Texas event has drawn 100 participants.

Photo of Juliette Gordon Low with Girl Scouts in 1922. © GSUSA. All rights reserved.Juliette Gordon Low with some of the country's first Girl Scouts in 1922.Low was a forthright woman for her time. She believed in service to one's community and self-reliance for girls, all while maintaining a sense of fun and adventure. Low, who was nicknamed "Daisy" as a child, was herself a talented artist. She sketched, wrote poems, acted in plays and later became a sculptor and painter. Low also maintained a healthy sense of humor that she was said to have displayed every year on her birthday when she would stand on her head to remind her family of how much spunk she still had. (No doubt she would enjoy the many e-cards now available online to celebrate her birthday.)

Dick Platt, Juliette Gordon Low’s great nephew, with Olivia Graham of the GSUSA National Board of Directors, at the Juliette Gordon Low medallion, part the Extra Mile—Points of Light Volunteer Pathway in Washington, D.C.

She showed that same zeal when she created the Girl Scouts. In 1911, while in England, Low met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, and became interested in the new wave of youth movements. When she returned to the United States a year later, Low reportedly called a distant cousin and exclaimed, "I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight!" On that evening in mid-March, Low gathered those 18 founding members, including her niece and namesake Margaret "Daisy Doots" Gordon, to register the first troop of American Girl Guides. The name of the organization was changed to Girl Scouts of the USA the following year.

As a model to the young women of the time—and ultimately future generations—Low believed a woman could have a meaningful role beyond the home, as an active participant in society. She brought together girls of various backgrounds to learn about nature, conservation, fitness, arts, science, and business. She was a woman ahead of her time whose contributions were never forgotten.

Celebrating at Low's Birthplace
Special tours of the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah, Georgia, will be given October 28-November 1. Any visitor who arrives in costume (no masks, please) will receive a 50-cent discount off admission. Girl Scout cookies will be served. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

Low was honored earlier this month as part of the Extra Mile—Points of Light Volunteer Pathway, a new national monument in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation. The monument shares the stories of great Americans who shaped the social fabric of this country. Other honorees included abolitionist Frederick Douglass and American Red Cross founder Clara Barton. Low was one of the initial 20 honorees to be immortalized by the Extra Mile.

Low faced many challenges throughout her life, including deafness, and ultimately lost her life to breast cancer in 1927. Yet her courage and tenacity sparked a legacy that will continue for generations to come.